Im seeking a large wall to paint this on. Do you have any leads? Please get in touch if you can help.
(click to enlarge)
I love the immediacy of taking photos with my iPhone and using them directly as inspiration for new digital art works. The ability to shoot, capture and apply one’s own visual references in immediacy continues to fuel my desires as a media artist. In my latest new media project I have been playing with the idea of anonymity and how it can be expressed from the perspective of being deaf and hard of hearing in a large city. In this case NYC, where I spend a lot of my time. Even though one may find themselves surrounded by thousands of other people at all times constantly in motion, you may not find one familiar face in the sea of human beings. This of course does not mean that communication is not being made and or exercised. Communication comes in a different ways. Many many ways. Some of which can be totally taken for granted. Are you a hearing person with normal hearing? Perhaps on your next visit to NYC, LA or Chicago wear a pair of sound blocking earphones and walk through the busiest sections of the city through the eyes of the soundless. What new sensations will you take notice to? How will all things visual enhance and or become more pronounced? Where will your visual focus be with the removal of sound?
As a deaf and hard of hearing person I live between the world of battery operated digital synthetic amplified sound and no sound at all. Even when there is sound via hearing aids, in a big city like NYC, for me its mostly distortion and the over amplification of the things I would rather not hear, like sirens, and multiple other things competing in the same space. I have the choice to remove my hearing aids and often do so in these environments. To this day I still find it utterly perplexing that my brain functions this way. I often opt out of wearing hearing aids in certain areas to avoid distorted noises and the limitations of what hearing aids are supposed to do. I don’t mind experiencing my world soundless. Its not a limitation in my eyes, nor is it a “disability” like many refer to it as. When the void of sound is present another sense kicks in. I become acutely attuned to the vibration of people, objects and things. I can also activate this when I wear hearing aids but its a little harder to do and maintain. Especially when multiple synthetic sounds and vibrations are competing with each other while my brain is trying to convert them into comprehensible meaning. How does this all work? Im both fascinated, perplexed and inspired to attempt to explain it all.
The first piece in the series came from this photo I took while crossing the street in mid-town on the east side. Even when wearing hearing aids I miss a ton of sounds and words when trying to communicate in noisy environments, especially the city. I was never able to “overhear” our follow the conversations of other people anywhere. Hearing people are exposed to this all the time, especially in public space. You kind of have no choice to a degree. I often wonder what that is like? I could only read lips to a degree and watch the facial expressions and body language create patters of repetition. Over time this became both a visual language and an emotional one as well in and of itself. In a public space like NYC it makes what I witness visually an ongoing anonymous experience. The works below are manipulations and extensions that are derived from one single experience and one single image yet it represents so many of the others like it.. This is a metaphor and an expression of how this effects me on a sensory level. Its kind of like a paused, freeze-framed moment of ceaseless motion where some parts stop and some continue to move. I find beauty in these moments and can retain them in my mind’s eye.
The static frames above inspired the second phase of the project’s development, making videos. The videos below are my first attempts to bring together the ceaseless motion of the static images and put them into actual motion. It seeded natural to do this over time. Visual motion is experienced as a whole frame rather than the moving of the legs as the people walk. How does this effect help you engage or disengage visually? Each video is short and unlike GIF files these do not loop over and over, they have a beginning and an end.
I also began to think about the environment itself. Meaning, what if the architecture also had a point of view on how they communicated with those thousands upon thousands of people that anonymously interact with them. A simple reversal of roles. How is it that the largest of objects can be visually ignored and unnoticed. How we place context on this kind of communication plays a role, but this role is mostly absent. I find a connection between buildings and the body. Both are vessels and containers. The contexts are both metaphors and literal / obvious. I get a great sense of duality from this as an idea and it has pushed me to want to dig deeper into the concept. This is the first series of works below using just one image to suggest the morphing of sentiments and feelings that are mirrored between the public and its architecture. Thank you for visiting. This blog post is a first draft into the further development of this new body of works. Revisions are being made and I intend to show and display the works beyond the Internet soon.
Communicating My Deaf & Hard of Hearing Self – Part 1
Welcome to my first series of art works produced examining and identifying as a deaf and hard of hearing person. It has been a long road. This body of work is the first in a multi-part series with supporting written explanations broken down into individual blog posts. I encourage the viewer to view the gallery of digital art works above and then delve into the individual blog posts listed below.
All of the pieces have been created in 2018 and consist of Digital Illustrations, Collage, Animated GIFs & Video Art. Fragments of manipulated grainy images and re-compositions display the variation and extension of each piece. The works are visual representations for the regular distortions, missing of sounds, words and overall communication I experience daily. They represent how I feel, react, overcompensate and adjust to communication in various interactions. They are intended to be both subtle, confusing and difficult to follow. “Communicating My Deafness – Part 1” is the first installation in the series. It is first published here on my website and shared via my social media platforms. I am seeking to extend this body of work into a lecture series for both the deaf, hard of hearing and the hearing world.
