The Art of Captioning is a research group, supported by British Art Network, that explores what creative captioning can bring to art while advancing vital work around access, equality and inclusivity in the sector.

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The Art of Captioning

When closures prompted many galleries and museums to shift programmes online, arts professionals and publics alike became newly conscious of accessibility in the digital context. Institutions experimented—many for the first time—with captioning and audio-describing their live-streamed events and screenings. Programmes that had long excluded D/deaf, disabled and blind individuals were made newly, if temporarily, accessible.

While broadcast media has long been required to satisfy minimum (and minimal) legal requirements for access provision, many artists and arts organisations are only now beginning to consider how their work might be made accessible to d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent publics. Alternative ways of engaging with audiovisual media are patchily available, and access is often only partially communicated and understood by those organisations providing it. Without clear, shared guidance on how to approach audiovisual works in collections, museums and galleries are often unsure about how to make historic works more accessible. At the same time, artists and activists are developing exciting, expansive new ways that treats access as an ethos and creative act in itself.

In the current landscape of increased awareness and innovative activity, there is both huge opportunity and great need for collaborative research. The Art of Captioning hopes to generate new ideas and approaches, collectively — ideas with tangible, practical implications that will positively affect the way that the production and display of art is considered and resourced. 

The Art of Captioning brings together artists, curators, researchers, activists and access workers to address the state of captioning and access awareness in British Art. 

Questions under consideration include: 

- How do we build on the activist histories of experimental moving image practices to galvanise discussions about the politics of access to art? 

- How can we develop new methodologies for retroactively making moving image and sound art works more accessible through captioning and audio description? 

- What can we learn from the artists and access workers developing novel approaches to the translation of sound and image?

- What have the past two years of programming taught curators and organisations about access and accountability? 

- How can we work together to embed caption-consciousness in commissioning, event-programming, and exhibition-making in British art? 

By becoming a member of The Art of Captioning research group, you will have access to regular e-bulletin's from the group organisers, sharing information about forthecoming events, ongoing research and online resources.  

To become a member of the group and receive regular updates, please sign up to the Mailchimp here

To find out more about British Art Network and further research groups please click here.

The Art of Captioning is co-led by Hannah Wallis (Artist and Curator; Assistant Curator, Wysing Arts Centre) and Sarah Hayden (Associate Professor in Literature and Culture, University of Southampton, AHRC Innovation Fellow: Voices in the Gallery).

The research builds on Wallis and Hayden’s programme, Caption-Conscious Ecology, at Nottingham Contemporary. You can find out more about Caption-Conscious Ecology here.

Image Credit: Seo Hye Lee, [sound of subtitles], 2021, Courtesy of Bexley Local Studies & Archive Centre and London’s Screen Archives