We are thrilled to have artist Liza Sylvestre as our guest this week. Liza is a multimedia artist and curator of academic programs at Krannert Art Museum whose work has been shown nationally. She has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards and has acted as the Artist in Residence of the Weisman Art Museum and the Center for Applied Translational Sensory Science (CATTS).
In 2019, Liza received a Citizens Advocate Award from the Minnesota Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing (MNCDHH). Her work has been written about in Art in America, Mousse Magazine, SciArt Magazine and the Weisman Art Museum’s Incubator Web Platform.
Julia: I am actually blogging after we filmed our podcast with Liza. BEST TIME EVER! She is passionate about inclusivity and how that can look through her art.
I was introduced to Liza’s art when I was still working for the state, helping Michele and Chelle with video clips for a training class on Oral Transliteration (great training class for interpreters wanting to expand their services to include oral interpreting). The poem “What if I Told You a Story in a Language I can hear” was a reminder of my hearing privilege.
As a CART provider, I get hearing fatigue and there are days I envy folks with hearing loss who say they turn their ears off at the end of the day. But something about this poem helped me to remember that my hearing fatigue is a choice. My choice of profession, because I can hear. Michele often says you didn’t choose hearing loss, it chose you. This poem helped me understand that better.
It also helped me better understand why our Lipreading Concept Class (which begins this evening, Feb. 17th) being taught first is so important. A good reminder you must understand the concept of lipreading or you will feel it’s an impossible thing to learn.
Michele: As Julia mentions, because I find Liza so readable, Chelle and I used the video above to teach Sign Language Interpreters to better understand what lipreaders need from Oral Interpreters / Transliterators. And, when anyone tells me that they want to learn to lipread, I send them the video link and have them to watch it with the sound on first; then, have them watch it again, muted, concentrating on seeing the words Liza is saying.
I met Liza online in early 2015. A Minnesota friend had sent an email to tell me about a young Minnesota artist who is Hard of Hearing (HoH). The email contained Liza’s newsletter outlining her participation in Art(ists) On the Verge (AOV), a mentor-based fellowship program for Minnesota-based emerging artists working experimentally at the intersection of art and technology, and a few of her other projects.
Wha_ i_ I _old you a __ory in a language I _an _ear was included. Liza recites her writing in a normal voice; then, recites a second time enunciating only the parts of each word that she is able to hear.
The video visually demonstrates what hearing loss is like and how the HoH hear. I was intrigued.
However, the video was not captioned, so I wasn’t sure that I was getting everything via lipreading. I immediately contacted Liza to ask if there was a captioned version and included a transcript of what I thought she was saying. She responded, “You were so close with your lip reading. I’m impressed!,” and shortly after sent me a captioned version of the video.
That was the beginning of a wonderful connection with this talented lady. Liza is one of the few people I’ve met over the years who lost their hearing in a very similar way to how I lost mine; gradually and steadily, to the severe range at a young age. We are hardwired to lipread, and when you meet someone who has a very similar hearing loss experience, you recognize it almost immediately in each other. It’s kind of a siblinghood… a deep understanding of a communication style that you share.
I’ve had the pleasure of communicating with Liza over the years since that first online exchange and we have connected over other projects. In 2018, Liza gave a workshop at the SayWhatClub convention and donated a large print of one of her abstract paintings to our Silent Auction—I was determined to win the print, and did. It was thrilling to meet Liza in person prior to, and at, the convention, and I’ve had the opportunity spend time with her since.
Later in 2018, I participated in a Sensory Loss Symposium that Liza organized after meeting with scientists studying sensory loss at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Translational Sensory Science (CATSS). The symposium was held at the Weisman Art Museum (WAM) and it is one of the coolest things I have been involved in. Several small, mixed groups (7 or 8) of scientists, artists, and people with sensory disabilities went throughout the museum and confronted barriers together, working out solutions to accomplish accessibility, for those of us with disability, at each exhibit we visited. It was a wonderful learning experience for every participant. You can read more about the Sensory Loss Symposium at the additional links below:
- Michele’s Account
- MPLSART.COM: Access (taken for) Granted: the Sensory Loss and Art Symposium at the Weisman
- WAM: Reflections on Sensory Loss Symposium
For me, it demonstrated how beneficial it is to include hearing partners (family, friends, and even strangers) in developing solutions to overcome communication and access barriers. I saw the impact this project had on the hearing members of our group… how focused and intense they were in thinking about each situation and ways they could make our experience as equal as possible to their own. I have applied this to my own life since, and it works great. Involving hearing people in crafting a solution to overcome a communication barrier makes a big impact and a more lasting impression.
I would love for Hearing Loss LIVE! to develop a similar way to meet with small mixed groups to problem solve barriers for the HoH.
Chelle: My favorite thing to do is introducing Hard of Hearing community members to each other. Connections in the HOH world have a ripple effect. WE share each other’s stories and the inspiration keeps growing. I think the HoH tribe has some of the best people in the world in it, people like Liza.
Michele introduced Liza’s work to me several years ago. Liza makes hearing loss visual. She blends her hearing loss with different mediums so people can see, and hear, how hearing loss affects us. Her projects are fascinating.
- Flashlight – when we can’t see, we can’t hear. Our vision travels with the light (similar to people turning away or covering their mouth. Yet we focus on non verbal parts of speech; facial expressions, body language and more. It’s a piece of the puzzle.
- Third Space – demonstrates how acoustics affect hearing devices, yes! If we don’t have captions, we wind up with other thoughts and musings.
- Music from Christopher – processing sounds with thoughts and visuals. I love how squiggly lines represent complicated translation thoughts. It is a puzzle and we use anticipation. Our interpretations can be way off but sometimes they are right on too.
- Audio Description – a clever project that has people translating audio into images. I’m sure this made people think hard.
- Standing in a Room Without Light – lighting is so important to those of us with hearing loss. Language comes in pieces…but not really. There’s a big picture and so much at work here. We need all the pieces.
- Interference Drawings – show us the word discrimination puzzle
My favorite takeaway in our podcast with Liza, is when she talks about making our experiences valid. We get things “wrong” at times but is it any less valid? It might not be the same as the hearing world’s experience but it is our experience in the end. Perhaps our version is better! I know what I think I heard is often a lot more fun than what was said!
Go to Liza’s website, explore and share with family and friends.
Watch our companion podcast with Liza.