voice and electronics
voice as acousmatic source
music and language
Elina Saloranta ±
I have always enjoyed writing letters, and in my current research, I am engaging in a correspondence with the past. My historical pen-pal is the Finnish singer Elli Forssell-Rozentāle (1871–1943), who studied in the Helsinki Music Institute in the 1890s. In 1902 she met the Latvian painter Janis Rozentāls (1866–1916) and moved to Riga, where she became the wife of a “great artist” and a mother of three children.
My research material consists of Elli’s letters to her sisters and brothers. They had a close relationship, and Elli wrote to them very openly. For example, in a letter from August 1909 she describes a disturbing family scene and asks for advice. My aim is to “reply” to these letters from today’s perspective. By now, I have completed one video piece (Kirje Elliltä / A letter from Elli) and one essay (Pitsihattu likalätäkössä / A lace hat in a puddle). I have also made experiments in which I have asked other people to write to Elli (see Part II). At the end, all letters and videos will be exhibited in The Janis Rozentāls and Rūdolfs Blaumanis Museum in Riga.
My reading list consists of microhistory and biographical research. I have been particularly inspired by the Finnish historians Maarit Leskelä-Kärki and Kirsi Tuohela, who are specialized in the cultural history of women’s writing. Recently, I have also discovered the genre of lyric essay, which allows for amateur historians and fragmentary, collage-like structures.
In her letter from August 1909, Elli Forssell-Rozentāle (1871–1943) describes a disturbing incident between her husband Janis and their daughter Laila: Then when we were getting into the carriage to go to Mitau and Laila was wearing her white lace hat, Jan became enraged, insisted that he could not stand the hat, grabbed it off the child’s head, crumpled it between his hands and threw it straight into a dirty puddle by the well. The letter ends with the words: I have written to you about all this in the hopes that you might find some source of light for me. I cannot find any myself.
During the academic year 2018–2019, I read Elli’s letter at five research events and asked people to write a reply to it – to find Elli some source of light. The participants had five to ten minutes to write the letter, and when it was over, I collected texts from those who were willing to share them. People also had a chance to reply to Elli by email to an address I had created for her: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What advice did Elli get from her 21st century pen pals?
For answer, see my essay "An Experiment in Letter-Writing" in the publication I Experience as I Experiment – I Experiment as I Experience. The publication has been edited by Denise Ziegler and published by the Academy of Fine Arts at the University of the Arts Helsinki (2019). Permalink: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-353-403-2
My own reply to Elli can be read in the Finnish-language anthology Suo, kuokka ja diversiteetti edited by Markku Eskelinen and Leevi Lehto (ntamo 2018). The essay is titled ‘Pitsihattu likalätäkössä’ (A lace hat in a puddle). It has been recently translated into English, but the translation has not yet been published.
CREDITS AND LINKS
1. Still from Elina Saloranta’s video piece Kirje Elliltä / A letter from Elli (2019)
2. Still from Elina Saloranta’s video piece Kirje Elliltä / A letter from Elli (2019)
LINK TO text 'An Experiment in Letter-Writing'
LINK TO video Kirje Elliltä / A letter from Elli (2019). Password: Elina
In my translational writing across English and Swedish, I do not translate any other author, but work with my own writing bilingually. Considering languages already entangled, my translational writing is not about a transgression of language boundaries or a bridging of gaps, but rather about working with the connections and differences of the already inseparable languages.
Here I draw on the translator Suzanne Jill Levine who in her book The Subversive Scribe writes about the cyclical ongoing of empires, colonizations, and migrations, and how these confirm the problematic nature of language boundaries. She holds that indeed all languages contain other languages and there are secret bonds between them. As I write across Swedish and English I try to listen to these linkages, the hidden or latent historical bonds, as well as sudden unexpected sparks. I work with cross language punning, polyphonic meanings and phonetic synchronicities and shifts. Rather than attempting to find the one settled version, I look for generative paths, ever new versions and divergences. The translational writing that I engage with then, isn’t so much about trying to recreate a text in another language, but rather to continue writing within the already intricately entangled movements of these languages.
CREDITS AND LINKS
1. How Across Travels, published as part of Scripted!!:12 Performances on Paper, ed. Trine Mee Sook, Mathias Kryger and Maria Bordorff.
2. Screenshot of the poem Is (Vinter/Winter) at the webpage The Pages.
3. Installation view of the solo exhibition And Again Shifts / Och igen skiften, IAC, Malmö, 2015.
LINK TO (Vinter/Winter)
LINK TO ACROSS
LINK TO How Across Travels
Performance writing emphasizes the performance of writing and the performance of the text in relation to material, social, and political matters inevitably embroiled with the writing and the written.
In Howe Across Reading, ongoing publishing is a crucial aspect of performance writing. The project was and still is continuously and dispersedly made public. All through the work I published online (The Pages), in print in a variety of magazines as well as two comprehensive book publications, and made (still make) work public through performing in academic, literary and fine arts contexts. The iterativity and the difference of every version—the unsettling of the own text if you will—is key to this writing practice.
