The Project Gallery’s exhibition Alive: Art Between Life and Science, will showcase its second display, Listening and Science, from Friday 27th January 2017.
Alive: Art Between Life and Science combines ground-breaking medical and scientific research being undertaken at the University of York to create artwork for display at York Art Gallery.
Mark Fell and Sandra Pauletto have produced artwork that is inspired by computer simulations of what scientists think people with cochlear implants hear.
Cochlear implants are medical devices that do the work of the damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide a sense of sound. The implant consists of an externally placed microphone and a sound processor which picks up sounds and analyses them, prioritising speech.
A transmitter sends power and sound signals to an internal receiver/stimulator which converts them into electric impulses. These stimulate an array of electrodes which are placed in the cochlea and send sound signals to the brain.
In Listening and Silence, each loudspeaker represents an electrode stimulating a frequency band in the cochlea. Words and sound effects are played through the system while we walk around. After a while our ears start to learn how to interpret some of the signals. Perhaps we will be able to recognise some, but probably not all of the sounds.
This artistic exploration of what a person with a cochlear implant might hear also raises questions about the ethical issues surrounding the introduction and use of such implants. They continue to divide opinion, particularly in the Deaf Community.
Whilst some people view them as a positive introduction, others believe they threaten the Deaf Community by promoting deafness as something which should be ‘cured’ and risking its specialist language. Can such divisions be reconciled and who should decide what we hear and how?
The artists would like to thank Professor Quentin Summerfield from the University of York, a leading specialist who collaborated on this art work. The Project Gallery is open daily with free admission.York Museums Trust