The beginning of the new year is certainly a busy time for appointment television: the Oscar nominations were recently announced, the Grammys aired last weekend in the midst of industry scandal and on Sunday, February 2, two teams of enthusiastic football players will clash on behalf of (you guessed it) the Super Bowl. Some might feel that art and the Super Bowl don’t mix, but on Tuesday, Artnet published an interview with Christine Sun Kim, the American artist who’s been selected to perform the National Anthem alongside pop star Demi Lovato at the biggest sporting event in the United States. Whereas Lovato will of course be singing, Kim, who is deaf, will be using American Sign Language.
The National Association of the Deaf and the NFL have collaborated on featuring ASL interpreters during the Super Bowl Ceremony for years, but Kim’s status as a interdisciplinary artist makes her a particularly interesting selection. Kim is a rising star in the art world, who recently made the news for being one of the artists who promised to retract their work from the Whitney Biennial in 2019 if Warren B. Kanders wasn’t removed from the museum’s board. In an interview with Observer last summer, she elaborated upon an installation she made after collaborating with students at the Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children in London, England.
“In some ways, of course, it’s about recognizing a marginalized group, but another point to be made is that we’ve always had a voice but there’s just this hierarchy of languages that don’t allow us to be heard, in a way,” Kim told Observer. “I wanted children to be able to feel their voices and know they can activate a space of that scale because their voices have a lot of value.”
Performing for a televised audience of hundreds of millions is certainly an extraordinary way for Kim to get her message across to the world. “Representation matters a great deal to me, and I hope that seeing a Deaf person signing the anthem will bring attention to various issues that plague our community: language-deprived deaf babies, police brutality towards disabled people, a lack of mental health services, and many others,” Kim told Artnet. The artist also said that she’d be wearing Opening Ceremony in homage to the clothing line’s two Asian-American founders.
“There are always political considerations in each performance, and I did have initial concerns with the Super Bowl opportunity,” Kim elaborated to Artnet. “But ultimately, the idea of bringing ASL visibility to millions of people won the argument.”