In 1867 Alexander Melville Bell (father of Alexander Graham Bell) published 'Visible Speech' - a complex system of phonetic symbols developed to represent the position of the speech organs in articulating sounds. It was intended for the use of Deaf people everywhere to “improve” their vocal articulation, and formed part of a widespread campaign in the discouragement of British Sign Language and other non-verbal forms of communication.
Both Jez Dolan and Rowland Hill have referenced this book in their new artworks, and will discuss it at In So Many Words: artists' talks this Saturday from 3pm. Then, on Tuesday 8th May, both artists will present new performance works to accompany their exhibition.
Jez Dolan has worked with composer Michael Betteridge to create a graphic score from his drawings and research and duet for clarinets.
Rowland Hill and members of Manchester Deaf Centre will present a collaborative performance using British Sign Language, imagery and voice in response to Visible Speech - undermining Bell’s ideology by introducing non-verbal communication back into the very system that sought to eradicate it. The piece is a provocation which seeks to raise questions around language, power and freedom of expression - then, and now.