This weekend my mother Carolyn Brick and I perform Island of Signs at the Fairmount Water Works as our final River Charrette event with Philadelphia Contemporary. It is related to the Island score that happens as part of The Quiet Circus every weekend at The Washington Avenue pier in South Philly, but it is also very much about us, mother and son, one of us Deaf and one of us hearing. Island of Signs takes place in the two languages that existed in my childhood home. By performing in two languages we try to excavate issues of power and vulnerability that circulate between us. Our family was one of mixed cultures in some sense, with three of us Deaf and two of us hearing. The two languages in Island of Signs and in my childhood home are American Sign Language and spoken English. In beginning to understand the dynamics of power and vulnerability in a family of Deaf parents with three sons, two hearing and one also Deaf, I think it helps to realize that one of those languages can be shared while the other cannot. A truth that extends to the broader culture- as a hearing child I had the powerful experience of code switching as I passed fluidly between the Deaf and hearing worlds.
The differences between us and how we are changed by each others differences is what matters to me. Island of Signs and our weekly Quiet Circus performances at The Washington Avenue Pier share an interest in creating visual frames to see “the world as it is” and to see each other, not through consensus but instead, by witnessing each other in the luminosity of our differences. Most important to me is the possibility of being changed by the differences between us, the possibility of being touched and changed by “what is not me.”
I’d love to see you this Saturday at our final River Charrette. Or come to one of our last four Quiet Circus performance events at the Washington Avenue Pier from 11a.m. to 1p.m. every Saturday in November, including this Saturday before the River Charrette at Fairmount Water Works.