William 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
When the four of them were discussing what to create, William suggested using paper to make the work, which brought about the following conversation:
(Frances was aided by a sign language interpreter in the meeting.)
Frances：(sign language) Can your work be touched?
William：No, because people may damage it.
Frances：(sign language) If it can’t be touched, then visually impaired people can’t perceive it, can they?
William: They can use audio description.
Frances：(sign language) Why are you laughing?
William wrote on a piece of paper for Frances, “I laughed because you seem to have become an expert for the visually impaired.”
“I’ve been sensitive to sounds since I was very small. I perceive a lot of things through sounds. When I grew up, I realised others aren’t as sensitive to sounds,” he said. William likes the stars in the sky the most. He also likes the types of sound from wind chimes, music boxes and harps – apart from giving him a taste of fantasy, it gives him the impression of ‘something very beautiful, yet far off.’
Currently a university research assistant, William is fond of ‘moe’. In the past, he enjoyed watching anime Lucky Star and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Sometimes, he would be moved to tears when he was watching anime. Before entering university, his eyesight could still manage.
At kindergarten, William was diagnosed with macular (yellow spot) degeneration. There was no remedy for this condition. As a small child, he would still play hide-and-seek and football with other children. “I used to be able to use a magnifier to read books. A significant degeneration appeared when I was around Form 6 and Form 7. It felt like a patch of thing blocking the middle of my eyes.” Now, he has less than 10% eyesight. More specifically, he can’t make out the biggest ‘E’ on the eye chart. As he has been visually impaired since he was small, he would use hearing as an aid. This is how he describes sound: “Many things in daily life rely on sound. I even chain-read novels by listening. Sound is a part of life. [We are] always together.”
Being able to see previously, William feels deeply the difference between ‘seeing’ and ‘listening’: “listening can complement a bit, but at the end of the day many things can’t be understood by listening to their sound.” The first example is travelling. He isn’t that interested in travelling, as many sightseeing spots require our eyes to see. Merely listening to audio description feels very detached. He jokes, “But I’m interested in eating the food in different countries.” The second example is ‘watching film’ via audio description. He finds audio description similar to audiobook. Yet, the description in an audiobook is more detailed than ‘listening to film’, which enables him to imagine the scenarios.
He can feel the inevitable disappointment when words are used to describe images. “When an anime is described verbally, some gags would be omitted. Many things are to be appreciated visually. If they turned into something audio, they couldn’t be heard completely or perceived at all.”
In his teens, William liked drawing, “If I could still draw, I’d still be fond of drawing.” After his eyesight became too deteriorated for him to draw, he hoped to use other media to create. Yet, he realised ordinary art studios didn’t offer art courses suitable for the visually impaired until he discovered Arts with the Disabled Association Hong Kong (ADA). At ADA, he took part in drama, paper art and touch art workshops. Since he was previously able to see, his works are a bit unusual. Take paper art creations, though he couldn’t see how the work looked in the creative process, he somehow created by means of the visuals in his memories, rather than solely depending on the sense of touch. As for the final product, he hoped the audience, too, would perceive it visually, but not through their sense of touch.
He felt that he couldn’t completely handle visual-related creative media. Later, he came across ‘Itchy Ears’ at ADA, “at first I didn’t know what sound art was, but I thought I could handle this medium.” He described, before joining ‘Itchy Ears’, he was relatively passive when he listened. Neither would he think about the connection between sounds, nor imagine how to create sounds. After joining ‘Itchy Ears’, he started to record different sounds to create his own sound library. He then made use of the recorded sounds to create, “for the time being, I’m exploring. It’s certainly very interesting.”
At one of the learning group meetings, William submitted a segment of sounds made by mixing software. It’s about a day of his daily life. It’s composed of different types of sounds, which are rhythmic with various added effects. The software he used was the same as that used by the visually able. It’s just that the visually able would use it more smoothly… actually it isn’t always the case.
He has a plan, which is to use sounds to narrate ‘The Story of Turtle and Rabbit Race’.
(please scroll down for William’s creation)
:: William’s creation in sound ::
:: William的聲音創作 ::
A Day of My Life 我的一天
Previous paper artwork 過往紙藝作品