{ blind spot }


When we ask ourselves what a blind spot is, we might define it as something that “we cannot know, what we cannot see, what we cannot represent.”[1] Understood as a lack of vision, in both physiological and epistemological terms, blind spots simply describe the limits of our own vision, the flaws in our understanding of the world.

Reflecting on the topic through a decolonial lens, the Janus-faced construction of modernity “conceals the colonial carnage necessary for modern progress even as it strategically reveals this same carnage for the purpose of accruing cultural capital.”[2] Following this thought, we may understand the blind spot not so much as a physiological condition or lack of knowledge, but as an instrument used to maintain the asymmetrical power relations along the dominant axes: North/South and East/West.

Asking myself how my own work may be complicit in the concealment of colonial difference, I started looking for blind spots in my own practice.

When I read about how the Hamburg Ethnological Museum was originally conceived, it reminded me of the language we use when we speak about exhibition design today. Concerned with finding the “best” way to show objects, we tend to use objective language to justify our decisions. We speak about the expectations of “the” audience as if it were a homogenous mass. We focus on formal aspects of our work, trying to find an “optimal” scenography in which to place objects that we know do not belong in these spaces in the first place.

Following the protocols of modernity, the conventions of the market, we replicate coloniality. While creating a seemingly objective reality, we produce blind spots that suppress alternative imaginations and destroy different realities to come. First steps towards overcoming this might be to bring these blind spots into discussion; to speak from a personal standpoint; to take responsibility; and to understand design as an artistic practice, not as a service.

[1] Erin Cadzyn, “The Blindspot”, The Site Magazine V. 40 Deviant Devices, Apr 6, 2020. Accessed Mar 14, 2023. https://www.thesitemagazine.com/read/the-blindspot
[2] Irmgard Emmelhainz “Fog or Smoke? Colonial Blindness and the Closure of Representation”, e-flux Journal Issue #122, Nov, 2021. Accessed Mar 14, 2023. https://www.e-flux.com/journal/82/134265/fog-or-smoke-colonial-blindness-and-the-closure-of-representation/

Stefan Fuchs