Bons souvenirs / Good memories

Chrisment Elodie

2018 - Ongoing

"Good memories"

My parents are deaf and dumb, my mother tongue is sign language. A language without territory. I hear, I sign, I am part of this community and I experience the sad consequences of a disability that is not mine.

The memory of the deaf does not exist. Many deaf people have lost the fight for their identity building because of the lack of language tools and support from the hearing people. Society asks them to oralize, depriving them of a language that is their own in essence. It's a daily struggle. I have been my parents' spokesperson since my mother gave birth to me.

Why are there so many passport photos in my parents' archives?

In the 1970s, at the Institute for the Deaf in Asnières - France, a boarding school where all these friends met, they weren't called by a first name, but by a registration number, as in prison. This is how society integrated its deaf people. As young people, unable to call or communicate by telephone, they used to give each other these same passport photos among friends to think of each other. Like the first version of Facebook, right?

On the back, words, a name, a first name but above all a registration number. Even today, these friends who are still alive are not called by their first name but by this number printed in their memory.

Abandoned for many of them by their families, by their society, the words that innocently and ironically come up behind each passport photo are: "Good memories".

From these archives, I compiled notebooks and asked my parents what they remembered about each of the friends in this yearbook. The registration number is the element most clearly anchored in their memory. First and last names, minus. The occupation, and if the person died, what did they die of? Due to a lack of communication, many deaf people in my parents' generation died of AIDS, madness, and indeed suicide.

Finally, from my parents' archives, I wonder about the construction of the identity of the deaf. As my parents get married, "For better or for worse", in the jewelry box, there is not an engagement ring but the hearing aid that my father always refused to wear. Out of pride in his deafness, and because this device prevented him from feeling any vibratory or sensory sensations, this tool that remained in his box is a symbol of the struggle of the deaf.

This work is ongoing. It will be organized according to an interactive web platform on which deaf people from all over the world will be able to download images, sounds and videos that can be exchanged between them. I wish to build a memory of the deaf, without territory. Finally, this work will also be designed via the gallery installation process, with three-dimensional tools.

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