Russian Deaf Culture: From Boarding School to Museum. Council (Grégory Castéra and Sandra Terdjman), Tarek Atoui and Alison O'Daniel


Russian Deaf Culture: From Boarding School to Museum explored the key factors that have informed the understanding of deafness in Russia since the mid-nineteenth century. Together with the curators of Council, artists Tarek Atoui and Alison O'Daniel looked at how our idea of hearing is represented in arts and how it is transformed by artistic practices.

Exploring physiological, social, and artistic aspects of hearing, the project analyzed non-evident connections between society's understanding of deafness, the development of academic music, the history of pantomime, the Soviet phenomenon of radio enthusiasts, and sound art.

The group's interdisciplinary inquiry, unprecedented for both Soviet and post-Soviet historical contexts, raised the question of access to archival documents and scientific research relating to "deaf culture". Principal sites of study in this project included All-Russian Society of the Deaf, the Museum of Deaf Education, E. T. Krenkel Museum of Radio and Radio Enthusiasts, and M. I. Glinka Museum of Musical Culture.

This project was part of TACET— an ongoing inquiry initiated by Council at the Sharjah Biennial in 2013, which continued with the exhibition Infinite Ear, conceived in collaboration with Tarek Atoui's project WITHIN and first presented at Bergen Assembly in 2016.

The research project was carried out in collaboration with Garage's Department of Inclusive Programs as a prologue for the exhibition Infinite Ear, presented at Garage in 2018.

Working within the local context and with the team at Garage, the researchers collected a number of important questions posed by deaf and hard of hearing artists, curators, museum staff, and potential visitors. These questions were condensed into an interview and featured in the video A Portrait in Progress, presented in Field Research: Liberating Knowledge. Progress Report II.

Deadline: 2017-2018

Researcher: Council (Grégory Castéra and Sandra Terdjman), Tarek Atoui and Alison O'Daniel


Council is a not-for-profit organization that assembles knowledge from the arts, sciences, and civil society in order to foster new understandings of societal issues. Council’s program revolves around long-term “inquiries” that produce exhibitions, publications, and events, as well as the commission of new artworks. Founded in 2013 by Grégory Castéra and Sandra Terdjman, Council is based in Paris, but operates internationally.

Tarek Atoui (b. 1980, Beirut; lives and works in Paris) is a musician, composer, and sound artist. In 2006, he released his first solo album as part of the Mort Aux Vaches series for Staalplaat Records. In 2008, he served as Artistic Director of STEIM in Amsterdam, a center for the research and development of new electronic musical instruments. Atoui has presented his work internationally at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019), 8th Berlin Biennale (2014), Sharjah Biennial (2013 and 2009), documenta 13, Kassel (2012), Serpentine Gallery, London (2012), Performa 11, New York (2011), the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2010), the Seoul International Media Art Biennale, Seoul (2010), and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2010).

Alison O’Daniel (b. 1979, Miami, USA; lives and works in Los Angeles) is an artist working across film, sculpture, performance, and music. She aims to examine the politics of production, representation, and reception regarding sound and acts of listening. Alison’s work has been presented in solo exhibitions at Samuel Freeman Gallery, Los Angeles (2016), Centre d’Art Contemporain Passerelle, Brest (2015), and Samuel Freeman Gallery, Los Angeles (2013).

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