In the video “My Language”
A.M. Baggs demonstrates the valuation of personhood based on linguistic facility.
Knowing nothing about the video, the first few minutes drew an exasperated “primal performance art” sort of reaction from me until I realized there was more going on. It requires more from us.
“My Language” asks us to consider our bias of linguistic facility against other forms of communication. Considering that much of our communication is non-verbal, you would not think this would not be too difficult. We readily communicate with our pets and infants who have as yet to learn to speak, or by studying brain activity of people who are in chronic comatose states; we make the effort to learn a way of understanding, why would this approach not apply to anyone with language impairment? Baggs admits the irony that a linguistic translation was required in order to put forth this point. Even then, a few comments on the YouTube channel indicate the resistance to the notion. One is struck with the sense of consequence for people who fail to conform.
The argument is made that self-stimulation seen in autism is not communication as it does not involve an interaction with another person. I agree and I don’t. The question is deeper than what pragmatists’ desire.
To my mind this begs the question of how we experience the world through our senses. Is the conscious awareness of that not, at the very least, a communion with the deepest elements of the universe? The essences of what we are made of? As an artist, this makes sense to me. We use wordless language all the time for a variety of reasons. Most of our deepest connections are impossible to put into words. Words are mere approximations easily altered by inflection or syntax.
In thinking about semantic architecture from Bagg’s perspective I draw inferences towards the feedback structure of chaos theory through stereotypical behaviours acting through and upon one’s senses, if these do not form an expression of our inherent systems of knowledge and learning before abstraction; but with conscious awareness, they become abstractions through context.
There is much to think about with this offering from Baggs, but it may be most important that we consider our linguistic prejudices and the resulting consequences towards people who do not conform with the expectations of our society.