Sometimes, all it takes is a simple phrase or statement to reframe our experience of the world. For those for whom the streets of Manchester have become overly familiar, it can be hard to keep noticing; to keep taking note of all that’s around us, of the city’s strange idiosyncrasies and constantly changing aspects, and of the abundance of life that animates it.
For her Manchester International Festival 2021 commission, Berlin-based artist Christine Sun Kim will be ‘captioning the city’ by wrapping its buildings with short fragments of giant text. Each caption will invite passers-by to engage in a new relationship with their surroundings through sound; ranging from the minute (‘the sound of pigeons searching for crumbs’) to the somewhat less concrete (‘the sound of the sun seeping into windows, with your permission’).
Kim is one of a number of Deaf artists claiming sound as their subject and often works with text and captions as part of this. Her ‘captions’ take a more playful and expansive approach to the ones displayed on screens to provide access for Deaf and Hard of Hearing audience members. Kim’s work stresses the important perspective that Deaf people can bring to sound and how this can reveal new insights. Her MIF commission shows the rich possibilities of taking the practice of captioning into the rest of the world; encouraging us to notice small details that we might otherwise pass by or filter out without realising. It is also political – inserting an important tool for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people into the city, making it bold and unapologetic within a world overwhelmingly biased towards those that can hear.
These poetic evocations are a call to perceive differently, and to consider what makes a city, who it is for, and what often goes unnoticed.
Experience Kim’s works by chance as your wander around the city or download a free map highlighting the location of each text intervention via the MIF website from 1 July onwards.