During our visit to TRACK in the beautiful city of Ghent, we were invited to discover the city in a whole new way. Blind Date is a project by the Belgian art-education organization Aifoon. Visitors are given a helmet equipped with headphones, a directional microphone and goggles blocking all visible impulses. Wearing these helmets we were guided through the city by Aifoon’s Jeroen van de Sande.
Walking around while not being able to see anything is scary at first. But normally we use our ears a lot in our everyday navigation, listening to the reflection of sound on all kinds of surfaces around us and and we depend on our ability to hear where a sound is coming from. Blind Date shuts off these normal auditive senses and replaces them with directional hearing: it focuses your hearing (in mono) on wherever you turn your head towards and amplifies it. Here’s a video about the Blind Date experience:
At first I found this impairment quite frustrating, as I heard what seemed to be a very large truck passing by, but I wasn’t able to tell if it came from the left or from the right. I was just standing there helplessly. I wanted to listen to the world in stereo like I normally do. The trick is to fully trust the person that takes you by the arm and leads the way. You have to surrender to the experience and once you do, it’s interesting and surprising.
I wasn’t able to tell what the streets we walked on looked like, it was very hard to measure the distances we walked. We crossed a wide road, but to me it seemed very small. It was a windy day, which resulted in quite a bit of noise on the headphones at times. Normally I would hate that, this time it also disabled my sense of hearing for some time, making me completely dependent on tactile information from my guide.
If you’d like to visit Ghent (I highly recommend it!) and experience Blind Date yourself, have a look at the agenda on the TRACK website for dates.