I am Deaf. My native language is sign language, which is a physical language. When I try to communicate with non-signers, we often end up writing back and forth. For years, many of these written exchanges have been tossed into boxes to stew in their own juices. They range from purely practical exchanges, unidentified snippets, random drunken nights with anonymous people never encountered again, conversations with friends, and more.
Reading them again in notebooks, on scraps of paper or paper plates, away from the moment and the person makes the conversations almost theatrical. These words were put down in specificity and also by us all. They now exist in undefined time and space, detached from the context of life.
Wendy Houstoun, Nicole Vivien Watson and I extracted some of these words and seek to reunite them with their physical meaning. In our short experience together, we have begun to brush the rust away from words lying dormant in passing conversations. We looked at their actual resonance within the inexplicable human territory of tangible emotions and rhythms. What felt like vigorous and intensely alive significances were unearthed. I started to think and feel that we might have a way to look at everyday relationships between people and language with fresh energy… I am hungry to continue this work, to see what else is lying in there and within us. To bring more people into this renewed conversation and keep it going.
By Louise Stern, June 2021
Photography and Video by Chris Younger.
With thanks to Arts Council England, Dance City, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Overseas Interpreting