Slime Language (2020)
Slime Language is an ongoing multi-part gestural performance and video series creating slang sign language from hip hop lyrics. These alternative signs are meant to visualize and decipher a spoken phrase and transform them into a signed idiom.
This idea began in 2019 while I was trying to create a photo series on the black fugitive image and coded languages by using poses influenced by sign language.
(3 out of 26 images from the original “Slime Language” series)
However, I did not consider this as the final rendition of the idea; since, I felt like I captured the fugitive image aspect but not the coded language concept. For the Person in Time assignment for this class, I chose to revisit this series to work on balancing out the coded language aspect. This resulted in a QWERTY like system for your hands using latex gloves based on finger phalanx sections and letter frequency in English.
The project became a speaking system using a cross of the English alphabet, sign language, a Ouija board, tattoos, and gang signs.
The phalanx sections of the fingers (proximal, middle, and distal) were used to plot the English alphabet on the hand. By pivoting and pointing with the thumb, words and sentences could be formed to create silent and performative communication between individuals. The placement of the letters were determined by its frequency in the language and accessibility on the hand.
Yet again, I was not content with the rendition of the concept. The movements were awkward and slow. I also tried to do machine learning with Google Teachable Machine but the movements were too small for it to detect changes. By using the Teachable Machine, I also realized that having your hands straight out in front of you for the messages you form to be read was an uncomfortable positioning in general. Most importantly, the execution felt as if the concept strayed from my body of work.
I then began looking into Christine Sun Kim and her work with sign language and music. By using the movements in signing, she created these drawings/diagrams and I knew this was more of the direction I wanted to go. My work as a whole deals with black culture and hip hop, and the most recent rendition of “Slime Language” just did not have those parts of my work. I then began looking into sign language slang and sign language translators for concerts. After this round of research, I decided to turn Slime Language into a series of movements creating slang/idioms signs based off of lines in songs. As of now the series has 30 installments.
(Full Video: 3 minutes 45 seconds, 30 segments)
Developing this project made me subconsciously develop a structure for the language that was based more than an exact gesture representation for each word. For instance, a clawed “heart pumping gesture” was used to indicate life and a rolling hand gesture indicate continuing time. Most gestures contained 3 parts: the main action, a disruption to the action, and an ending to the action. This 3 part “syntax” aided in creating a fluid movement as well as a shortened signed idiom.