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Junhui Yang: Van Gogh Alive Experience with BSL guide Rubbena

Junhui Yang: Van Gogh Alive Experience with BSL guide Rubbena

I was lucky enough to attend the BSL guided tour of the Van Gogh Alive exhibition at MediaCity in Manchester on 19 January 2022.
The exhibition is an immersive, multi-sensory event. My friend had attended the exhibition in Birmingham and recommended that I go, and I am so pleased I did. I have visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and seen some of his original artwork so to see it brought to life in this way was wonderful.

“Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter’s soul” ----
Vincent Van Gogh



At the exhibition venue, Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq, well-known Deaf Artist and Art Therapist in mental health and education (https://www.rubbena.com/), was the BSL guide, along with a hearing team interpreter. We went to a darkened room with varied large-sized displaying screens, which was daunting at first. Images of Van Gogh’s artwork were projected around the room to tell his life story. The BSL guide Rubbena was spotlighted and successfully expressed the mood that was
being set by the accompanying music and narratives.

It was also interesting to learn which musical instruments produced which sounds (I was wearing my new digital hearing aids). The clever use of technology created an immersive and emotive experience. The BSL access is very important for me as it enabled me to take part and enjoy in this multi-sensory experience.


Further into the exhibition was a space where all Van Gogh’s artwork history was displayed, each with a description, and there was a QR code where the text could be accessed in a BSL version (signed by John Wilson and Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq).

Once the BSL tour had finished, I decided to walk through the exhibition again so that I could take time to look around and reflect on what I had learned. What a wonderful experience; it was just a pity that there were not more Deaf people there (I was the only one) to share it with me.Leaving the sunflower garden room, I saw one of Van Gogh’ quotes which I like: 
“I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people”.

Junhui Yang, University of Central Lancashire, February 2022