Animated Hearing – https://www.ryanseslow.com/animated-hearing/
Missed Communication Continued – https://www.ryanseslow.com/missed-communication-continued/
40 Years of Missed Communication – https://www.ryanseslow.com/unraveling-integrating-40-years-of-missed-communication/
Fears Faced Continued – https://www.ryanseslow.com/fears-faced-continued-is-this-is-a-series/
The More I missed, the More I Made – https://www.ryanseslow.com/the-more-i-missed-the-more-i-made/
1970’s Hearing Test Art Machine Hacker – https://www.ryanseslow.com/the-1970s-hearing-test-art-machine-hacker/
Opening Another Door – https://www.ryanseslow.com/opening-another-door/
Responsible Communication RE-sponsibility – https://www.ryanseslow.com/responsible-communication-re-sponsibility/
Non-Auditory Sensory Other – https://www.ryanseslow.com/the-non-auditory-sensory-other/
View the entire category on my website here
An ongoing visual. Wrongly, from a very young age my impression of being deaf and hard of hearing was viewed and internalized as a major impairment and disability. I absolutely disagree with my past self, and the assessment that the ever so young me had made. The confused little guy who made this decision was pretty much only 5-years-old. How could he have known better at that time, he couldn’t have. How many other deaf and hard of hearing people also fell into this belief system as children as they witnessed their fellow classmates bullied and picked on simply because they were deaf or hard of hearing. Maybe you had a different experience, but the sum total was the installation of fear. The fear that caused you to hide. Was 5-year-old me most afraid of being deaf or afraid of being bullied and labeled as different? I wonder, as I reflect, (and dig deeper into child psychology) how many other children went into unconscious hiding and denial, fearful of becoming the next victim of the bully’s prey and or labeling of being disabled? Where are those children now if those experiences still remain unexpressed and buried alive inside of them? I wonder. My unexpressed fear evolved into a split life of being deaf when I was alone while faking not to be when I was not. I had to own this and take responsibility for the choices I made, even the unconscious ones created as that 5-year-old boy. I am ready and happy to discuss and share the “how’s and why’s” about my experiences.
I believe there is value in sharing one’s story of overcoming fears. Of course, this is my own personal journey, but I know I am not alone. Writing, reflecting, writing some more and producing art works around the subject has been a great vehicle of communication and expression. It is the most meaningful body of work that I have created to date. It is the action I needed to begin the changes and transitions in my life. The trained artist in me attempts to avoid the words “art & therapy” in the same sentence, but this too is an outdated thought that I picked up from someone or something that isn’t me. The process is a form of therapy. I see no reason to separate them. I see a method that helps me assert myself and grow. Personal responsibility is empowerment. It is easier said than done and believe me, in this case it has been a lifetime of 1 step forward, 20 steps back. I know that I can play a role in helping others who are deaf, hard of hearing or both. I can also help and inspire hearing people to learn and understand what it is like to be deaf and hard of hearing. I can help by becoming a better communicator of what I need. As I learn more and more ASL each day I can share what I learn with those I encounter. This ranges from family, friends, colleagues, students and my fellow human beings who I have not yet had the pleasure to meet. This inspires me.
2018, Digital Illustrations, Digital Art, Animated GIFs & Video. A continued series of manipulated images and re-compositions. The variations of each piece show the process of how the works displayed are visual representations for the missing of sounds, words and overall communication. They are intended to be both subtle, confusing and difficult to follow. A representation of the daily life I experience between the world of the hearing and the non.
Through the eyes of a child,
seeing unaware of the missing sounds.
A series of repetitive actions and the behaviors observed,
the rituals of the alphas.
An acute visual awareness to the reactions of those involved,
activating simultaneous perceptual contrasts of engagement.
Acute visual noticeability to the facial expressions, gestures and body language,
while low sound frequencies murmur, missing, absent.
Defaulting, unconsciously to a visual conversion of emotional blueprints,
placed into the new interior folder titled “fear”.
The More I Missed, The More I Made..
