The video artwork, On the Other Ocean, by Giulia Bruno and Giuseppe Ielasi—a short version of which is presented here—is both the condensation of participatory research and artistic production and the beginning of a larger ongoing narrative.
Ocean. A large expanse of salt water. Water. It is water that shapes the earth. It is water that shapes the lagoon or the river or the lake. Bruno Munari said it is “the sign that makes the di-sign.” Then there is nonverbal communication that is for some made up of gestures, singular and subjective; for others of signs that are like words that comprise a visible language. This communication exists above and below water.
Language and tongue refer to two different concepts.
Language is the innate biological capacity of human beings that enables us to communicate, to give information, to convey concrete or abstract concepts.
Tongue is the way, the vehicle through which we can express and communicate such thoughts and concepts.
The Italian Sign Language (LIS), like the other sign languages in the world, is a rich and autonomous language, with a constantly evolving vocabulary and rules that allow us to “mark” any topic, from the most concrete to the most abstract, thus representing an important tool of cultural transmission that allows equal access to communication.
Sign Language is used by the deaf signing community, made up of deaf and hearing people: it is not a tool exclusive to deaf people, as hearing people can also be part of the deaf community, actively participating in daily life and using sign language to work, study, and communicate with deaf people.
The artwork is closely connected to the project “Abecedarium: the Ocean in Sign Language,” started in 2020, and conceived with the aim of mapping and creating an eco-glossary of terms/signs in Italian Sign Language related to the Ocean and its environment, starting with a participatory action involving the deaf community, in order to undertake, through the “sign,” a reflection on the urgency of scientific communication and critical “Ocean Literacy” accessible to all. For this reason, the project is enriched with contributions from different disciplinary fields, capable of offering multiple points of view and stimulating critical reflection. The Ocean is a fundamental resource for the life of every living being and for human beings, but it is also a social, economic, political, linguistic, aesthetic as well as physical connector, covering more than 70% of the planet. Science communication and art play a crucial role, especially when designed with a long-term strategy, in contributing to the growth of conscious identities. By providing access to information and knowledge, these tools enable everyone to participate in the global debate as a right of democratic citizenship and human (re)connection with the environment.
Giulia Bruno and Giuseppe Ielasi’s artwork tells of “an other ocean.”
The invention of great technologies has redefined the world, accelerated images, created boundaries, and established a new system. Among the great technological inventions that arise to describe the world besides photography is language. Language is a technological act that, by encoding itself, participates in the way we represent the world around us and becomes constitutive of our being.
“On the Other Ocean” is also the title of the composition by American musician David Behrman, one of the first composers to explore the potential of computers in music, questioning in particular their possible role within performance itself. His 1978 recording debut, “On The Other Ocean,” focuses on one of the salient aspects of his personal sound research, namely the possibility of interaction (and communication) between electronic equipment and acoustic instrumentation. Here, the computer is specially programmed by Behrman to respond to the signals of the musicians, specifically Arthur Stidfole’s bassoon and Maggie Payne’s flute, who consequently find themselves improvising on the outgoing textures, continuously proposed in a kind of potentially infinite but never equal circular feedback.
Listening to Behrman’s “On The Other Ocean,” nothing appears mechanical; on the contrary, the composition turns out to be one of the earliest examples in which man and machine communicated with entirely unique spontaneity and naturalness, producing genuine beauty.
In Giulia Bruno and Giuseppe Ielasi’s new video work, On The Other Ocean, the linguistic, visual, and gestural “sign” becomes a powerful tool and medium for knowing, looking with new eyes, collecting, fixing and creating a collective, visual, and performative narrative of the sea and its infinite relationships.
The preview of the art commission took place at Ocean Space on October 28, 2023, during the event “In the Sign of the Ocean.” st_age contributed to the production of the work.