Hands can symbolise protection, help and unity. They can gesture, point and direct. Their actions provide, build and assist. All of this is a form of communication, but how many of us can say we know a word of sign language, and what does that suggest about cultural inclusivity?
the signs are there
The requirement to research and find evidence or answers to the social challenges we face has weakened. Apathy and the need to belong to a group has increased which has led to a rise in people simply agreeing with others’ opinions in an effort to appear engaged and part of an established community. Social media and the attention deficit this breeds, alongside the subconscious revolt against isolation, seems to fuel this herd mentality: offering an easy way to feel powerful and authentic, joining the unified mind set of others. Surrounding yourself with these repetitive negative vice or virtue signalling platitudes becomes a dangerous echo chamber of false, toxic mantras that can ultimately turn rational people into vitriolic nationalists.
It is never us against them, and not nostalgia versus progression. These are distractions from the real issues: the culture of dishonesty, cronyism and the lack of ethical responsibility that festers in government. The only way to fight it is through knowledge, but that takes effort, commitment and focus. These values have been systematically damaged through the conflict of questioning who and what sources we can actually trust.
The ‘Tees’ exhibition takes Article 19 as its point of reference, but proposes the question ‘Protest / Self-expression what is the difference?’ In a climate of both apathy and encroached rights - what can be done? In response to this, a series of designs have been created, 2 of which are on display.
Each t-shirt uses sign language in place of the traditional universal slogan space that symbolises the wearers opinion. As most viewers will not be able to read the words, it forces the question: will anyone actually decipher the message? This emphasises the apathy and lethargic behaviour we have towards issues that do not offer immediate, or digestible information. The effort involved in researching these symbols will rule out the inclusion that could be developed, and even agreed with.
Alongside this point, the 2023 Policing Act introduced a ‘noise trigger’ restricting how protest can sound. The use of sign language in this instance gives immense power to silence, enabling users to communicate whatever they want, without technically causing disruption. The irony of channels such as GB News and talk TV being having the right by law to broadcast vile right wing rhetoric unchallenged, whilst protesters are monitored by volume is a sign of how draconian and autocratic the UK government have become.