Digital Media Art Collection.


About Captioned

Captioned by artist Liza Sylvestre is a feature length, single-channel video interpretation of the 1934 screwball comedy film “Twentieth Century” starring John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. As an individual with a profound hearing impairment, Sylvestre depends on closed captioning or other interpretive texts to have complete understanding of films. In Captioned, the artist replaces the missing closed captioning in the movie with what she describes as “self-commentary”. Sylvestre explains her process while creating the piece, “Sometimes I record what I think is happening, often I record my visual observations, and sometimes my mind wanders, and I record that as well.” This fast-paced, dialogue-heavy comedy—complete with improbable and complicated narratives—affords Sylvestre many opportunities to reveal her experience enduring incomprehensible cinematic situations.

Sylvestre’s significant hearing loss progressed throughout her formative years until 2003, when she underwent cochlear implant surgery.  Her experience leads her to explore, through a multidisciplinary practice in art, how senses alter experiences of the world—more specifically, how she can investigate this concept as, she states, “an individual who is medically, although not culturally, deaf.”

While viewing Captioned, an enabled audience encounters oscillating narratives: the narrative of the original film, the narrative of Sylvestre’s experience, and the unique narrative produced by experiencing both simultaneously. For example, a scene from the film depicts a group of actors preparing for a play. As the director barks orders to his cast members, Sylvestre’s eloquent interpretation appears as closed captioning text near the bottom of the frame: “Sounds on top of sounds with nothing separating them… And now the shape of what I recognize as a conversation… A tumble of a man’s voice… Words fall from him rapidly and everyone responds… Those familiar lulls and pauses between words and breaths.”

–Jason Judd


Artist: Liza Sylvestre
Video, black and white, sound, 
1 hr 31 min 14 sec. 
Gift of the artist
Accession Number: 
© Liza Sylvestre

Liza Sylvestre is the co-founder of Creating Language Through Arts, an educational arts residency that focuses on using art as a means of communication when there are language barriers present due to hearing loss. In 2014 she was awarded both and Artists Initiative and Arts Learning grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Recently she has been the recipient of a VSA Jerome Emerging Artists Grant, a fellowship through Art(ists) on the Verge and an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Most recently Sylvestre has served as the artist in residence at the Center for Applied Translational Sensory Science and the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, MN. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.