Our Vibrating Hands (2018)


Artists: Véro Leduc, Pamela Witcher, Daz Saunders, and Hodan Youssouf

Deaf Music explorations
Multimedia installation, 8min27

Visual description: This image is composed of 3 still, juxtaposed horizontally, from music videos interpreted with sign language. On the left, Daz Saunders is a queer white man, wearing a beard, glasses and a button-down shirt; he sort of reminds you of a bear. He sits next to a lit yellow lamp, the only dash of colour in this black and white image. His hands are expressing part of the LSQ sign that means “sit.” The middle image has a textured background, and shows Hodan Youssouf. In the front, she is a black woman with her hair in a bun, wearing a black sweater. Behind the image of her in colour, her body is multiplied in 4 identical black and white images of herself. Her facial expression is tense but collected, her hands are signing part of the sign “poignant.” On the right, Pamela Witcher is a white woman with buzzed light-brown hair and a grey tank top. On the left of this image, three photos are superimposed: the bottom one is of her upper body facing us, the middle image shows a profile of her head and in the top image, her hands are joined. On the right, she signs part of the sign for “watch.”

Original idea and artistic direction: Véro Leduc
Music interpretation in sign language by: Daz Saunders, Hodan Youssouf and Pamela Witcher
Development of vibration platform Vibrik: Samuel Thulin and Ivan Ruby
Camera work and editing: Martin Boucher, Cineall
Producer: Kim Sawchuk

A research-creation project bringing together Quebec deaf artists of various origins, Our Vibrating Hands aims to deconstruct audism in the context of music. The videos featuring music interpreted in sign language were created by Daz Saunders, Hodan Youssouf and Pamela Witcher, and are coupled with a vibratory track that is accessible on the Vibrik platform, designed by Samuel Thulin and Ivan Ruby in collaboration with the artists. The vibrations thus created make it possible to produce a resonance between the mechanical rhythms and the visual rhythms of the signed music.

Deaf music? Faced with this expression, many people try to imagine the efforts required to give deaf people “access” to music, a concept that is understood here according to a normative form based on hearing principles (e.g. a musical soundtrack). Translation of vocals from songs in various sign languages, transformation of sound tracks into vibratory experience, musical rhythms accessible by visual speakers … initiatives vying to promote accessibility are many, but more often than not unidirectional: they aim to make hearing music accessible to deaf people – individuals deemed to be living in a “world of silence.” Our Vibrating Hands aim to deconstruct the concept of accessibility: what if hearing people had access to signed music? You don’t know sign language? You can still enjoy this creation by allowing the vibrations to bewitch you!

Note: The project is under development. The Vibrik platform (contraction of the words vibrations and music) that will be used for this exhibition is a prototype. In the second phase of the project, the artists will each create a vibratory track accompanying their signed musical work.

• Daz Saunders. Sur la nuit, 2min37
• Hodan Youssouf. Masques, 1min11
• Pamela Witcher, , 4min39

Artists’ Biographies

Véro Leduc
A committed artist and researcher, Véro Leduc is a professor in the Département de communication sociale et publique of Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) where she teaches in the cultural action program. The first deaf university professor in Quebec, her projects and practices are articulated through research-creation methods and critical, feminist, queer, intersectional, crip (disabled) and deaf perspectives. Véro is a cosigner of the Phonocentrism Deconstruction Manifesto (SPILL-Propagation, 2014), as well as creator of C’est tombé dans l’oreille d’une sourde, a first comic strip in LSQ language. Her current research focuses on the artistic practices of deaf and disabled people in Canada, deaf music, and cultural accessibility.

Daz Saunders
A graduate of the Bachelors Theater Arts, Education and Deaf Studies from Reading College (England), and Ph.D. Candidate in Linguistics (UQAM), Daz Saunders is passionate about languages – oral and signed –, translation of plays in sign languages, as well as poetry and music. A member of SPIT (Signed Performances in Theaters) from 2003 to 2011, an organization that supports theatre companies in their initiatives toward accessibility and British Sign Language in the UK, Daz now acts as a consultant on cultural accessibility, particularly in the context of theatre, currently working for the Segal Center and the Espace libre theatre.

Hodan Youssouf
Deaf since childhood, Hodan was born in Somalia. As her country of origin does not offer education services to deaf people, her family decided to immigrate to France in 1985. Today, Hodan is an active member within Montreal’s deaf community, and she participates in various cultural activities and initiatives. She collaborated on various films with Cinéall Production, and as an actress, she performed in the play Traversée produced by the Voyageurs Immobiles’s theatre company and in Bernard Adamus’s La part du diable.

Pamela E. Witcher
Interpreter, translator, cultural mediator, museum curatorship, artist and manager, Pamela is motivated by exploration and advancement. Pamela finds it necessary to overlap old and new discoveries that have the power to change views and ideas. When the Deaf communities create information through art and documentation, our existence become concrete, known and valued. To highlight a few accomplishments, Pamela’s works have been featured in Edinburgh International Book Festival, Ecomusée du fier monde, Quebec on the Move!, À Bâbord, Signed Music: A Symphonious Odyssey and Montréal Campus. Two of her most recent signed music performances were portrayed at a Celebration of Sign Language 2015: Revisiting Language, Literacy, and Performing Arts symposium at Towson University, Maryland and Les Drags te font signe at Chez Mado, Montreal (2017).

Samuel Thulin
Artist and researcher with a PhD in Communication, Samuel is currently carrying out a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Concordia University’s Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture & Technology.

Ivan Ruby
PhD student in Education Technology at Concordia University, Ivan has a background in electronics and computer science, and is researching how Introductory Computer programming education can be adapted to the needs of the 21st-Century and of the 21st-Century learner to foster inclusion and accessibility.

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