video: sign-language tour

This video shows the surprising way the Seattle Central Library can be represented by sign language. Due to the specific nature of the language employed, there is a fragmented conversation between subject and object, as the building and the narrator do not appear simultaneously on screen.

Even though this representation (and sign language itself) uses only the visual medium, it is far from limited. The difference between oral and sign language is comparable to print and digital formats, where one is sequential and linear (print and oral language) and the other has the potential for simultaneous information transmission (digital and sign language). In sign language information can be loaded into several channels and expressed simultaneously, by the specific motion of the hand, body posture and facial expression. This inherent potential of sign language is widely used throughout this tour, as the narrator expresses his views and experiences on the library while guiding the audience through the main public spaces: the living room, the reading room and the long escalator in between.

Following Lev Manovich’s description of a database as both “a structured collection of data” and a collection of “choices from which narrative is constructed” — we can consider the library as the paradigm from which this individual has constructed his personal narrative, his “tour” of the space.

Realizing the innumerable experiential choices that the library presents to any given individual, and also the innumerable choices available in representing an experience of the library with a video camera – it is particularly worth noting that this individual consistently frames himself, not the building, in the foreground and in medium close-up. This narrative’s purpose is not to document the building but to document this fellow’s emphatically embodied experience in and of it.

The personal videos, photos and blog posts, as narratives, stand in stark contrast to the conceptual documents, which concern themselves not with individuals but with operational functions and processes, in which individuals might be supposed to be agents, if supposed at all.

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