The Making of: Social Life and Art in the Austrian Deaf Community

The Making of: Social Life and Art in the Austrian Deaf Community

Joanna Kinberger (on the right): spoken English, English subtitles. Marek Kanaš  (on the left): translation in International Sign. 30 November 2022

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Vienna exhibition2

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Video transcript

Can you please introduce yourself and your team?

Hi! My name is Joanna Kinberger and I am the team leader at equalizent. We are 4 people – Daniele Le Rose, Sandra Kral, Laura Körnig and myself.

For the Deaf Museums project, you made the exhibition: “Social life and art in the Austrian deaf community”. 
Can you tell us about the exhibition?
Why did you choose this subject for your exhibition? 

We started off by having a workshop with our colleagues, deaf and hearing together. And we decided that there are certain aspects of the Austrian Deaf community that we wanted to show to our European friends, our European partners and to the world.

In particular, the areas of social life and art. There’s so much variety within the Austrian Deaf community, so much talent, and that’s why we chose these subjects for our exhibition.

We were also very interested in generational subjects, how opinions differ on certain aspects of social life depending whether young or old. So this is why we chose the subjects and yes, we hope you enjoy!

Can you tell us about the interviews? Was it difficult to find people to interview? How did you do the interviews?

We interviewed more than 20 people. It actually wasn’t difficult to find people to interview because people were so interested to give us their opinion to get on camera.

My colleague – Daniele Le Rose – was responsible for the interviews. He contacted people who were interested and people he knew from his extensive experience in the Deaf community.

The interviews were done in various situations as you can see on the videos. Most of the interviews were done outside, mainly because we interviewed during COVID so we have to be careful about people’s health, about maintaining good distance with the interviewer and not infecting anybody so we were very lucky there were no corona infections.  

What is the response of Deaf and hearing people to your exhibition?

How did you take their different needs and preferences into account?

The responses are very very enthusiastic, regardless whether deaf or hearing. People within the Deaf community are thrilled to see so many different interviews together, the pictures on the posters, of course the recognition of people that they know.

For hearing visitors, there’s a lot of new information, there’s a lot of things that people didn’t know. Some of it is very moving. We gained intergenerational insights – from very young people to our oldest interviewee – a sculptor who is in his nineties.

The responses were generally very very positive, not least of all because of the sheer number of videos that we have done – 28 videos.  

What will happen next? What are your plans for the exhibition?

At the moment, the physical exhibition is at our offices at equalizent in the second district of Vienna.

There are 8 posters and via QR code, the visitor finds all the videos that are associated with the particular subject (poster). There are differing numbers of videos per poster.

The exhibition has just gone online. It can be found on the HANDS UP website, which is at www.handsup.wien.

And our plans for the exhibition? Well basically because we put QR codes on the posters which link to playlists, it means that our exhibition can be augmented at any time. So if we do interesting interviews with artists or other deaf associations than Steyr for example, then we can add them to the playlist.

So basically, our exhibition can carry on being added to, being augmented and can grow. Another point that we would like to work on before the end of the project is to translate all of the content into English. Of course, we cannot translate the Sign Language into English, because these are very specific personal experiences, but we will be translating the subtitles into English and all of the poster texts as well.

What advice can you give people who want to do something similar? What lessons have you learned in the process?

I think my advice is the same as the lessons that we have learned. Basically, plan well! We did some quite extensive planning but a lot of the planning changed. So plan well but be flexible.

Our initial idea was we wanted to do something fun, we wanted to play a game. I remember our first presentation [of the idea] was all the steps of the game. It was something along the lines of snakes and ladders.

And yet when we started doing the interviews, we realised that the content was so serious, was so moving, gave such a deep insight into individuals but [also] the community as a whole that we didn’t want to detract from that.

So we moved from the idea of what would have been maybe something fun but frivolous to something much more detailed and much more serious.

So my advice is the same as our lessons learned – plan well but be flexible so you can adapt your planning when you learn something along the way.

Anything else that you would like to add?

What would I like to add? Have fun! We did have a lot of fun.

I think above all – it was a difficult process but we have a lot of fun on the way. We had some fights on the way, we had some disagreements on the way and we had lots of changes and amendments and reorientation.

Quite a lot of things went wrong and quite a lot of things went well and the final result is something that I’m very proud of. I’m very proud of the team and I would like to say a very deep thank you to everybody who took part – there are far too many to name. But it has been a great experience.

So what would I like to add? Have some fun! I hope you enjoy making your own exhibition, inspired by our exhibitions. Thank you! 

Interview, 30 November 2022, Vienna