Artists Focus on Sound and Silence from Deaf and Hearing Perspectives

LOUD silence Exhibition Opens January 22 in UC San Diego's gallery@calit2

San Diego, Jan. 14, 2015 —  At first glance, the title of the Winter 2015 exhibition in the gallery@calit2, LOUD silence, appears to be a contradiction in terms. But for the curator and four artists represented in the exhibition, who are each at a different point on the hearing spectrum, it’s clear that the Deaf have a strong understanding and connection to sound and voice, and that those who have full hearing can appreciate the value and meaning of silence versus the absence of sound.

Poster announcing the LOUD silence exhibition
(featuring Deaf artist Shary Boyle signing)

January 22 Opening Event
4:00PM Exhibition Opens (gallery@calit2)
4:30PM Performance by Christine Sun Kim (Calit2 Theater)
5:00PM Panel discussion with Amanda Cachia (curator), Lisa Cartwright, Christine Sun Kim and Brenda Brueggemann
5:30PM Reception

“It’s nice to see the irony of silence,” says deaf artist Christine Sun Kim, “especially that ‘loud’ is placed before that term.”

“The artists consider questions such as, how is silence interpreted from both a deaf and non-deaf perspective and manifested in a contemporary work of art?” notes LOUD silence curator Amanda Cachia, a Ph.D. student in Art History, Theory & Criticism at UC San Diego. “How is sound made accessible or inaccessible through vibrations, personalized musical scores, American Sign Language, gestures, or ambient noise in our urban or rural environment? How does an artist who is hearing and one who is deaf make loud silence or silence loud?”

LOUD silence opens at 4PM on Thursday, January 22 and runs through March 13, 2015 in the gallery on the first floor of Atkinson Hall, home to the Qualcomm Institute on the UC San Diego campus. Curator Cachia will moderate an opening-day panel discussion with distinguished experts in Deaf studies and visual arts, following a performance by the artist Christine Sun Kim. The panel discussion will be accompanied by American Sign Language interpreters and CART services, and a reception will follow. All of the events are free and open to the public.

For her performance, Sun Kim will play Fingertip Quartet, a work which consists of four sound files she personally created using audio recorder, a laptop, and transducers. The artist will use a new set of voice samples by Jamie Stewart of the experimental, post-punk group Xiu Xiu – a conceptual way to play up the social value of Sun Kim’s “voice” by borrowing the voice of a musician. During the UC San Diego performance, Sun Kim will also communicate the concept of each sound by typing in large text projected on the wall behind her for the audience to read and experience. As part of her practice, Sun Kim is persistently questioning what she calls “the ownership of sound” and re-orienting the parameters, social values and sets of rules based around that which is omnipresent and yet invisible to all. 

Following the performance, LOUD silence curator Amanda Cachia will convene the panel, including artist Christine Sun Kim; UC San Diego visual arts, communication and science studies professor Lisa Cartwright; and Brenda Brueggemann, distinguished scholar in the fields of Rhetoric and Composition (English), Deaf Studies, and Disability Studies, and Director of Composition at the University of Louisville.

Graphic from Christine Sun Kim's
Fingertip Quartet

LOUD silence offers viewers the opportunity to consider definitions of sound, voice, and notions of silence at the intersection of both deaf and hearing cultures. The four artists have different relationships to deafness and hearing.  The artists – Shary Boyle, Christine Sun Kim, Darrin Martin and Alison O’Daniel – explore how the binary of loudness and silence might be transformed in politicized ways through their own specificities, similarities and differences in relationship to communication and language. The stereotypical view of the deaf experience is that they live a life of total silence, where they retain little to no concept of sound. On the contrary, as spelled out in “The Meaning of Sound” by UC San Diego social sciences dean Carol Padden and professor of communication Tom Humphries (in the 1988 book “Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture”), deaf people actually know a lot about sound, and sound informs and inhabits their world just as much as the next person.  

The exhibition displays prints, drawings, sculptures, videos, and a film installation. Through these works, the artists aim to explode loudly the myth of a silent deaf world, and they seek to discern just how “inaudible” sound really is through their own visceral experiences of it. The distinction between the deaf person and the hearing person in their relationship to sound is the extent to which deaf people use senses other than the auditory to understand what they are hearing. Sound is felt and sound is seen. Indeed, some of the artists’ “deaf hearing” in this exhibition often involves sensory input from a variety of sources, and is not simply confined to the ears. Ultimately, the work in LOUD silence offers an avenue for eradicating deaf oppression, where new ways of listening and thinking about sound and silence might be developed.

“The work in this exhibition is necessarily political,” says curator Cachia, “because it challenges the conceptual, physical, linguistic associations of music, sound and silence, and because it offers how aural experiences or ostensibly quiet experiences might complicate one-sided perceptions.”

A full-color catalog will accompany the exhibition, produced in partnership with the Grand Central Art Center at California State University Fullerton, with essays written by the exhibition curator as well as Dr. Zeynep Bulut, Lecturer in Music, King’s College, London, and Dr. Michael Davidson, Professor of American Literature in the Literature Department at UC San Diego.

The gallery@calit2 gratefully acknowledges additional support from the Vice Chancellor’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the Linguistics Department, the Communication Department, the Literature Department, and the Visual Arts Department.

The gallery@calit2 and campus partners will stage a variety of public programs during the course of the exhibition, including a film screening and a curator’s tour accompanied by an ASL interpreter, etc. These additional events will be announced at a later date.

For bios of the curator, artists, and speakers involved in LOUD silence and the opening event, click here for the event listing

All gallery@calit2 events are free and open to the public.

RSVP requested to Accessible parking available by request.

Media Contacts

Media Contact: Doug Ramsey,
Gallery Contact: Trish Stone,

Related Links

LOUD silence event listing