Project Overview

Aphonia is the medical term for a loss of voice. Open your mouth. Say ‘Aaah’. Then vocalise the three syllables that follow. The word forms in the back of your throat and travels to the tip of your tongue, but no sounds come out. In Sophie Hoyle’s video of the same name, an inability to make oneself heard, aurally, acts as an analogue of the struggle to make one’s presence felt, publicly, that regularly marginalises d/Deaf people and other individuals with different (dis)abilities. There are, at least, ever-increasing means to address and redress this, and Hoyle mobilises many of them over the course of this 30-minute work, as audio description and closed captioning supplement its central scripted monologue, sometimes shadowing it directly, sometimes deviating from it, as if to destabilise or deconstruct it. This meta-textual dimension is also counterpointed by a much more tactile, almost visceral element, as the camera probes ever-more deeply into the cavity of the mouth; the tongue squirming and pulsing like an oyster, while the jaws clam shut. Quiet people are often encouraged to ‘come out of their shell’, but often their silence is not a muteness, but more of an act of refusal. An intricate, impassioned assertion of what so often goes unspoken, Aphonia speaks volumes about the need to widen understanding of diverse experiences and abilities and create a space for multiple voices to be heard.

To read a newly commissioned text by Jinan Coulter developed in response to Aphonia, please click here.


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