silence and understanding

jo's picture

I made a video for my third web event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN0L1_vP85Q

I had a really time figuring out what I wanted to do for this assignment. The prompt frustrated me; I kept thinking, "what do I know about how different cultures understand silence?" Then I realized silence is the understanding, or lack thereof. If you experience silence around a given message, you might not understand the message fully. I began to play around with different forms of silence and how they can make things unclear. I first began thinking about this because of Christine Kim. Her videos are filled with sound, and it was so interesting to watch them and hear them realizing that she couldn't hear any of it. Still, she experienced it, because there are so many different ways to experience things, and she translates sound into something visual. This video is based on that idea, and on my understanding of silence as having many forms. I created different forms of silence around a clip my friends and I made a while ago. I used this particular clip in part out of convenience and in part because it didn't have much "silence" in it to begin with, just me and my friends making lots of noise. And I think our ability to make noise and have that be entertainment for us is indicative of the culture we come from. Even if I hadn't edited this clip, I'm sure it would have been incoherent to many people, because of our language, our actions, our silliness. For those people, and for anyone who is deaf or blind, there would have been some degree of silence. So I tried to create that effect for everyone, no matter your culture or privilage, tried to overlay different silences. The last part is more of a reflection on my current state, and a view of the storm, something all of us are experiencing right now but probably in many different ways. I hear the wind blowing constantly outside the window and the greyness greatly affects the light inside and my mood. How would this be different if I didn't experience all of these senses? If I didn't have a window to look out of?

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Anne Dalke's picture

Translating Silence into Something Visual

Jo--
I'm laughing in delight (and okay, frustration!) @ what you've done here. First, your video forms such a striking-and-interesting contrast to the other one I got this week, HSBurke's Your Voice is What Betrays You. She used this format to speak extensively, in a way she normally does not do in class, while you used it instead to emphasize the silences, all those moments of  our "not getting it." I especially liked your "universalizing" this message, overlaying different sorts of silences and thereby trying to create the effect of being "shut out" for everyone, no matter our culture or privilege.

What also delights me here is your narrative of moving from your own frustration with the prompt, to realizing that your silence actually marked your key understanding: that the silence we experience around a given message signals that we might not be fully understanding it. And I just love it that Christine Sun Kim's visit, and her attempt to "translate sound into something visual" inspired you to do the same with silence.

I also occurs to me that this project forms an interesting next step in the triptych you've created so far: beginning with The Privilege of Voice and Silence, which looked @ the intersecting notions of silencing yourself, in solidarity, and being silenced as a form of control, moving through reflection on the powerful protest that silence can offer to an explanation of the increasing complications of silence (why are titles required?), a testimony to the ways in which you often "stumble" in the acts of "vocalizing, explaining, being coherent," and so "retreat to silence," frequently choosing "silence over expression, over a possible mistake," because you don't trust yourself to speak.

So--from silence as protest (coming from a place of privilege), through silence as retreat (coming from a place of insecurity), I see you arriving now @ silence as being "shut out," of not understanding, an experience shared by us all. Thanks for the complexities of this journey!

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