Arts at the Old Firestation, South East
The Slangon Market Stall
Aaron Williamson, alongside AOFS’ nearest neighbours and market traders, will find new ways to share stories between people who can and cannot hear. These will be conversations that wouldn’t otherwise occur, between people who wouldn’t otherwise meet, using language we wouldn’t otherwise know.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions and the impact of lockdown this project was unable to go ahead.
From JRR Tolkien’s ‘Elvish’ to the aliens’ ‘Klingon’ in Star Trek movies; or the curious whistling in the Clangers children’s TV programme, the history of ‘artificial’ languages in art and literature, is fascinating. As a deaf bilingual signer/ speaker, it is notable however, that there exists no artificially constructed language in signing.
I propose to invite local Deaf / Hard of hearing people in and around Oxford to create a wholly new and ‘alien’ sign language: ‘Slangon’. Following the convention of travel guide books that often include around 100 words/phrases in a foreign language, this group will meet in a series of workshops to invent a similar-sized vocabulary for Slangon. This will form the basis for a ‘video dictionary’ with each word/phrase performed by its inventor to camera.
Once a basic vocabulary of Slangon has been designed through this series of workshops it will then be used as the central component in a public interventionist performance. In the manner of the ‘Esperanto Literature Stalls’ that were fairly visible in the 1960s to 80s, that sought to market a new worldwide language (ie Esperanto), the Slangon creators will attempt to ‘sell’ their new language to the public on Oxford’s Gloucester Green Market. A phrase book menu of photographs of the new signs, along with demonstrations by the stall holders is available for the public’s consideration.
The aim is to create a fun, participatory experiment with the public and to challenge perceptions towards Deaf people. This performance could form the basis for a short documentary film.
Aaron Williamson’s work is informed by his experience of becoming deaf and by a politicised, yet humorous sensibility towards disability. At a University of California San Diego lecture in 1998, Williamson coined the term ‘Deaf Gain’ as a counter-emphasis to ‘hearing loss’. Over the last twenty five years Aaron Williamson has created more than 300 exhibitions, performances, interventions, videos, installations and publications for galleries, museums and festivals.