I Hear You

Can listening be an act of care and mutual tenderness, and can it serve as an activist force with the power to challenge the relationship between who is visible and who is heard? Mikhail Karikis’s project ‘I Hear You’ interrogates these questions in a five-channel audiovisual installation focusing on the often invisible labour of caregivers of non-verbal neuro-diverse people. Over the course of a year, Karikis spent time with groups of people at Project Art Works – an artist-led organisation in Hastings (UK) that collaborates with people with complex needs. Karikis was drawn to the intimate relationships between non-verbal people and their caregivers, noticing the subtlety and difference in each person’s non-verbal language, how it is heard, interpreted and responded to. The installation comprises a series of video portraits of caregivers, each of whom is captured in the act of attentive listening and communicating with the person they care for in an exchange of gazes and touch, whispers, guttural sounds, words, whistles, laughter, claps and signs.

Observing caregivers working 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, 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.

Mikhail Karikis’ project was commissioned by De la Warr Pavilion and Project Art Works. It developed as part of EXPLORERS – a three-year programme of awareness raising and workshops, conversations, productions, commissions, exhibitions and seminars in collaboration with people with complex needs and those who support them.

Special thanks to all the neurodiverse participants, their parents, guardians and caregivers. This project would not have been possible without the generous welcome, trust and help I received from Doreen and Carl, Andrew and Eden, Dan and Paul, Magda and Darryl, Sarah and Claire, and without the buddy support of Tim Corrigan. Many thanks to Rosie Cooper and the De la Warr team, Kate Adams and the team at Project Art Works.

© 2019