“The Attempted Recomposition of a Synthetic Auditory Miscommunication” is an Illustration and Animated GIF series of new work examining my identity as a Deaf and Hard of Hearing person.
In a previous post two days ago I began a long over due process of sharing and expressing who I have always been. The response has blown me away. The support and compassion has been incredible, and for the first time I felt at home and welcomed into a community I have always been a part of. As we know, the human ego is a tough nut to crack. It is a process, and certainly takes time to realize when oneself is acting from the perspective of it. I did, for 30 plus years! Im really grateful for the response, support and the new friends I am quickly making! I walk a fine line between the hearing world and the non-hearing world. With hearing aids I can synthetically “hear” about 20% -ish of what a person with “normal” hearing, hears. However, this statement does not translate well into noisy environments when and where multiple conversations are going on, the regular sounds of life, cars and planes, construction and sirens.
Ooof. When these factors join the conversation, that 20% dwindles down to much less and I become co-dependent on lip reading, facial expressions, body language and my own overcompensated intuitive energy reading abilities. Im thankfully learning ASL now, which is also long overdue. I would say that I have avoided learning ASL for over 30 years because my perception was that if I did, there would be no turning back and I would have to forever face my biggest fear of being of being deaf and hard of hearing in the world. Even though in my heart, I knew that it would become my greatest asset. There is much more to this long story and I will share through my art works and posts here forward.
About the works:
Version 1 – The animated GIF: Animated GIFs are soundless. The GIF file format itself is a soundless entity. This is an objective and specific reason for WHY I create so many GIFs. (you can see more on my profile over at Giphy.com – ryanseslow) With GIFs you are dependent on your vision and visual literacy to follow, connect and interpret the moving image. The background image is an inner ear medical diagram taken from a public domain image resource on the Internet.
The public domain represents creative commons fair use access to various types of content that can be re-used, shared and depending on your intention, repurposed for contextual forms of communication. I used the inner ear diagram and altered it to visually look jumbled, manipulated and no longer completely understandable. Perhaps there is just enough information in the image to follow along, but ultimately the image becomes confusing and difficult to fully understand. This is a visual metaphor for the loss and missing of words and sound. Two tired hearing aids appear representing the ongoing exhaustive process of trying to follow words and sounds, make sense of them and direct a response. Often my responses are wrong to questions that I am asked. I have to witness the reactions and perplexed looks of the person or persons also trying to process if they misunderstood my misunderstanding.
The hearing aid batteries rise like a mountain. The endless sea of batteries. The #10 battery size. Four per week, 16-18 per month, 220 – ish per year (yes, I drop them easily and cant see them when I do, haha! They are so small) 28-ish years of this process exceeding over 6,000 batteries placed in and out of my skull. (Whoa, never did this calculation before outside of my own head) The constant awareness of “time” as a result of “when that battery will run out of power”. The psychology and physiological effect of this overall awareness itself is a lot of information. This is me. I LOVE every bit of me, but often, I am missing a lot. The GIF is simply one iteration to help express it.
Version 2 – The static illustration (top image) – The image follows the same description as read above. The exception is in the “concealed identity” of the hearing aids. This represents who I was a short time ago, the years of trying to blend in as a hearing person with the “secret” and “small” hearing aids that I pretended no one could see. I wish I could have taken a photo of each person who over time begins to notice that I wear hearing aids. the reaction on their faces, the moment of perplexed stillness and quick attempt to also pretend they did not notice when we lock eyes. This reaction is my responsibility. It is a direct reflection of the situation itself. This experience has happened hundreds of times, and only once or twice in 30 years did someone actually ask, Ryan, are you deaf or hard of hearing?
Thankfully, this will never have to happen again because SHARING NOW! :)))
With gratitude and openness I am asking myself a lot of questions as this process and body of work evolves. How may I be of service to help bridge the world between those who also have or have had a similar experience? How can I help bridge the gap between the deaf, hard of hearing and hearing world through art and one’s creative potential to do so? How can I apply my experiences to be a positive instrument of deeper understanding and communication?
More to come. Feel free to reach out.