Spatial Language in Jest
(7 minutes, 2010)

Spatial Language in Jest untitled flyer

Installation views for solo show at Kai Middendorff Galerie

The work consists of a video, sound composition and print.

In this work, I wanted to focus on a physical form of language—sign language—and see what commonalities I could find with body gesture in general and sound. It presented an opportunity to find my own way to compose sound with a connection to body language. I have also always been fascinated by off-screen sounds in films in relation to the movements of characters. The work considers deaf and non-verbal communicators, attemtping to look at new ways of understanding ideas of language and sound.

My starting point was three sign language jokes on youtube that I ultimately edited together through my own system. Each time similar signs in videos were made by the narrators, I made an edit and joined the videos together. The punch line was however always avoided, so it felt open-ended. This finally produced a seven-minute video. I learnt this sequence by heart and performed it in front of a camera, without any later editing made. While the face generally plays an important role in sign languages for those who cannot hear, it was important to me to only focus on the hands and create something artistic, not scientific or literal. I also added sign language from the Kodály Method, a system for teaching music reading to children.

In the end, the work may at times be evocative of a conductor leading an orchestra. I took particular care to separate the visual element from the audio in the gallery space, so that the sound and vision function independently. To this end, the computer monitor was placed in a corner so the exhibition visitors had to move close together to see the screen. As they did this, their social barriers or safe distances were challenged and strangers began to talk to one another—playing once more with questions of body language.

Special thanks to Kai Middendorff for his support.

Spatial Language in Jest score
Digital print 118,9 x 84,1 cm

Camera: Bernd Thiele