What Is Happiness is a British Sign Language poem on the question, ‘What is happiness?’ It shines a light on some of the elements of that impossible question and showcases the positive representation of BSL poetry as an art form.
What is happiness? That’s the question.
The first thing I wanted to do was simply talk to people. I approached a few peers and asked the question. I was fascinated to realise there were many different interpretations of what happiness meant. It became obvious that it would be a challenge to capture the complexity of the question and the emotion within it. Moreover, I wanted to use the project as a platform for deaf people and British Sign Language.
I started by writing down their responses and then interpreted them into a poem, in an attempt to create a harmonious flow from one answer to another. When I introduced British Sign Language the project developed to signify bilingualism, because a smooth flow in the English language is very different from a smooth flow in British Sign Language. Switching from watching the visual sign language to reading the English captions will feel like two very different poems, even though both of them mean exactly the same.