By Jolanta Lapiak, Ameslan literary artist
This work was part of the group exhibition "Perceptions" from December 3, 2010 to January 16, 2011 at City Hall Art Gallery Ottawa City Hall, Canada. Mixed media, each panel: 101.6 cm x 40.6 cm
It was created for an exhibition on the reinterpretation of a work of "Mille et une Nuits" by Shahla Bahrami from the City of Ottawa's Fine Art Collection.
Artist statement in both ASL (American Sign Language) and English are available below.
The title "Two Thousands and One Years" refers to the mainstream logocentric thinking since the Aristotlean or the ancient Greek days until the years literary deconstructionist Derrida dismantled philosophy that is underlying in phonocentrism, a superior thinking that speech is central to language.
The images in these panels weave within the theme of lingual violence, oppression, and dominance of phonocentrism that is rampant within society. To experience this psychological perception, phonocentrism and linguicism must be dismantled within a viewer's mentality.
Below describes each of the panels from left to right by the artist:
Panel 1: In the image, the person's hands are handcuffed. Coming out of the person's red mouth scribes in small size, "a single word." Just for one word, hearing people applaude loudly.
It represents linguicism and phonocentrism; that is, when a child fluently articulates a full-fledged narrative for their age in American Sign Language (or any signed language), she/he is not recognized. Whereas, a child who practices speech for years and accomplishes a few spoken words, she/he is given a big applause by excited hearing persons.
Panel 2: In the image, her red tongue protrudes out, hanging a silver handcuff. The hands are invisible, behind her back. The eyes are almost closed.
One can literally cut off another person's tongue by hands. But, not the way around. Yet, hearing people have the ability to oppress eyeing people's hands by tongue, figuratively and symbolically.
Panel 3: In the image, each of the multiplied hands spell the alphabetical letters "HANDREAD".Hearing people often ask eyeing people, "Can you lipread?" This question implies their expectation of them to fit into their world and learn their language in speech. It is a symbol of superiority.
Instead, asking "Can you handread?" empowers ASL speakers of their language and culture as well as respect for themselves.
Panel 4: The image symbolizes a deterministic fate for every deaf child that she/he is doomed to practice speech and to speak another language not native to them.
Rather than practicing child-directed needs (as in the best interest of a child), deaf babies are forced to practice speech in compliance to parent-directed needs and society's expectations (in the best interest of a society).
The person stands with multiple arms and hands like a Hindu statue. Each hand holds some kind of an object, such as a college degree, a pen, a book, a camcorder, a texting-based cellphone, and eye-glasses. These objects represent a successful and well-developed career/profession through a signed language in the same way any people do in their own spoken languages.
Yet, a little image below shows a lip of silence. It represents that a hearing people deny an acknowledgement of signing people's prosperity, education, career, and success.
This image, originally to be part of the panels, was excluded in the exhibition.
I interesting the hamseter: a work of art by the Deaf artist Susan Duport.