I am overcoming a lot of my fears by directly putting myself in public positions to have to talk about how hearing loss and being deaf has affected my life. As a college professor (yep, for 14.5 years now) I have to be in front of a lot people each and everyday. I have to be more direct with my students and colleagues by telling them how I feel and what I need from them. By being honest about who I am and what I am missing, the feelings of compassion and empathy become mutual. This helps both parties make an emotional connection that I feel is necessary in education. (I believe this will play a huge role in the future of education.) Often I have to ask people to repeat themselves, or to speak slower, or louder. I answer incorrectly to questions often and everyone laughs or looks at me with a priceless look of confusion. These two things always make me laugh as it always creates a connection and reminds me to take myself lighter. Almost as if, that is where I begin to know someone, because they would now know me as I am. I need to be more honest and forward about why. It is my responsibility to make people aware of what and how much I am missing. It is natural to seek deeper meaning out of yourself and how that applies to the world around you. This is how we grow, through self-discovery as we interpret ourselves in relationship to our time here on this planet. However, I have learned the hard way that it can slip away all too fast if we are hiding from ourselves. Hiding seems to perpetuate more hiding. I often wonder how many other people with sever hear loss and deafness are out there doing what I used to do?
As an artist, I have had an epiphany about my work recently throughout this healing and fear facing process (and I continue to do so). Maybe you are already familiar with my work but most likely not. I have been a high volume output kind of artist for my whole life. Always making many many things at once in an immediate sort of way. Volume and production, productions in volumes and accumulation. Ah what a metaphor, right under my nose no less! By connecting my physical limitations of hearing to the question, “Why do I make so much stuff?” “Why have I put the emphasis on physical output and high volumes of works produced?” It’s about filling in the fear and deficit of how much I have been missing and have missed in this world. Overcompensation. I was missing a lot from early childhood, and as time went on, the more I was not hearing the more art I would make. Production and Volume = Missing. The funny part is, most of the art that I make and have made is not dark or representative of frustration as a whole. It does not communicate unhappiness, but I do see a huge common thread of a lack of meaning in some of these pre-hearing and deafness aware bodies of work. The context has changed and this plays a huge role in the kind of work that I greatly need and want to produce. I will work on understanding where the new works will best be displayed and presented. The best is really yet to come.
The animations above continue to explore the soundless looping GIF format. These pieces begin as digital image fractures and manipulations. They are re-composed and organized as new imagery and content. How does that process play a role in communication? Missing 5-8 words in any sentence can have a profound effect on how one may respond, comprehend or take away from an interaction. What does this look like when that actual missing fragment(s) takes place? Repetition is used to display the distortions and metaphors for how this experience may be interpreted visually. If you are a hearing person viewing these animations you may be “missing” the usual audio aspect to the videos you see, watch and hear each day.
Exhibition Simulation of Missed Communication
“Unraveling & Integrating 40 years of Missed Communication”
This is a “Simulated Proposal” of a new Exhibition that I would very much like to mount. If you are interested in further information please contact me directly via e-mail – ryan (at) ryanseslow.com
Six (or more) large flat screen video monitors hang both vertically and horizontally to create an integrated and balanced pattern on the wall. The art consists of new static digital collage works, animated gifs and motion graphics that produce a multi-channel series of narratives. The various mediums illustrate the narratives about pretending, hiding and being in denial about my severe hearing loss and deafness over the last 40 years. The works examine various aspects of the title itself: “Unraveling & Integrating 40 Years of Missed Communication”.
The exhibition space will also have 1-2 free standing computers on pedestals for visitors to access and use. The exhibition simultaneously is supported by a desktop and mobile website where the show also functions in fragments with individual stories that explain each piece further. Visitors can interact with the content in both exhibitions by sharing their own stories, leaving comments, creating dialogs and or adding to the art works and joining the exhibition.
*This idea is in development. More coming soon.
Further Reading and Supporting Resources from previously published content can be found by clicking here.
“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 50% -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 50% 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 (static 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.
Dear Common Community,
I have lived between both of these realities for my whole life. With out hearing aids I do not hear any sound, with them I can hear about 50% of what a normal person may hear. Though my level of loss is degenerative, and aging plays a role, the next 20 years should be interesting :)) Most of my life has been spent pretending “I was not deaf and hard of hearing”. Too many years have gone by. Its time to take responsibility for this. Share and tell my story and hopefully use it as a tool to connect and help others who also know this space too well.
This animated #gif has been created to illustrate the endless stop and go like cycle and struggle of trying to hear and overcompensate for the what I am not hearing part. An animated GIF works perfectly to display the infinite loop of daily occurrence. Plus, animated GIFs are soundless. The sleepy eyes of the tired hearing aid reveals its face…It is exhausting and often difficult to manage the emotions that go along with this cycle in real-time. You probably have never noticed this before. I have thought over and over and long and hard about how this series of works should start. Im done with that and jumping in. Images were taken and re-rendered from the public domain. This is a #metaphor – can you understand why I did that? #communication is everything when you are missing more than half of all the sounds in your day to day reality.
Much more to come. Feel free to ask me any questions.
More Colorful Happy Digital Characters