Curatorial Statement

Still from Brendan Fernandez's "Foe"

disfluency | ˌdis floōənsē|
The word ‘disfluency’ is technically not a word. Within the clinical realm, ‘dysfluency’ is a real word used as a diagnostic requisite for a speech disorder. By its very nature, the addition of the prefix ‘dys’ to fluency, negates the word and connotates dysfunction. Emerging from a common interest in how the act of stuttering affects the lives of stutterers, DisFluency examines how each of us is effected by compromised communication, and questions whether divergence from the fluent norm is always a ‘dys’.

Inhibited communication is a universal human condition, and as such, is in danger of oversight, misunderstanding and being met with complacency. As designers, technologists, and artists, we question how art and design can overcome obstacles to fluency, and investigate the mechanisms through which these obstacles arise and persist. An adolescent coping with stuttering, an immigrant struggling to express themselves in a new language and a citizen living under a repressive regime each struggle with a unique obstacle to self expression. How have these struggles molded their approaches towards communication? What kind of dissonance is created between what each wishes to express and what their limited mode of communication affords them? How does objectification and labeling influence the way others perceive the speaker, and how they perceive themselves? The organizers of DisFluency seek to expand these questions to ask how each of us is effected by compromised communication, and whether we, even unconsciously, commit acts which stifle the voices of others.

The works which comprise DisFluency are imagined within the framework of two categories; disfluencies related to the physical, such as in the case of stuttering, and those with political origins, which result from an individual’s relationship with others. However, these distinctions are often tenuous, and many of the works in the show derive their power from illustrating how these categories are never completely independent. Acknowledging the lack of a common language with which to discuss these issues, we aim not for a singular voice or message, but rather, to create a forum where relationships can be examined.

Recent advancements in digital technology have revolutionized interpersonal communication, facilitating it across geographically disparate groups and empowering once repressed voices to speak out. While this points towards progress, it simultaneously reveals the extent to which communication continues to be limited by cultural, economic and political differences. This tension can be seen in mass acts of civil disobedience, such in 2009 when protesters of the Iran presidential election used Twitter as a tool for mobilization and free speech, and more recently in Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution and the subsequent Arab Spring. The world is more connected than it’s ever has been, however, individuals continue to struggle to freely, and truthfully express themselves.

How can artists and designers address communication disruption practically, theoretically, technologically and clinically? What role do new forms of technology play to bridge political, social and clinical divides? What effect can artistic practices have in the forms of games workshops, dialog, or performance?