sign language media artist inter-art, media, video, poetry, calligraphy, storytelling, performance, sign language


Gesture (2006)

Jolanta Lapiak
Audio and black screen, 3mins 20secs 720x480px NTSC
Halifax, Canada

The term "gesture" evokes an image of the association with hands, commonly found in literature and art.

One sometimes sees the title, "Gesture," that accompanies a work of art in a gallery, where typically the term "gesture" associates with "hand." One day I encountered a work of art titled "Gesture" and produced by a hearing Canadian artist in a gallery.

To disclaim the fallacy that gesture tends to be equated with the hand, a few of my works deconstruct this tendency, as shown below.

"This work Gesture contains nothing but a black screen and the audio of auditory gesture. It plays sounds which were emitted from my hands, breaths, and vocalized gesture under the mask, when manually speaking in my expressive poetry performance, Ameslan, coughing English, Ameslan. My breaths became heavy and deep as they echoed inside the mask which also amplified my vocalizations. My body moved in synchronization with my vocal gestures." -- thesis statement

"Logocentrism asserts that speech has a quality of interiority, and that writing has a quality of exteriority. Derrida, however, argues that the play of difference between speech and writing is the play of difference between interiority and exteriority." (Alex Scott, 2002)

Based on the Derrida's idea above, the partly excerpted text from my thesis (2007) describes further:

Vocal-auditory utterance is seen as interiority, whereas visual-manual utterance is regarded as exteriority. Visual-manual language is seen as an outer projectile - metaphorically a phallic convex. It is clearly visible, whereas speech language is an inner projectile, a female concave, which is hollowed inward, not completely visible from the outside.

"Thus, according to Derrida, "the play of difference between interiority and exteriority means that writing is both exterior and interior to speech and that speech is both interior and exterior to writing. This means the difference is erased."

If the inside body were the outside, we would observe that the diaphragm, vocal tract, tongue, glottis and lips are as actively gestural as the external body is when signing. The play of difference between the outside and inside of speech and sign then disappears. -- thesis

Related art: ASL, coughing English, ASL performance art.