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Deaf Malaysian Artist Wants to Help Young Koreans

Deaf Malaysian artist Leon Lim poses beside his work “Silent Story,” a multimedia installation, at the World Financial Center gallery in New York.

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Staff Reporter

Being deaf should not be seen as a hindrance to pursuing one's dreams ― if anyone is living proof of this, it is deaf Malaysian artist Leon Lim.

The New York-based artist wants to spread his message of hope through his art, which will be part of the "thisAbility vs. Disability'' exhibit at the Total Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul in July.

In an e-mail interview with The Korea Times, Lim said he was surprised to learn that there are not many opportunities for deaf people in Korea. This is why he wants to invite deaf Korean students to see the up-coming exhibition and hopes to increase public awareness of deaf artists in Korea.

"It seems to me that deaf people in Korea might not have opportunities to do artwork to express their concerns about their lives, community and society. … In Malaysia, people always think deaf people can't become teachers of deaf children. But in my studies, I think deaf children need deaf adult role models," he said.

Lim believes deaf children should be made aware of the opportunities that are available to them and learn that they can be doctors, lawyers, artists, pilots and engineers if they choose to.

"With my project, I would like to contact deaf schools to bring their students to the museum and learn about my talent, abilities, artwork and success story. I am sure that deaf students would say, "That artist is deaf! I am deaf too! I can do this! I thought I can't do this because people said I can't do this." That is a very common experience deaf people have around the world, including the U.S.," he said.

However, his plan of inviting deaf students has hit a snag. He has tried contacting people involved in deaf schools in Korea through email, but has received no response.

"I believe Korea has deaf artists who produce artworks but they don't have chance to show their works to the public. China and Japan have deaf artists publicized. They donated their high-quality artworks to several universities in the United States, especially Gallaudet University and Rochester Institute of Technology's permanent collections," he said.

Lim was one of 15 international artists invited by the Total Museum of Contemporary Art for the exhibition. He is currently working on a multimedia installation art work, "Discommunicativeness." The title is not an actual word in English, but Lim's own created word.

The installation will involve flashing questions and answers on a board, whenever someone moves the computer mouse.

Some of the questions include: "Would you love me if I was deaf?" "What would you do if I have hearing loss?" and "Can you learn sign language for your lover?" Answers include: ``Yes why not?""I think I can't" and "I love you, we love you." Some of the sentences will be translated into Korean.

A native of Alor Setah, Kedah, Malaysia, Lim said his deafness developed is ability to have a strong visual sense.

"As a child, I liked going to a music/book shop. I discovered colorful prints covering music cassettes. I was attracted to the colors and this brought me to the art world. Since I don't have the ability to hear, my eyes are more sensitive to other things, compared to people who can hear

His art works include paintings, sculptures, architecture, graphic design, multimedia, installations and photography. Lim said he often explores themes of heritage preservation, social segregation, interactive communication, identity and culture in his art works.

Lim will visit Seoul in July for the exhibit, which will be the first time his works have been shown here.


From The Korean Times

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