In the exhibition “Dialog in the Dark,” located at the South Street Seaport, you get to experience Manhattan in a new perspective– as a blind person. For 20 dollars (student discount), you can take a trip through New York City in complete darkness with only a cane and a blind guide to lead the way.
The light dims, and, suddenly, everything around you is black. With a cane in one hand and surrounded by known and unknown voices, you can´t see a thing. All electronic equipment is switched off or checked in outside, so there is not even a hint of light anywhere in the room. You get to smell, listen to, and feel the variety of the city. With the guide´s comforting voice and clear instructions, you stumble your way through some of Manhattan´s most popular areas.
The overwhelming sense of no control kicks in as soon as your sight disappears. You might feel dizzy or claustrophobic. My immediate thought was “I need to get out of here.”
Walking through the exhibition, you recognize the sounds, the smells, the changing ground, and all kinds of details that make Manhattan what it is. The charming guide talks you through whatever obstacles there are and gives good instructions in a light and funny tone.
The experience is intense and unique, even though the whole set-up is simple. It´s engaging; it’s fun, and it´s different. It gives you a newfound perspective on how much we depend on our sight to lead us through a day. At the end of the tour, the guide joins the visitors around a table, and as the lights gradually are turned on, he answers questions about his life as a blind person in a visual world.
“I now have a better understanding on how blind people experience their surroundings and how important it is that society do what it can so that it is easier for them to get by in their everyday life,” said Public Relations major Helene Pedersen, who experienced the exhibition. Along with five friends, she enjoyed the one-hour show. She found it to be scary, fun, and educating. She added, “I would really recommend others to do it; it was a really great experience.”
Nutrition major Aurora Kronberg also appreciated the tour. “I was scared at first; usually, you can see a hint of your surroundings when it´s really dark, but in there, I was completely blind,” she said, adding, “It was a great experience, and I can´t believe how the blind can navigate their way through the city; it is incredible.”
The New York Dialog in the Dark is one of many similar exhibitions. More than six million people have seen versions of the show presented in 35 countries throughout the world, with five permanent exhibitions in Brazil, Israel, Italy, and two in Germany. Organized by Premier Exhibitions, the New York version opened in 2008 and will run until the end of 2012.
“Dialog in the Dark” is found at the South Street Seaport Exhibition Center, 11 Fulton Street at Front Street, in Lower Manhattan. Visit www.dialognyc.com for directions and a complete schedule.