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Echolocating Hope

Updated: Feb 23

Sound art is an interesting way to shut down the visual senses dominant to most humans and invite the other senses to lead. In creating the sound-art piece UPSIDE-DOWN PEOPLE: A LISTENING STORY, I wanted to focus on themes of listening, hearing, and responding. The piece uses storytelling to explore the parallels and points of empathetic understanding and learning between Bat people and autistic people - so naturally, I zeroed in on Microbat echolocation as my storytelling tool.

The Microbat and Moth characters in the title artwork are intentionally simple, sketch-like, and limited to black and white. I didn't want the image to be too visually stimulating, but rather a pathway into an audible experience. Designing the character brought some unexpected additional insights though, insights around audio sensory challenges, voicelessness, and hope.

While I have many audio sensory pleasures, for the most part I experience excruciating sensory distress in response to sound. These challenges can be extremely debilitating, I struggle to achieve things because of them. Often, this causes a sense of hopelessness and depression that is hard to navigate out of - because I also experience voicelessness having lived in a far less understanding or inclusive world than what we are beginning to lean into today. Many Bat characters passed from my pencil before I reached this guy and fell completely in love with him and his message.

My thoughts around this image keep coming back to my husband and the support he so freely offers me. My husband is my Moth - annoyingly, hypnotically, infuriatingly, inspiringly hopeful. He drifts forever towards the light, even when it's flickering its last.

Meanwhile, I feel like a Bat who sends out a sonar signal trying to find my way through the dark. The echo bounces of my Moth-like husband and comes back to me - a reassurance that things will be okay and I can do this. It makes me wonder about echolocating insectivorous Bats as symbols of the hope we can find in the dark, and the importance of ecosystem balance between the optimistic Moths fluttering around the light and the realistic - albeit often bleak - perspectives of the Bats navigating the dark, determinedly chasing echoes of hope 'til the end.

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