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Reclaiming Ownership of Sound: Christine Sun Kim’s New TED Talk
Arts and Pop Culture | January 19, 2016

Reclaiming Ownership of Sound: Christine Sun Kim’s New TED Talk

For TED Senior Fellow Christine Sun Kim, being born deaf could’ve meant that sound and music weren’t a part of her life. As an artist, surrounded by auditory pieces, her deafness could have meant she was barred from relationships, power, and social currency—the art world itself. But, as she describes in this recent TED Talk, she realized that sound had always been an integral part of her experience—on her thoughts constantly, negotiated at every turn. Instead of letting the inability to hear distance her from art and other people, she “decided to reclaim ownership of sound and to put it into [her] art practice.” And this meant entering into new aesthetic territory: works that explore the surprising relationships between ASL (American Sign Language), musical notation, expression, voice, and social capital.

“I’ve always felt as though sound was your thing, a hearing person’s thing,” she signs to a captivated audience. “And sound is so powerful that it could either disempower me and my artwork, or it could empower me. I chose to be empowered.” With paintings, installations, workshops, compositions, and often tech-driven artworks, Kim strives to liberate voice from social constraints and legitimize her perceptions. “We need to start thinking harder about what defines social currency and allow ASL to develop its own form of currency—without sound. And this could possibly be a step to lead to a more inclusive society. And maybe people will understand that you don’t need to be deaf to learn ASL, nor do you have to be hearing to learn music.”

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