Did you know that 12 million adults in the UK are deaf or have hearing loss? To celebrate Deaf Awareness Week, we spoke to Lumiere’s BRILLIANT artist Emma Griffiths

Emma Griffiths is the artist behind I Am Ecstatic Right Now, exhibited at the UK’s light art biennial, Lumiere in 2023. The neon text installation explored the artist’s recent hearing-loss diagnosis, visually demonstrating how she experiences conversations. Presented in a broken-up layered format, the three-dimensional work needed to be viewed from various angles in order to make sense of the words.


Listen to this interview:

A neon text installation close-up of overlaying letters. Seen at night.
I Am Ecstatic Right Now, Emma Griffiths. Lumiere 2023, produced by Artichoke. Photo by Matthew Andrews.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your practice?

My name is Emma Griffiths. I am a practising artist, I do multimedia work.

A lot of the art that I like to create is about bringing an experience to people, which means I get to explore many different mediums. For me, one of the most important things about art is how much you learn from it. Not just on a factual level, but in that you can learn so much emotionally and in quite a vulnerable way about a person, an experience or even a political point of view…

You submitted your proposal through Lumiere’s BRILLIANT commissioning scheme – what made you want to exhibit at the light art biennial?

When this opportunity arose, I realised that it was a way to create artwork about my experience with hearing loss. I’m partially deaf / hard-of-hearing, and I have been since I was a child, but it was only fairly recently that I start developing what’s known as a ‘deaf identity’.

My family and friends are all fully hearing, so it’s quite difficult to explain what it’s like being someone who is deaf but can hear to some degree. For me, speech is mumbly – it’s not clear. Even if I can hear, it doesn’t mean I can understand what I’m hearing.


I love illustrating; I’m someone who’s very visual.


What inspired you to create I Am Ecstatic Right Now?

I love learning in a very visual way. So, I try to create diagrams that show my friends and family what it’s really like for me when someone speaks.

When I learnt about Lumiere’s BRILLIANT scheme, sponsored by EMG Solicitors, I thought, ‘this is an opportunity to turn something that I have experienced personally into something special that other people get to experience. Especially, for people who are fully hearing.’

By transforming this idea of mishearing something into what could be described as misreading, I was hoping people would get an understanding of what it’s truly like, but in a gentle and quite humorous way.


The deaf community is such a diverse spectrum and, for me, what’s important is trying to bring light to that.


A neon text installation close-up. The text reads 'I AM ECSTATIC'. Seen at night.
I Am Ecstatic Right Now, Emma Griffiths. Lumiere 2023, produced by Artichoke. Photo by Matthew Andrews.

Could you offer some insight into the background of the artwork?

The work is meant to be difficult to look through because for me, it’s difficult to decipher words. When I’m listening to speech, one word can become many.

When listening to a conversation, it’s like your brain becomes a language AI model in real time – you’re considering the context of the situation, the person, what you know about them…

When one of my friends said ‘I am ecstatic right now’, to me that might also sound like ‘I have a tactic right now’. And I’m thinking ‘well, we’re not in a situation where we need tactics.’ Or it could sound like they have said ‘I’m in the attic right now.’ But, we’re not in an attic…


You have to go through various steps to figure out what is actually being said, all in real time.


By having this setup, it was like the audience was playing the role of my brain: you have a phrase presented to you, and you have to move around to figure it out.

People see different words within the letters, but the original sentence is always at the back. When you finally realise what has been said, it’s like ‘oh, that’s what you said, that makes sense!’

It’s nice to sort of emulate that same reaction, but presented in a different way.

Watch the film here:

A big thank you to EMG Solicitors who returned as the sponsor of the BRILLIANT national commissioning scheme at Lumiere 2023. EMG Solicitors is a growing firm headquartered in Durham that has supported Lumiere since 2017.