‘I Hear You’ is a five-channel audiovisual installation which features caregivers, each listening attentively and communicating with a non-verbal neuro-diverse person they care for in an exchange of gazes and touch, whispers and guttural sounds, words, whistles, laughter, claps and sign language. Continuing Karikis’s long-standing interest in the politics of work as well as sound as a political agent, this work focuses on the often invisible and socially undermined labour of caring for people with disabilities, and highlights the role listening plays as an act of care and mutual tenderness, as well as an activist force with the power to challenge the relationship between who is visible and who is heard.
The project is the outcome of Karikis’s year-long residency at Project Art Works, an artist-led organisation in Hastings (UK) which supports, provides studio spaces and collaborates with people with complex needs. Noticing the subtlety and difference in each person’s non-verbal language, how it is heard, interpreted and responded to, Karikis became drawn to the intimate relationships between non-verbal people and their caregivers, as well as the role caregivers play as an interface between the realm of non-verbal people and the realm of spoken and shared language.
Reflecting on the politics and ethics of the work of caregivers, Karikis notes that observing caregivers communicating with non-verbal people can serve as a gateway to a generous and inclusive way of thinking about relating to others. Set against a backdrop of hardship and intolerance towards people with disabilities, as well as ideologies of discrimination, political polarisation and growing differences of opinion over common purpose in the UK and in Europe, the work is a hopeful affirmation that, no matter the differences between people, communication is possible.
The installation features parents, support workers and artists all of whom support non-verbal people with complex needs. The portraits represent Doreen and Carl, Andrew and Eden, Dan and Paul, Magda and Darryl, Sarah and Claire.
This exhibition is accompanied by a new text by sound theorist Salomé Voegelin, author of The Political Possibility of Sound (2018).
This project would not have been possible without the generous welcome, trust and help I received from the entire team at Project Art Works, Doreen and Carl, Andrew and Eden, Dan and Paul, Magda and Darryl, Sarah and Claire, Thomas and Sid, and without buddy support from Tim Corrigan. Many thanks to Kate Adams, Rosie Cooper and the De la Warr team.
‘I Hear You’ was a 2019 commission by De la Warr Pavilion and Project Art Works which premiered in Karikis’s solo exhibition at De la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill (UK).