Living Description is an education initiative convened by artist Aislinn Thomas that conceptualizes access not as an accommodation, but as a relational process of shared sense-making. Beginning with a series of alt-text and visual description workshops led by Aislinn Thomas and Ramya Amuthan in 2021, the project culminates in the launch of 1-833-SEMI-PUB: a toll-free listening space featuring six commissioned audio descriptions that offer multiple non-visual ways to experience the x̱aw̓s shew̓áy̓ New Growth《新生林》garden as a living system.


Living Description

Living Description takes inspiration from the living, rhizomatic systems of the x̱aw̓s shew̓áy̓ New Growth《新生林》garden and the creative access practices of disability culture. In 2021, Aislinn Thomas and Ramya Amuthan led a four-part workshop series for the stewards of the x̱aw̓s shew̓áy̓ New Growth《新生林》garden – jaz whitford, Valeen Jules, Soloman Chiniquay and Oliver Barnes – with a guest session from professional describer Cheryl Green. Together, they explored the poetic and relational possibilities of creating alt-text and visual descriptions, all the while remaining committed to the functional intentions of this accessibility work. Through the convergence of many bodyminds, participants honed into their wealth of collective experiences to participate in shared sense-making and draw out the many possible ways to describe not only what is seen, but sensed.

The initiative culminates with the launch of 1-833-SEMI-PUB – a toll-free listening space featuring commissioned audio descriptions by jaz whitford, Oliver Barnes, Valeen Jules, Soloman Chiniquay and Cheryl Green. Seeking fullness through multiplicity, the project spans standard descriptive practices to more experimental takes, serving multiple viewpoints, needs and preferences in experiencing a garden. We warmly invite you to call in and spend some time with 1-833-SEMI-PUB (1-833-736-4782), or explore its digital twin in the spaces below.

A Zoom screenshot showing eight workshop participants tiled together in various states of listening.


Aislinn’s Welcome

Hello, my name is Aislinn Thomas and I would like to welcome you here to this toll-free listening space. I have invited several new friends that know and care for the x̱aw̓s shew̓áy̓ New Growth《新生林》garden to describe it for you. 

The garden is located in so-called Vancouver in Chinatown adjacent to the historic Hogan’s Alley, and on the unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam Nations. This neighborhood has historically been and continues to be home to urban and Host Nation Indigenous folks, Chinese Canadians and African Diasporic people, communities that continue to find solidarity within and across struggles, and that diligently fight gentrification. x̱aw̓s shew̓áy̓ New Growth《新生林》was designed by artist and ethnobotanist T’uy’t’tanat-Cease Wyss and constructed together with a cohort of Indigenous and racialized youth in 2019, at 221A’s Semi-Public.

Thank you for calling. It’s a pleasure to invite you to experience the garden from wherever you are, whether that’s in bed, across a great distance or a small one, whether you need or desire a non-visual way to be with the garden, or one that doesn’t require traveling here. Or whether you’re simply curious! We’re grateful for your presence and to be connected across space and time by this living, breathing, growing and changing creation.

Menu of Options

We’re delighted to have a variety of options for experiencing the garden:

To listen to a two-and-a-half minute poem written and read by jaz whitford that guides you through the garden and shares its spirit.

To listen to a two-minute experimental audio drama by Soloman Chiniquay weaving watery, pitched-down dialogue with found sounds from the garden. 

To listen to a four-minute soundscape composed and performed by Oliver Barnes that builds loose layers of melodic guitar and percussive textures sampled from the garden.

To listen to a one-and-a-half minute love letter written and sung by Valeen Jules, serenading their love for the queerness of this land, the shadows that fall on it, the birds that sing to it and the seasons that pass on it.

To hear a lively seven-minute description of the garden by Cheryl Green that’s guided by standard audio description practices. 

For a shorter three-minute “audio glance,” if you will, by Cheryl Green.

For more about this project and the contributors.

To leave a message for the garden.