Re/configuring TRUST: Vocal Performance Diffracted Through New Materialism
Re/configuring Trust is an artistic research project with the purpose to investigate the act of moving between a variety of scholarly and performance stages within the continuum of Vocalizing ≈ Articulating ≈ Mattering ≈ Trust. As human beings and members of a global society, we are constantly facing how we go about facing this voice/trust challenge. The project therefore proposes an investigation into how voices and vocality can contribute to society as bridge-builders for the purpose of a greater sense of trust between humans and non-humans. The specific question I confront is “How to perform trust as an enactment between a vocal performer and her/his audience?” The project is framed by artistic/practice-led performance research and new materialist theories, including concepts such as agential realism, intra-action, and diffractive analysis. My performance research, in sum, is about exploring, praxically the relationship between artistic products/events—originating specifically in a Venetian Baroque context—and more general societal issues today. The overall purpose of the project, beyond and through scholarship, is to contribute to society with a performative model for inspiring and challenging a discourse on how to obtain trust between humans and non-humans in a world having to deal with issues such as global performance of inhumanity, distrust between cultures, and loss of respect for memories of the past.
Practice-led research: a new research paradigm
Haseman (2006) examines the dynamics and significance of practice-led research and argues for it to be understood as a research strategy within an entirely new research paradigm, performative research, placing it as an alternative to quantitative and qualitative research paradigms. Haseman points out that performative research do “insist on different approaches to designing, conducting and reporting research” which when fully theorized and understood “the performative research paradigm will have applications beyond the arts and across the creative and cultural industries generally.” I follow these basic principles in my project, relating my topic to performative methodologies (Arlander 2014, Barad 2014). The significance of this project is the way I allow practice-led voicing to entangle with new materialist theories. This approach provides a model for how arts and science intra-actively can generate new understandings and knowledge.
I take inspiration from Karen Barad’s ethico-onto-epistemological theory on agential realism, which has been formulated through feminist studies and physics. Barad writes that “parts of the world are always intra-acting with other parts of the world, and it is through specific intra-actions that a differential sense of being — with boundaries, properties, cause and effect — is enacted in the ongoing ebb and flow of agency.”(Barad 2007: 338).
In relating Barad’s theories to artistic practice, Arlander points out that "this means, on one hand, responsibility in terms of what to focus on and what to point at, and also to consider the material, affective and discursive effects of the artwork [...] but, on the other hand, it also means responsibility for the doing, for the process, i.e., attending to what takes place during practice, including the unwelcome side-effects." (Arlander 2014:30). My task here is to find the minimal ruptures (practically, vocally, and theoretically) of the unexpected meanings, of the vocal score, and of the significance of the poetic texts.
How to perform Trust
Möllering claims that “at the heart of the concept of trust is the suspension of vulnerability and uncertainty (the leap of faith), which enables actors to have positive expectations of others. […] in order to be able to claim that trust as such is studied, the actual moment of reaching a state of positive expectation by suspending vulnerability and uncertainty needs to be captured, too.” (Möllering 2006:191-192). Similarly, in a forthcoming publication Griffin refers to trust as a ‘binding force’ that brings people together.
I search to articulate an understanding for how this force named trust can be understood depending on intra-active encounters, between the singer and the embodied experiences, between a performer, the act-in-itself, and an audience.
Aim and Method
My aim is to carry out a diffractive analysis of the Venetian volume Le Glorie della Signora Anna Renzi romana (Strozzi 1644). This book contains a collection of poems celebrating one of the most successful singers in early Venetian opera. In investigating this collection of poems through artistic praxis and new materialist theories (Barad 2007, Arlander 2014), my task is to intra-actively read and imagine the minds of the poets through their narrations and experiences of Renzi’s vocality and performances, and then translate, explore, and articulate a model for how to create a vocal force of trust significant to a performance situation. So, what I mean with “diffractive” is this constant displacement among agents (both back then and today): the poets and the singer in their poems, myself and the audience today, myself and the seventeenth-century poets, etc. etc. This shifting within a constellation of agents presupposes a trust—an implicit contract—among these agents, both in our historically relationship with the past and/or in the acts of scholarship and performance today.
