Revealing a deeper understanding of what sound means in our world, how it works as “currency” and “ghost,” Performance Artist Christine Sun Kim explores sonic media without the benefit of hearing. She finds how to make its presence more physical, to find greater dimensions of movement, and to make a personal connection beyond what most of us might find in the everyday sense. As she describes it to NOWNESS:

There are social norms surrounding sound that form our speech development and our way of handling sound with care. They’re so deeply ingrained that, in a sense, our identities cannot be complete without sound.

In a beautiful short film, you can watch her process in her studio, thanks to filmmaker Todd Selby:

Cult photographer and filmmaker Todd Selby’s latest short is a revealing portrait of performance artist Christine Sun Kim. Deaf from birth, Kim turned to using sound as a medium during an artist residency in Berlin in 2008, and has since developed a practice of lo-fi experimentation that aims to re-appropriate sound by translating it into movement and vision. “It’s a lot more interesting to explore a medium that I don’t have direct access to and yet has the most direct connection to society at large,” says the artist. “Social norms surrounding sound are so deeply ingrained that, in a sense, our identities cannot be complete without it.” Selby filmed an exclusive performance from Kim in a Brooklyn studio as the artist played with field recordings of the street sounds of her Chinatown neighborhood, feedback and helium balloons, and made “seismic calligraphy” drawings from ink- and powder-drenched quills, nails and cogs dancing across paper to the vibrations of subwoofers beneath. Working with sound designer Arrow Kleeman, Selby carefully choreographed the film’s ambient score to reveal the Orange County native’s unique relationship with sound. “Her work deals with reclaiming sound because it’s a foreign world to her and one she’s not comfortable in,” explains Selby. “I wanted the film to act as an artistic conduit for her to tell her story to the world.”

Interview, via NOWNESS Facebook Page

Via our friend Rucyl on Saturn Never Sleeps, by way of Rashid Zakat’s The Awesome Farm.

Todd Selby x Christine Sun Kim []

I was once a speaker at DEAF, which stands for Dublin Electronic Arts Festival. Not thinking, I told the customs officer in Ireland that I was a musician attending the DEAF Festival. He had some cheeky comment. In this context, of course, what he took for granted can take on an entirely different meaning. If you have background in understanding accessibility and design, for people with different sense capabilities in vision and sound alike, I’d love to hear them. The world of sound technology most of us inhabit describes a very narrow range of expectations for vision and sight.

  • beautiful adaptation of experience. Wonderful example of creativity within and interpretation of audition. Thank you.

  • Tele-Pet

    Wonderful video piece. and wonderful way to re-think about sound. Thanks for posting.

  • Jengel

    The sounds she makes are beautiful. That said, it's very interesting to watch the video with the sound off to see what she experiences.

  • Blob

    Inspiring and deeply moving.

  • Ludwig van Beethoven tried this same shtick centuries ago, and I hear it went over pretty well.

  • This reminds me a lot of "Touch the Sound", a documentary about percussionist Evelyn Glennie. It definitely changed the way I look at sound and performance. Well worth checking out:

  • The goob

    back in the day (late 70s), one of the great punk venues in San Francisco was the SF Club for the Deaf, known as the Deaf Club.  The deaf guys working the bar (you ordered a drink by writing it on one of the little pads on the bar) loved the shows, they could feel the music they said.