Stretching the sensory Imaginary of voicing via Christine Sun Kim’s A Choir of Glances

12:00, Thursday 6 May 2021 (30 minutes)
Iris Blake, University of California – Los Angeles, USA

Late nineteenth century North American schools for the deaf mobilized a colonial sensory order that prioritized the acoustic voice over and above sign language. Represented by its supporters as a way to “modernize” deaf education, oralism – a pedagogical movement led by hearing people that emphasizes the exclusive use of oral speech and lip reading – rested on the belief that oral speech was a fundamental component of human being. In relation to this history, I analyze Christine Sun Kim’s workshop and performance A Choir of Glances (2013, 2014). A multidisciplinary Deaf sound artist, Kim creates work that undoes oralist assumptions and sensory hierarchies by creatively demonstrating multiple modalities of voicing, often reversing oralism’s pedagogical assumptions by teaching hearing people how to hear and participate in non-acoustic practices of voicing. In A Choir of Glances, hearing participants wear sound-blocking headphones or earplugs while developing their capacities to voice via visuality, embodiment, and affect. Utilizing performance studies methodologies, I examine how the workshop stages a spatial and sensory reorientation for the hearing participants. I argue that the removal or dampening of acoustic sound, rather than narrowing participants’ communicative possibilities, opens up possibilities to experiment and collaboratively stretch the sensory imaginary.

UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow