Melissa Mostyn is a published writer, blogger, aspiring film-maker and visual arts practitioner. In 2011 she made her debut as a scriptwriter and director with Child Of Deaf Adults (CODA), a 10-minute TV drama short produced by Neath Films in association with the BSLBT that was broadcast on The Community Channel and Film4, and can still be viewed here.
Many of those who have collaborated with Melissa in the arts will be familiar with her work with Salon, the grant-funded Deaf-led visual arts organisation that explored Deaf conceptual art ideology through workshops and activities, some of which appeared in DVD documentaries and YouTube clips directed by Samuel Dore.
Here she picks her digital masterpiece and explains how this relates to her ongoing commitment to Deaf Arts and art theory.
My grand passion is freedom of self-expression, and it’s this that drives my diverse love of the arts and media. Having grown up Deaf nearly all my life, communication is integral to my life, yet day after day, I’m confronted by people who somehow convince themselves that I lack communication skills, and am therefore less human. The prejudice can be stifling.
Inevitably, I often seek out artists or works of art that can translate in Deaf art theory terms. I still feel that Deaf Arts need to be pushed more in promoting Deaf Culture at its fullest and most diverse to a mainstream audience who may not be aware of it, and the value the Deaf Community places on being able to freely and visually express themselves, mainly (but not exclusively) in sign language.
In my work with Salon, again and again I discovered Deaf artists who were preoccupied with the idea of signing hands in their work, as if this was the only way they could be themselves. Indeed storytelling and BSL poetry, rather than visual art – which these days demands greater proficiency in English-based art theory – play a significant role in the history of Deaf Culture, and their legacy continues with the growth of Deaf film-making in Britain.
For Short Circuit, I had to think hard what digital masterpiece would best encapsulate that hunger for self-expression without needing to resort to conventional film narrative. How could 21st century technology be used to rejuvenate a steadfast Deaf Art tradition?
After Googling for a while I came across the balloon photography of Edward Horsford. Those images of exploding water-filled balloons, whilst still in the artist’s hand, resonated immediately with me. This might not correlate with Horsford’s philosophy but I felt they symbolised perfectly how the Deaf hand becomes a tool for free expression. Have a look at some YouTube clips of exploding water-balloons as an art form.
I love that Horsford dyes his water and works with bright colours to emphasise the sudden eruption of individuality from the ubiquitous balloon shape. It’s as if the Deaf identity must spring free of dull, monotonous constraint, having gained a voice from its outstretched fingers.