Being at the intersection of minorities, I can find it complicated to be in institutional spaces like yours. Since my art practice is a space where I’m in complete transformation and in which things are not defined, it can be hard for you to see what is at stake when I’m invited in your institutional spaces.
I have thus taken the initiative to draw up a trust agreement, which is also in some ways a manifesto for it underlies the location and the places where I find myself, as well as the strategies I must deploy in order to be able to exist in a secure state of intersectional complexity within your spaces.
Therefore, this is an agreement to make sure that we are indeed on the same page.
1. Because I am Deaf, and although I don’t consider my condition as a disability, we live in a hearing society, in which deafness is made invisible and, as a result, renders affected people disabled and dependent. They have to make considerable efforts to fill in the gap, produced by this validist society, between those who can hear and the Deaf. But also to persevere in spaces that aren’t at all adapted to them. This is why I would like to have, from the outset of our collaboration, an assistant who will be there to accompany me throughout all the stages of the project’s implementation. This assistant will also be present as a communication interface between myself and other hearing people.
2. Because the driving force of my practice is somehow to be able, or at least to attempt, to exist in all my complexity, I’m thus creating a place of convergence, wherein people — who are the closest to where I locate myself — can be welcomed and exist. This is reflected by the issue of sound and how the later could be imagined and felt in a more complex way than with subtitles indicating « suspense music », like in films. It is a matter of imagining devices that are addressed to us, Deaf people. In this context, it is therefore important that these devices may be used in priority by the people concerned, or at least, to encourage the building of a bridge between you, institutions and the Deaf community, for example. This is why I would like you to employ at least one Deaf, Sign language mediator, who will be present throughout the exhibition — thereby getting rid of the French Sign Language tour that takes place at a specific time, hindering Deaf people’ autonomy when visiting an exhibition. I would like you to commit to getting in contact with associations that are self-managed by Deaf people, so that they may come visit the exhibition at any time, knowing that there is content addressed to them.
3. Within the framework of a collective exhibition project involving other hearing artists, it is important to bear in mind that because us, Deaf people, come from a political context in which we are invisibilised, I cannot possibly be placed on an equal footing with them. In other words, the issue of sound contamination shall not occur since my art practice crystallises, among other things, the very question of survival in a totally hearing space. Therefore, what I mean to say is that the scenography will have to be considered so that I don’t end up being muzzled but valued, either in a separate space, or by deploying different strategies.
4. Within the framework of a collective exhibition project involving other hearing artists, it will be important to take on the responsibility of making sure, with these artists, that I have access to their works. For instance, if they show a video piece, whether it is subtitled, and if it is a performance, whether it’s accompanied by a text, etc… This will have to be non-negotiable — not because of the issue of accessibility and inclusivity, but out of respect, as I’m also part of the project, and thus a cultural player within it. As a result, it is also your responsibility to ensure that I have access to the collective project, otherwise it doesn’t make sense for me to be a part of it.
5. Within the framework of exhibition-related activities, if there are any, because I’m a profoundly Deaf hearing person, thereby having been deprived of my language which should have been my first language — French Sign Language (FSL) —, it will be important for the issue of transcribing to be as present as that of FSL, which is a language, a Deaf culture that has suffered a cultural genocide. It won’t be possible for me to choose between the need for transcribing and the urgency of FSL’s visibility. In other words, for any talk, seminar, etc., the presence of these two channels of interpretation of speech will be essential — not to say compulsory —, in order to ensure the presence of a complex Deaf audience, as I claim in my work.
Transcribing will be conducted using the velotype, which is today’s most efficient means.
6. Finally, the issue of mediation around my work will have to take place at an early stage and in close collaboration with myself, in order to ensure that the right words are used with regard to my art practice.
7. Because I’m also located at other intersections, such as being Black, HIV-positive, homosexual, etc., attention will also be paid there, for instance by reproducing point 2) with regard to the diversity of the exhibition mediators, as well as through a long-term, upstream reflection on recruitment / inviting a Black and Deaf curator to set an example, etc.
Naturally, the aim of this trust agreement is also that you remain committed, after the exhibition, to continue along this path. To ensure that it is no longer a matter of accessibility but of truly building bridges with marginalised communities, by placing them at the heart of your cultural agenda, and by subverting the relationship of help towards one of real partnership. To insure that the individuals who are concerned feel welcomed within your spaces and become considered as cultural players necessary to the institution, which you represent.
Date ../../.., place …
Name of the institution and signature
Signature of the artist Kengné Téguia