Introducing SIGN, a visual interview with artist Bex and the first installment in our new journal series. Discussed: the ephemeral nature of spoken and signed communication, living in cities, and cathartic bonfires. Video by Vanessa Hellmann, music by Chris Campbell, with special thanks to Bex, Joe Quinn, and Marie Potesta.
What do you do for work or what do you study?
I'm a painter, comics creator, and freelancer. I sell my paintings and comics, and do all kinds of gigs such as creating band logos/flyers/posters, CAD sketches for art galleries, and even non-art gigs like cleaning and pouring drinks at weddings.
What's your alternate, fantasy occupation that has nothing to do with what you currently do?
What activity brings you comfort?
Drawing, painting, long walks, hiking, kayaking, camping, being in nature, being somewhere high up where I can see huge swaths of the city below.
Are you a people person or a solitary person, or somewhere in between?
Somewhere in between! I'm an introvert but also enjoy people, when it's the right time and place.
Are you a city person?
Absolutely. I grew up in Los Angeles.
In what situations would you use a sign language interpreter?
Any situation that would call for interacting with the public, or an audience/group of people, or a doctor's appointment/meeting/class/workshop/panel/show. Any kinds of situation that involve needing to communicate with someone (or multiple someones) who is not ASL-fluent. Exempt from that is if it's a small group of friends who I'm just casually hanging out with.
Do you find yourself changing your "voice," or how you express yourself, depending on who your interpreter is?
No, a good interpreter who I feel comfortable with is someone who strives to emulate my authentic voice as closely as possible. An interpreter who alters your “voice” is not an interpreter to be trusted. I do code-switch depending on whether I'm talking to a Deaf person, non-ASL fluent hearing person, an ASL-fluent hearing person, or family member.
Are there certain places or situations you would avoid if you did not have an interpreter available?
If there is no interpreter avoid going to most public events/workshops/other types of events that include a speaker/s, so all of them, I suppose. It's a lot of work to try to understand, to communicate, and to be understood, and I'd very much rather spend my time and energy working on my own projects instead.
I heard you keep a notebook to communicate what you want to say to people. When a notebook is full, do you keep them, or throw them away?
I throw them away—or to be more precise, I burn them in my backyard fire pit! It feels cathartic burning them. Spoken words disappear into the air, and I'd like for my words to disappear as well.