In Silence (2022)



CONTACT: Symposium of Art and Technology

Cummings Art Center Galleries, Connecticut College.
Nov 11 – Dec 11 2022


In Silence . . . (2022) is a silent film and mixed media installation that reflects on the ongoing work of the artist with community partners in Jane-Finch, one of the most economically challenged and racialized areas of Toronto and the stories embodied in them and their children. In its aesthetic form, it references the artist’s previous installation “Between us a Breeze” (2016) that explored the impoverished nature of communication across a visitation booth by visualizing speech as gusts of wind across a reflecting pool. In our social-distancing epoch, this interpersonal distance is especially felt through virtual conversations that deny us multisensory connection, and introduce artefacts of digital and network failure.

The work takes a selection of anecdotal stories and presents them through actors on a screen limited to non-vocal expressions, and a reflecting pool that is activated by cymatic visualizations of prerecorded speech. Fragments of these stories are also accessible through a bone-conductance railing (that forces the visitor into a position reminiscent of pain or anguish), and a phone hotline.

Inspired by a quote from sonic artist and philosopher Salomé Voegelin: “In silence, time does not move but vibrates gently on the spot. It is slowed down on my body whose time it has become”, In Silence . . .pays tribute to the resilience of the community through the emotional turmoil of the pandemic that has made them feel they were in a perpetual suspension and immobility, and the stories of survival that have emerged.

Actors: Ayesha Khan, Joella Crichton and Jamie Robinson
Videographer: Michael Miroshnik,
Fabrication support: Liz Tsui and Jacob Turola
Design support: Grace Grothaus

Commissioned artwork for the CONTACT exhibition at the 17th Ammerman Center Biennial curated by Rene Cepeda.

Exhibition dates: November 10th–December 11, 2022, at the Cummings Art Center Galleries, Connecticut College. 

The work is inspired by individuals from the Firgrove Learning and Innovation Centre, Wheel It Studios, Black Creek Walks, Talks and Dances, to whom the project is dedicated

Exhibition website

Installation view @ Cummings Art Gallery (Conneticut College)

void * reflections :

The work In Silence. . .  takes a selection of these anecdotal stories and abstracts them through actors on a screen limited to non-vocal expressions, and a reflecting pool that is activated by cymatic visualizations of their speech and a bone-conductance railing (that forces the visitor into a position reminiscent of pain or anguish).  The entirety of these stories is accessible through a phone hotline.  The stories center around three protagonists inspired by true life experiences of a group of community partners:

1.  Andrea, a middle-aged youth worker who witnesses the struggles that her mother faced as a migrant from Guyana, entering Canada initially as an illegal immigrant before getting citizenship, setting up a family and leading her children in being an advocate for her community – to her current struggles with mobility issues and physical pain in a neighborhood where accessible supports are not always available.

2. Mrs O, a late-middle-aged woman who migrated to Canada from the Caribbean islands, became rose to become an important youth worker and leader with her own community center in the neighbourhood.  During the Pandemic, her community center tragically burns down, and she is left in a moment of suspension and pain as she watches support networks around her get overtaxed and break down. 

3. J, a middle-aged man who was a hip-hop dancer and pioneering member of an internationally acclaimed B-boy crew in the 80s, who was unable to dance anymore after a series of injuries.  He had lost friends in gang violence in the neighbourhood where there were few opportunities for decent work.  Driven to desperation during the Pandemic, he had tried many different jobs before learning to DJ and becoming a key partner in a mobile studio that enabled rival gang members to collaborate on music making together. 

The patterns in the water and embedded sounds in the railings are made with the use of haptic speakers that work at specific frequency ranges between 10-40Hz and create vibrations in the structures rather than audible sound.   The vocal performances of the stories are transformed into auditory notes in this range through a mix of onset detection, spectral filtering and pitch-shifting; and were aligned with the video by visually notating the emotional valences in the film.

Story 1: Andrea (via phone call)
Story 2: Mrs O (via phone call)
Story 3: J (via phone call)