Christine Sun Kim is a very different kind of sound artist. In fact, some people even say she is “reinventing sound.” Kim has been profoundly deaf since birth, and her creative mind and different way of looking at the world has led her to create some amazing art.
Kim first started out trying to show sound visually, with pictures and drawings. She would use the sound vibrations themselves to create images out of sound. To make her sound drawings, Kim would put a paintbrush with paint on it on top of a speaker playing loud music. The vibrations of the speaker would make the paintbrush move to create an image. Later, Kim decided she wanted to explore more of the world of sound, and show new ways to ‘hear’ the world.
One of Kim’s sound projects was an installation (very large art project) that invited visitors to feel the vibrations in piano wires. The vibrations were created by the sound of her own voice. Kim says that sound is not experienced just with our ears—it is also felt through vibrations. Because really, that is what sound is: waves that travel through the air to rattle our eardrum and make ‘sound.’ Kim says her favorite sounds are the sounds of a car engine and feedback from a speaker.
Kim also collaborates (works with) other artists who are not deaf. These artists let her present her art in a new way, and give it a new voice for hearing people. She worked with the British singer Devonté Hynes to create live performance called Fingertap Quartet. Hynes made audio recordings of sounds and words Kim sent him, and she would ‘play’ along with them by typing emojis on a screen as the sound played.
Kim believes her way of looking at sound gives her a way to explore her world in new ways. “It is about my curiosity. It is about finding out how sound affects things. It is about my own closeness and intimacy with the sounds I explore,” she says.
See Kim’s TED talk about the Enchanting Music of Sign Language here!