Literature and art

"Barbwire and Bloodstain of Word": a performance art in ASL

The performance art or poetry performance Barbwire and Bloodstain of Word was presented in American Sign Language (ASL) by Jolanta Lapiak on the "International Day of Sign Language Rights" on 28 September 2007 at City Hall in Edmonton, Canada.

Lapiak performed a chronological narrative of history on sign language in ASL around the paper-based barbwire made of the dictionary pages. As Lapiak journeyed in her narrative around the circle, she stopped at each point of the circle and highlighted a chronicle of the selected key events in poetic Ameslan (ASL).

international day of sign language rights

She began at the front of the red kierchief, starting with the period of Aristotle, in which logos (the Greek term for god, truth, speech, reason) was the underlying effect responsible for iconoclasm, phonocentrism, audism (coined by Tom Humphries) and signoclasm (coined by Jolanta Lapiak).

international day of sign language rights

The artist performed a narration of timeline from the ancient Greek to the infamous Milan 1880 (which crashed the privilege of sign language), from the top to the bottom of the circle.

milan 1880

Lapiak reached the half of the circle at 1850 and 1880, where she described a success story in the 1850s, where there were deaf lawyers, politicians, writers, artists, professors, teachers, etc. who used sign languages. Success dramatically crashed down after the infamous Milan 1880. She continued with the rest of the circle from the 1960s to the 1990s, where success had climbed all over again.

milan 1880

Lapiak reached the red point at September 28, 2007, where she celebrated the prosperity of ASL with the audience. She invited the audience to join in the circle. She narrated a memory of the signoclastic pains that sign language metaphorically bled through the barbwire thorns, logos (associated with sound-based word, speech, truth, god).

international day of sign language rights

Lapiak explained that the paper-based chain represented both bondage/suffering and unity/freedom. She invited the audience to hold the barbwire (arm-crossed). Then, everyone in unity ruptured the barbwire (bondage) for freedom (unity).


Photographs and statement by Jolanta Lapiak at

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