Frances is Listening
Interview/ 採訪: Amber Au/ 急急子
English Translation / 英譯: Winnie Chau/ 周穎榆
ADAHK Jockey Club Inclusive Arts Studio 香港展能藝術會-賽馬會共融藝術工房
curious, Hearing Impairment, sign language, sound of wind, speaking, 好奇, 手語, 聽障, 説話, 風聲
“Once, I was at the shore of Penghu in Taiwan. There was a gust. The sound of wind I heard was marvellous. I could feel that the wind was able to take me away.” Frances is an office worker. She has taken part in sand drawing performances. She hopes her works can evoke happiness and freedom.
She recalled having once heard the sound of gentle breeze and once a fierce gust, but she has never heard thunder and lightning, or rainstorm – the sounds she is now anticipating. Every sound ordinary people consider mundane is novel to her.
Frances’ hearing disability was discovered when she was around three. “My parents’ voices – I couldn’t make out what they said,” she recalled. Her hearing ability improved when she was studying at IVE (Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education) at the age of 15. At that time, the school provided hearing aids to students with hearing disability. Tuning the hearing aid to ‘T (Teacher)’ mode enabled the user to hear the teacher’s teaching clearly, without hearing classmates’ talking. Since then, her hearing got a little better. She described her current hearing ability as ‘halfway’, similar to the quality when ordinary people listen with earphones. In a quiet environment, she can hear sounds. Therefore, she enjoys practising sand drawings at midnight. As the creation process has to be accompanied by music, the duration cannot take too long. She once listened to music for two consecutive hours, which tired her ears out.
During her primary and secondary school years, Frances studied in mainstream schools. Her parents have always encouraged her to learn speaking and to communicate with ordinary people by lip-reading and verbalising. Later on, Frances was transferred from IVE to Chun Tok School, a special education school for hearing-impaired students. As requested by her mother, Frances communicated with classmates by simultaneously using sign language and spoken words, so as to maintain her speaking ability. Now, when you talk to her, you may find her speech not as fluent as ordinary people’s. But as long as you are face-to-face with her and pay attention to what her low voice is saying, you don’t need to rely on a sign language interpreter to understand her.
Hearing Impairment and Sound Art
Frances is actually very talkative. Although her ‘hearing’ and ‘speaking’ are not as good as that of ordinary people, that doesn’t undermine her passion for communicating with others. In terms of artistic creation, she communicates with the audience through sand drawing. “Not being able to communicate through sound, I use other means,” she said. This June, she participated in the ‘Itchy Ears’ listening workshop. She was the only participant with hearing disability. She tried to record the workshop contents via a recorder. Holding the recorder and listening through the amplifying function with her earphones, she discovered a lot of sounds she had never heard, “I didn’t realise sound could be this interesting!” To her, the most unforgettable thing was suddenly hearing the sound of the door opening and closing via the earphones, which she wasn’t aware at the time. Since then, she became even more sensitive to and curious about sounds. She started to put together different objects to create sounds. “I create with bubble wrap, bucket cover, ping pong balls and bouncy balls,” she said. When it’s done, she listened to it with her father. They both think it sounded like firework displays.
“What is this sound?” is a question Frances always asks. Her family would tell her: it’s the sound of air-conditioner, it’s the sound of water, it’s the sound of thunder, it’s such-and-such sound. Once, the weather worsened. There was thunder and lightning. Frances’ mother said, “Very terrifying!” Frances only saw lightning, but couldn’t hear thunder. “I didn’t find it terrifying. I really wanted to know whether the sound was really very terrifying.” She is anticipating the next thunderstorm so that she can record the bad weather with a recorder and experience it in detail.
(please scroll down for Frances’ creation)
:: Frances’ creation in sound ::
:: Frances的聲音創作 ::
firework displays 煙花
Black Language 黑色方言
( Frances passed her work to William