The diffractive analysis will be conducted through an entangled reading of selected poems and a series of experimental vocal laboratories with music from the seventeenth-century manuscript Cantates et airs italiens sans accompt. de différents auteurs (Bibl. Nat. Paris). This project is a development of my doctoral research carried out at the Academy of Music and Drama, Univ. of Gothenburg between 2006 and 2011.
During my doctoral studies I investigated the artistic process of embodying vocality on stage in seventeenth-century Italian and French operatic laments and mad scenes (Belgrano 2011, 2016). I moved into the newly established academic research field of performance philosophy (Cull Ó Maoilearca 2015) by creating a branch for vocal performance philosophy. In the current project my focus is to articulate a philosophy through vocality as an ‘in-between-force’, portrayed and performed as a force of trust.
Between 2015- 2017 nine performance acts, entitled Le Glorie del Niente, are enacted based on the my doctoral thesis which will inform the artistic analysis in the current project. The performance acts are currently being documented as exhibitions in the Research Catalogue: https://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/226423/281952.
A diffractive analysis
The poems in Le Glorie… are articulated observations by members of the influential Venetian Accademia degli Incogniti, who produced many operatic events in Venice during mid-seventeenthcentury (Calcagno 2003).
Poems will be diffractively analysed through vocal performance laboratories. This involves intra-active co-readings of poems, music, and vocal performances. A close co-reading generates embodied experiences that are documented in texts, videos, and sound recordings. The diffractive methodology is about becoming part of a ‘cutting-together-apart’ (Barad 2007); becoming part of the experience of understanding both minor and major movements in a performative process. Documentation from laboratories will be exhibited on-line in the Research Catalogue A research blog research has been set up at: www.elibelgrano.org.
Arlander, Annette (2014). “From interaction to intra-action in performing landscape”. In: Beatriz REVELLES BENAVENTE, Ana M. GONZÁLEZ RAMOS, Krizia NARDINI (coord.). “New feminist materialism: engendering an ethic-onto-epistemological methodology.” Artnodes. No. 14:26-34.
Barad, Karen (2007). Meeting the universe halfway. Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Duke Univ. Press, Durham & London.
Barad, Karen (2014). “Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together-Apart.”
Parallax, 20, 3:168-187.
Belgrano, Elisabeth (2011). ”Lasciatemi Morire” o farò “La Finta Pazza”. Embodying vocal NOTHINGNESS on stage in Italian and French 17th century operatic LAMENTS and MAD SCENES, ArtMonitor Ph.D. diss. No 25, University of Gothenburg.
Belgrano, Elisabeth (2016). “Vocalizing Nothingness: (Re)configuring vocality inside the spacetime of Ottavia”, Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, Vol. 1 Number 2:183-195.
Calcagno, Mauro (2003). “Signifying Nothing: On Aesthetics of Pure Voice in Early Venetian Opera”, The Journal of Musicology, Vol 20. No. 3, 2003:461-497.
Cull Ó Maoilearca, Laura (2015). Editorial from inaugural issue of Performance Philosophy journal, PERFORMANCE PHILOSOPHY, Vol. 1:1-3
Griffin, Anthony (in press 2016.). “Developing Trust in Others; or, How to Empathise like a Performer” In: Music and Empathy, Elaine King & Caroline Waddington (eds.), Farnham: Ashgate.
Haseman, Brad (2006). ”A Manifesto for Performative Research.” Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, theme issue "Practice-led Research", No. 118:98-106.
Manning, Erin & Massumi, Brian (2014). Thought in the Act. Passages in the Ecology of Expression. Univ. of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, London.
Massumi, Brian (2015). Politics of Affect, Polity Press.
Möllering, Guido (2006). Trust: Reason, Routine, Reflexivity, Elsevier, pp. 191‐192
Strozzi, Giulio (1644). Le Glorie della Signora Anna Renzi romana, Surian, Venice.