Translation of the video:
You see the artwork entitled “…And there was light” which comes from the story in Gensis of how G-d made the world. I had been invited to have some artworks featured in a show called NTID Mythology Images. So that got me thinking about making art that reflects mythology. I started investigate and reading different theories and many mythologies of around the world have CREATION MYTHS. Native Americans, different tribes, countries, and people have stories of their origins. I was wondering about how the Deaf-world (for the U.S.) was created and the answer was with the first permanent Deaf school. Creation of a Deaf school lead to the creation of a Deaf community. I know other Deaf communities existed in the U.S. prior (Martha’s Vineyard and amongst large Deaf families) but in terms of a LARGE and ESTABLISHED Deaf-world that continues today – the origins are tracked back to American School for the Deaf (ASD).
I took my inspiration for the artwork from an old NAD film featuring a man sharing his memories at ASD. He had entered the school after Laurent Clerc was retired but had seen Clerc as he lived in a house nearby the school and would come to campus to visit from time to time. The man who told the stories is John Hotchkiss = H from chin to chest. If i have the wrong name-sign for Hotchkiss, please write me a post alerting me to the correction. I have seen H – chin to chest and H – chin to K – chest. So I’m not certain which is right. I’ll show you a clip of his story now.
Once I remember Clerc coming to our school and telling us Deaf children about the importance of learning. He told us of the significance of literacy, grammar, and word order. He selected two sentences to demonstrate this. The first, which he fingerspelled completely was, “We live to eat” and the other was “We eat to live.” And with his very elegant and grandiose signing (and some what lengthy) delivery he explained the difference with great preciseness and clarity. We children could clearly see how different the meaning was based on a simple verb change by switching the terms live and eat.
(Imitating Clerc’s signing style) “I, you and you and you, we do not live solely to feast upon food and eat and eat. No, not at all. We live for better things than that. But it is true that each of us must eat in order to give us fortitude and good health to enable us to live and do good.”
Hotchkiss’s story shows that Clerc clearly taught in the bi-bi method. He used written English, fingerspelled English, and signing to illustrate how the change of word placement can significantly change the meaning of a sentence. In doing so he taught the children the importance of grammar, words, and learning. He did this with ASL and English. Impressive. This is our beginning. This is how we received the light – through education, through Deaf schools and through ASL. So I wanted to record this mythology – our creation for the Deaf-world within the U.S.
I found some old windows that were being tossed out into the garbage when folks were replacing them with new ones. I liked the color and shape of these windows and took them. The top panels I painted black and etched out letters from behind – i had to write backward so when the words were viewed from the front they were readable. I wrote “We eat to live” and “We live to eat” from Hotchkiss’s words of his story on Clerc’s teaching method.
There is significance in these words beyond how Clerc taught. Clerc explained that we don’t just live with F-O-O-D on our brains. No we eat to be healthy so we can do good. This is the message Clerc was instilling in the Deaf children. You eat, feed your minds, you learn, you improve to enable you to grow. Now you can go forward and do good. Like Clerc himself had done by leaving France to come to the U.S. to help give birth to a Deaf community to send them forth to do good.
I love that film and I love the message so I decided to make the artwork. I etched out the words to preserve them and for the light to shine through. I used black to signify the blackboards of the schoolroom.
For old NAD films:
click catalog / Deaf culture then scroll down to the c of the Preservation of Sign Language – The Complete Historical Collection
Or view at Gallaudet on-line library http://videolibrary.gallaudet.edu/scripts/WebObjects.dll/tsweb (click public login)
If interested in mythology – Charles Katz has an epic myth on Deaf history
Part II coming soon