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New exhibition an immersive experience of Deaf Culture

American Sign Language for “interpret”

The latest exhibition at Hyphen provides a unique and fascinating insight into Deaf culture and experience.

What I Wish I’d Told You, by Claire Bridge and Chelle Destefano, affirms Deaf voices, identity and culture featuring more than 70 collaborators including artists such as Kate Just.

This touring exhibition bridges Deaf and hearing worlds with immersive, largescale video projections transforming Hyphen’s Playspace Gallery into a Deaf space – a place of belonging and affirmation of sign language, culture and Deafhood.

The artwork grew from an open invitation from Bridge and Destefano to the Deaf community to respond to the prompt: What is it that you wish you had said, or could say now?

Deaf people were invited to respond in video stories told in Auslan, with complete agency, in whichever way and to whoever they wanted.

The artists received a remarkable response and have collaborated with these storytellers to create a valuable living archive of Deaf Cultural experience, Australian sign language, Deaf artistry and creativity.

Bridge said the exhibition brought together Deaf people from diverse backgrounds to celebrate identity, culture and pride.

It created a sense of safety among Deaf, sharing important stories of oppression, audism and compassion.

“What I Wish I Told You, celebrates Deaf people, Deaf culture and Auslan, centering complex and diverse Deaf identities, Deaf voices and Deaf agency. It creates a bridge between Deaf and hearing worlds, with provocative and intimate insight into Deaf experience as told by Deaf people,” Bridge said.

Destefano said the exhibition aimed to bring positive change for the Deaf community.

“In Auslan, we pass stories from hand to hand. Our stories cannot be put on a page, detached from us. When we tell stories through sign language, our whole body, mind, emotion, and inner-self is also expressed. Our signed stories carry culture. They are a site of resistance and pride.”

“I was also blown away by What I Wish I’d Told You by Claire Bridge and Chelle Destefano with Deaf community, at Footscray Community Arts. This exhibition is a deeply moving and provocative immersion in Auslan and Deaf culture,” CEO of Creative Victoria Claire Febey said in a recent Creative Victoria newsletter.

The official opening of the exhibition on Saturday, September 17 will include a live performance of Deaf storytelling from 1pm by Deaf performers Chelle Destefano and Karthik Vijayanandam.

It will be followed on Wednesday, September 21 by a lively and important online panel discussion of Deaf Futures with Catherine Dunn, Karthik Vijayanandam, Chelle Destefano, and Becky Rose-Mundy to mark National Week of Deaf People.

What I Wish I’d Told You is inclusive and accessible: cross-culturally(including Deaf/hearing, Indigenous/non-indigenous, LGBTIQ+), cross-linguistically(Auslan/ Deaf mob sign/ English), and cross-modally (Auslan sign-language, Deaf/blind sign, voiced-spoken English and captioned text).

Video stories are told in Auslan by a broad range of voices and identities, with English captions and audio voiceovers provided in English to match the Auslan storytellers.

What I Wish I’d Told You is a touring exhibition which premiered at Footscray Community Arts and is supported by the Australian Council for the Arts, Creative Victoria, Regional Arts Victoria, City of Melbourne and Arts in Maroondah.

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