Jennifer Lauren Smith



I have been hard of hearing since childhood, and became deaf in my early 20s.

The sensibilities I've developed as a deaf person have informed my work for over ten years. I begin many of my projects by locating the metaphorical potential for sound in a landscape, and develop them by figuring out ways to make those imagined sounds manifest. Artificial and performed sound creates a context for my films and performances, allowing me to emphasize details in the visual field that I believe my deafness enables me to see.

My recent film, "February" (2011), is an intimately shot portrait of the inflation and flight of a hot air balloon over an icy landscape. Appearing somewhat surprisingly during the balloon's launch, a soprano croons upwards to the aircraft, connecting the hot air responsible for flight to the warm breath manifesting in song. Similarly, in "Woodwind and Kite" (2010), the wind holding a tetrahedral kite aloft is re-imagined as notes from clarinet in minor key: a live musician accompanies the filmic documentation of the flying kite, improvising a score based on the erratic pattern of the kite's movement.

I stage my work outside gallery contexts in order to orchestrate visceral, immersive experiences camouflaged by the everyday world, a technique I also attribute to my deafness. I rely on total communication in my daily life: lip-reading, sign language, partial speech comprehension, gesture, and gut feeling all work together to form a mosaic of information. In a similar vein, I build environments in which a multitude of details, both pre-existing and created, play ordained roles. I build sets to maximize the gestalts of existing architecture and design excursions through the night, leading viewers to stumble upon carefully crafted moments. I weave live performers and projected films into larger mise-en-scnes that rely on an embodied perception, rather than just the eyes or the ears, to feel. "Sense" is composed of parts to be pieced together.

In my recent work, I've focused more of crafting what I think of as "silent scores" in my videos and performances. Precise editing, movement, and experiments in cinematography all work together to imply rhythm and intensity, transposing the process of imagining sound on the viewer. My experiences working as a documentary filmmaker have contributed more concerted efforts to orchestrate complex compositions that lay open the poetic logic of the silent world.

February (1:36)


Tango with Gary (1:13)


Batman (1:00)


Present Day (00:53)


Woodwind and Kite (00:53)


Batman (00:33)