A VOICE WRITTEN IN SILENCE
A PERSONAL NARRATIVE ON DEAFNESS
As part of my thesis project at RISD, I wanted to use my experience with deafness and share it with others in a way so that they can visualize what it is like for me. For as long as I could remember, I've been deaf, but able to hear with cochlear implants.
Even with cochlear implants, my deafness always remains with me. I carry around silence when my processors are switched off, and it is often that silence that remains so vibrant and speaks to me. Deafness, an inseparable part of me, is in some ways a beautiful gift that has allowed me to visually express myself through art.
Pebble of inspiration
I was given a stone as inspiration for my thesis, and at first, I had no clue as to how I was going to make it relevant to my project on deafness and cochlear implants.
When I got to studying the stone, I discovered some intriguing qualities that made me realize there were significant similarities to my experience with deafness and cochlear implants.
For instance, the stone had an overall smooth quality to it, but there were still some bumps and texture that could be felt. To me, silence is like that. It may appear smooth like there is nothing, but really, there's a faint impression of something still there. Sometimes I can almost hear a faint humming sound that still lingers when I take off my processors.
There are other times where I can hear the sound of the heartbeat in my eardrums - not exactly a sound, but more of the feeling of it, if that makes sense. Silence can seem scary to other people, but to me, it's a peaceful sensation, one that I've grown comfortable around. It's my one escape from reality where I can just focus on my own breathing and other senses.
With my observations and studies in mind, I was inspired to create a watercolor series using translucent paper to see if I could capture how I felt about silence. I was captivated by the shift from translucency to opaqueness when I layered several pieces of paper with watercolor splattered over them, yet I could still see the faint impression of the other papers that lingered underneath.
But the watercolor series still didn't feel enough for me, so I went to another medium. I created a photography series as another way of visualizing silence.
After doing all these different exercises, I finally decided to design a book that explored my experience with silence and deafness. Having lived with deafness, I've come to view myself as being suspended between two different worlds. I have one foot in the world of sounds and the other in a world of silence. Both are just as vibrant, even in the "silent" world. Both are beautiful, and I wanted to portray that in my book.