Kill with words series and Kill with a pen series, Huang He. Guangzhou, China.
TOPIC: Hurting with speech and pen
These drawings were made by Chinese artist, Huang He for an exhibition at Canton Gallery, December 3, 2016 - January 8, 2017. He titled his exhibition, Hang He (Yellow River) = the Dog Urine. Guangzhou, China.
Project Talk + Listen is a practice to talk openly and listen empathetically.
It's an experiment and invitation to work with two experiences: talking with genuineness and transparency and listening from the other's point of view without judgment, evaluation, approval, or disapproval of the statements. It's not a discussion.
Invite someone to have a Talk + Listen experience.
Aim for 30 minutes total. Each person gets half the time to talk and listen.
Talk transparently. Listen quietly.
Agree to be curious, flexible, open, and courageous.
Sit, stand, or walk as you talk or listen. It's up to you.
Together, look at the image, Kill with words series. Do 1 and 2 and then do the same with the Kill with a pen series.
Taking turns talking and listening:
1. Describe what you see. (Describing might seem absurdly simple. But it's very hard to do. I pretend that my partner cannot hear or see what I'm describing.)
"Describing is a process of overall observing, particular noticing, and telling what you see or otherwise sense...To describe is to name it and its characteristics and qualities...People seem to believe that if what they are asked to describe is in front of you and them, then they think there is no need to say what they see because they wrongly assume that we all see the same things in the same way. We do not. We look at things differently, we notice different aspects, and we use different words when we tell about what we see." - Terry Barrett, CRITS (in contract, Bloomsbury Publishing, London)
2. Complete each of these two sentences in paragraphs.
When I see _____, I think _____ …
When I see _____, I feel _____ ...
3. Later, reflect on your Talk + Listen experience. If you choose, share an insight with your partner.
SHARING MY REFLECTIONS
Four people participated in this Talk and Listen. I heard myself describe the character being shouted at as female even though the drawing is gender neutral. After the third time, I admitted to my partners that I was troubled by this. Even with my call out, every person "accidentally" referred to the one being shouted at with female pronouns and then self-correcting to "the character or the person." By the time we described the second series, our descriptions were gender-neutral.
I heard these two comments, both made by teens: 1. 'Written words can provoke. Hurt. A pen is a weapon. And look, the person is smiling all the way through. She doesn't even notice that she's being killed.' 2. 'There is a person and then a pen cut off her head and she is smiling. One line. One stroke of a pen made a thin sharp line. It's a murder with words.' I listened, effortly, imagining I was seeing from their view—and winced feeling a physical pain in my stomach, as if in a muscular memory connection to adolescence, mean words, and hiding hurt behind a fake smile.