Audio Description as a Generative Process in Art Practice


Audio description and the visual arts have a complicated relationship. Audio description is mostly used as a method of utility for the blind, and its use as an institutional practice is fairly short-lived. However, it is typically performed in an objectively detached manner. Working with a critical disability studies group, we unearthed potentials of tapping into more subjective and collaborative readings of art objects and experiences. How can works of art be based upon the practice of description as a performative act? While there are a few examples that approach these questions (Dan Graham, Rineke Dijkstra), the work is most often a one-off and, in some respects, engaged in other modes of inquiry, in which description is in tandem with exploring new technologies and/or theories. In my practice, I have considered the generative potentials of description through three multi-screen installations. In The Divide, I asked a pair of identical twins to describe stereoscopic imagery. Their subjective readings reveal the limits of their knowledge about the old photographs they are confronted with while exposing brief projections of their own experience. In the sculptural and media installation The Casts, three shirtless men touch plaster objects while verbally expressing metaphors that attempt to render the abstract forms as known textures and specific structures revealing the fragmentary tendencies of the imagination. My last installation, Listening In . . . , expands the notion of description by attempting to enliven the archive of Charles Graser, an important test subject in the development of cochlear implant technologies, who wrote extensive notes about his audible perceptions as mediated by a few generations of experimental hearing devices. Interviews, voice reenactment, and sign interpretation layer and oscillate in fields of sonic and visual noise in an attempt to find other avenues of sharing one’s unique perspective and subjective presence.

Author Biography

Darrin Martin, UC Davis

Darrin Martin is an artist born in Catskill, New York who currently resides in Oakland, California. His artworks engage the synesthetic qualities of perception by exploring tactile, audible, and visual phenomena through video, sculpture, and print-based installations. Influenced by his own experiences with deafness, his projects consider notions of accessibility through the use of tactility, sonic analogies, and spoken metaphors. His video works have been screened, his installations exhibited, and his solo exhibitions shown at many galleries internationally. Martin also occasionally curates video screenings and is a Professor of Art at University of California, Davis.

Cross-Disciplinary Methodologies