Curated by Amanda Cachia
Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana, A Unit of California State University, Fullerton
September 6 – December 6, 2014
6PM – Artist Talk: Alison O’Daniel
7-10PM – Opening Reception
gallery@Calit2, University of California, San Diego
January 22 – March 13, 2015
LOUD silence offers the opportunity for viewers to consider definitions of sound, voice, and notions of silence through a deaf perspective. The exhibition displays prints, drawings, sculptures, videos, audio works and several film installations, and features work by four artists who have different relationships to deafness, including Shary Boyle, Christine Sun Kim, Darrin Martin, and Alison O’Daniel.
These four artists explore how the binary of loudness and silence might be transformed in politicized ways through deafness. The stereotypical view of the deaf experience is that they live a life of total silence, where they retain little to no concept of sound. But on the contrary, deaf people actually know a lot about sound, and sound informs and inhabits their world just as much as the next person.(1) Through these artworks, the artists aim to loudly explode the myth of a silent deaf world, and they seek to trouble just how ‘inaudible’ sound really is through their own visceral experiences of it. They mobilize a type of trespass within the territory of sound, given they re-imagine the agentive capacity of those not normally ‘permitted’ equal access to it.
In this project, the artists consider questions such as, how is silence interpreted from both a deaf and non-deaf perspective and manifested in a contemporary work of art? How is sound made accessible or inaccessible through vibrations, personalized musical scores, American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters or ambient noise in our urban or rural environments? What new noises might emerge from acts in which sound is composed and performed in new ways in order to provide us with alternative concepts of sound and silence itself? How might the radical acts of these artists change the soundscape and most critically, how does an artist who is hearing and one who is deaf make loud silence or silence loud?
Music theorist Joseph N. Straus has discussed how the concept of ‘deaf hearing’ may seem like an oxymoron.(2) He says, “hearing does not necessarily involve a one-to-one mapping of sense perceptions onto a single sensory organ; rather, hearing can be a much more multi-sensory experience.”(3) The distinction between the deaf person and the hearing person in their relationship to sound is the extent to which deaf people use senses other than the auditory to understand what they are hearing. Sound is felt and sound is seen.
Indeed, the artists’ ‘deaf hearing’ in this exhibition often involves sensory input from a variety of sources, and is not simply confined to the ears. Ultimately, the work in LOUD silence offers an avenue for eradicating deaf oppression, where new ways of listening might be developed.
1. Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, “The Meaning of Sound” in Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture (Cambridge, MA and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1988), 91.
2. Joseph N. Straus, “Prodigious Hearing, Normal Hearing, and Disablist Hearing” in Extraordinary Measures: Disability in Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) 167.