Live chat in Chelles

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Try to Download directly 6. Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume. The work explores Deaf culture and audist attitudes, and Chelle ed Lisa Leong for a chat about her practice. LL: Now, in order for us to communicate today we have another special guest as well: Amber who's in the studio. So Amber is doing Auslan as we speak … and will be the voice of Chelle today.

Tell us more. CD: Okay. So that started last year. I was doing a lot of sewing, which was involved in my art … and making the videos. Really two years ago I moved into my home that had been built. So I had been living in Adelaide - I had lived there for eighteen years - and I decided it was time to move back to Victoria because Victoria is my home. So I started work two years ago on a performance and I was quite curious about making sculptures from Auslan movements. I was interested in using the spatiality of Auslan language, and I made the sculptures with paper.

And this was involved in the fringe festival in … the Melbourne Fringe festival. It was very successful and I really enjoyed it. And from that, last year, I was in uni during my Masters and it was amazing. I had the most amazing supervisor named Kate Just … she's became my supervisor and she's very encouraging.

She really pushed me to focus on deaf culture: to focus on the aspect of audism … and I realised that there was a lot to research, and I really had to do a lot of insightful reflecting of my own work and the opportunities where audism had come from.

CD: Okay, so audism means … hearing or other deaf people that can be deaf as well … discriminating against deaf taking from deaf … advantage. I had a lot of experiences in primary school … I went to a Catholic school with nuns and they would not allow us to . They would slap our hands if they caught us ing. They forced me to lip read … and you know it's called oralism … and that's a way of exclusion because they wouldn't allow us to be involved equally. CD: So, with regards to my theatre work, I often write poetry. It's a way of expressing how I feel.

So I write the poetry in English and then I work out how to translate it into Auslan, using Auslan expression. For my first work I sewed my poem into some material that I was using in the performance. Kate Just was the one that encouraged me to use some sort of see-through material, so that you could see my hands through this material like it was a veil. And then the veil came down and I could be seen clearly ing in Auslan. And later I used that material to sew the poem into the material, and hang it. That was a very successful work. LL: I saw that work, and I got a sense of being blocked Is that part of the feeling that you were trying to express in your work?

CD: Yes. Really to break through that barrier: to push it to the side, and stand up, and represent. Because many deaf people don't have the opportunity to stand up to audism. And I'll let you know the education system has been very bad, and full of audistic experiences … which is why deaf people don't have enough opportunity to stand up: to use their agency.

Chelle Destefano is an artists who was recently commissioned by Arts House to create a body of work around deaf culture and audist attitudes. And can you give me some insight into that? Because you're very expressive … your body is very expressive … and you're a visual artist.

So what is happening there for you? So the sense of touch, that's very powerful as well … and it's the same in Auslan: the movement is powerful. There's many things that I gravitate to. LL: You also, in your life, have created or put your artwork into clothing.

And you said to me before that it was silk, I think you mentioned, and you also mentioned cashmere to me off the air, as well. CD: Yes you're absolutely right. Particularly when I lived in Adelaide I was doing a lot of painting, and I used that to print onto to clothing and some scarves … and it was very beautiful … it was very high quality silk. I believe the silk was made in India and America and then it was brought here to Australia which is where I bought it.

And I was able to sell that work on. I've got a collection of scarves at the moment. LL: And then let's go on to what you actually see. But can you tell me a bit about how your eyesight is enhanced … and even in terms of picking up emotions from people and their bodies? CD: Yeah, my eyes are the same as you: I am short short-sighted which is why I've got glasses … and quite thick lenses. Because I was born with Waardenburg syndrome …. And I'm fortunate that my eyesight isn't that bad, but there have been other impacts.

So that means you're right: when I'm observing other people I can pick up their emotions. And I truly value my eyesight and I try to protect my eyes as much as possible because they're very precious in my life. LL: And so when you're expressing yourself as a visual artist, how do you bring all of the senses together to create your artwork?

CD: That's an interesting question. So, for example, if I'm working with paint I might be smelling it … and different colours have different smells. And then I like to look very closely at it, and feel the movement. Am I comfortable with that feeling that I'm getting working with this paint or this canvas? The size of it. So yes, I try to involve all my senses, touch, and I have to check the materials. Like for example the paper.

I like to get the feel of it. I use my sense of touch a lot. LL: You won the inaugural … I've got to get this right. I can say I'm one of the artists to win a major art award. A lot of artists, I don't know if they can make that claim. I've been a finalist many times in the last two years, but I haven't won. Something like that was so different. And with regard to that poem about audism we're talking about, there was an Incinerator award.

That was last year I was successful. It was very difficult to get it in that award category as a finalist. I'm very excited about that. And that project is to give deaf people the opportunity to express what happened in their past. It's quite a massive project. What would you like to do with this energy that you have around you at the moment? Where would you like to take this Chelle? CD: Ooh wow. I think I need more collaborations with deaf autonomy, and deaf culture, and deaf agency. So my plan is to focus on those three areas. And I'm hoping that in the Masters of Contemporary Art that I'm doing at the moment I would like to do some more focus on those three aspects of deaf culture.

And I would like to do a lot more textile type of work. So, for example, what I'm doing at Art House is: I've made a puppet, and I'm projecting a video on the puppet. It's a very cute and fun little thing. And the other one I'm doing is another poem, but done in a different way: so it is projected down onto the floor and the video is of hands … there's no body just hands … and so it shows a very different aspect. So that's for Navigating to a Safe Space … that one that I won the award for.

It should be in the Arts House, but unfortunately because I did win the award they brought my work … so I gave it to them,. But that was also a performance work where I was using material. It looked like water and you could see my body coming through these sort of waves, ing. It was really important to have a safe space as a deaf person … and often it's very difficult to find that space. We are lucky when we find it with hearing people. When I found this blue material that just loved I was so excited to use it for that work.

LL: You speak about collaboration and what I'm experiencing here is a great collaboration between you and Amber. It's really an amazing collaboration and I think the three of us … you're right … it's very exciting. And I wish you absolutely all the best with your work. It has been fascinating to meet you and to hear about your work today. Thank you so much. CD: Yes! I'm so excited … and yes it's been a pleasure and absolutely amazing to be here. LL: Thank you so much and we do want to say thanks to interpreter Amber Richardson as well.

It is fascinating to watch you in action, Amber, and to listen to you. There's an Auslan led tour which will be on the 10 th of April from until PM.

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