Another key aspect is remediating text, as well as noticing and bringing focus to aspects and specifics of already remediated source material. In the dissertation chapter “O You Banner, Flapping, Flapping, Flapping, Flapping: The Thicket Language of Mathers Magnalia.” a print-on-demand-version of Magnalia Christi Americana, by reverend cotton Mather (first published in the 17th century) is undergoing a series of re-mediations. Here the notion of “thicket language” is brought forth, a visually un-quiet gibberish arising through every version and between versions.
Performance writing is an artistic research methodology that has been—and is—practiced as well as re-formulated by performers, writers and researchers such as John Hall, Caroline Bergvall and J.R. Carpenter. The practice is undergoing constant defining, and thanks to it’s reliance in movement and performing, it might evade being ever fully formalized, or settled.
CREDITS AND LINKS.
1. Howe Across Reading: Performing the Pages, performance at Moderna Museet, Malmö, 2015. Photograph by Andreas Kurtsson.
2. From the chapter Oh You Banner: Flapping, Flapping, Flapping, Flapping, in the dissertation Tvärsöver otysta tider / Across Unquiet Times.
3. From the chapter Oh You Banner: Flapping, Flapping, Flapping, Flapping, in the dissertation Tvärsöver otysta tider / Across Unquiet Times
LINK TO The Pages.
LINK TO books
Imri Sandström ±
I am an artist, writer, and researcher, carrying an MFA from the field of visual art and a PhD from the field of literary composition. In my artistic research I engage with language based practices to inquire into issues concerning language, history, power, and performativity. I specifically investigate into the materiality and motion of language in relation to areas where the same might be perceived to have stiffened, or settled. My PhD project Howe Across Reading: Performing the Past is an inquiry into aspects of the histories and languages of New England, north eastern USA, and Västerbotten in the north of Sweden, with and through writings of poet and literary scholar Susan Howe. Through a translational (1) performance writing (2) practice a focal point in the research is indeed the un-settling of seemingly settled times, lands and texts. The notion of unsettling, which is activated in the work, being a pun on anxiousness/worry and an undoing of a settler-colonial settling, further carries specifically textual associations, also referring to language in print, the set text. Whereas the practices engaged with in the research differ, they share an important aspect that has to do with repetition, with sameness and inevitable difference. In translation as in performance writing’s re-telling and re-mediating, the text “comes again” as something else.
READING LIST - A POTENTIALLY ENDLESS LIST OF AUTHORS FROM INDIA THAT SHOULD BE IN GLOBAL READING LISTS
The Reading List is simultaneously a proposal and a method to supplement a predominantly white and eurocentric academic cannon, while holding space in resistance. It queers the narrative: with names that are distinct from those whose names are deemed important, from how we ourselves have trained our tongues to pronounce ‘important’ names, and the reverence with which we speak of certain thinkers. Written as part of a project I have been working on between 2017-2019, it is a response to my own complaint against an academic environment that is very white in its contemporaneity. What happens when this Reading List is present in the space? The tone of the poem is conversational, we can use them in a ‘speakerly’ manner, feel the reverberations when the air from our lungs become sound through our throats and pass our lips. The poems are written to be read aloud and make them known to us, and us to them. I use these words to co-conspire or affect an ongoing intimate dialogue, to shape as well as disrupt the void of silence, bringing to the fore anxieties, hopes, misgivings, and fixations. Once read, the poem no longer remains just a fabric of words but includes a voice through which I can present my thoughts.
Each time an iteration of the mural is made it becomes instinctual to bring elements from in and around the space into it. The outside becomes the palette. IMAGE 1 evokes a sense of application (of new information) and removal (of old information). (IMAGE 2 – 3) Two pencils are taped for letterform construction. In 2006, I learnt this technique from typographer Mahendra Patel. This technique is useful for serif, sans-serif, script, as well as decorative styles of type. Letterform construction, styled after the sans-serif font Helvetica for accessible reading and ease of drawing the letterform. The masking tapes serve the purposes of guidelines.
IMAGE 4 - Multiple layers of acrylic paint are applied. The final work is then washed with soap and water which fixes the paint onto the wall and also removes any superficial layers of paint, thereby creating an organically eroded surface.
CREDITS AND LINKS
1. - 4. Documentation of Reading List. All photos in the Reading List project are by Vidha Saumya.
LINK TO Reading List 2020 by Vidha Saumya
M-O-N-U-M-E-N-T-L-E-S-S Moments – Utopia of Figureless Plinths, is an invitation to respond to the question, ‘How can we reimagine spaces previously occupied by monuments?’.
The project re-imagines the sites of monuments as transformed spaces for active public negotiation through images, interviews, and poems – as conversations between seagulls. A collection of over 75 poems, interviews and discussions form the artistic production as well as the main methods of artistic research and theorisations. If monuments are tools of the establishment undermining our ability to question their legitimacy and their necessity, then the task of the project has been “to clear the space that the monuments occupy in our minds”, to disrupt the normativity of both the establishment and its opposing anti-establishment intellectual industry. Occupying a third space through poems, the project does not directly address the grand questions of “what is Art” and “who is an Artist” and “what does this mean” as the monuments to be cleared away. Instead, the project is a research into those monuments that an artist will stumble on, in the art world. Or to be more exact, monuments that an “educated, brown, married immigrant artist” (and a woman) will stumble on in the European and “Western” art world. I have chosen the poetic form as the main method of questioning. This methodology was important because the monuments have a way of appearing solid and self-evident, where even existing counter-hegemonic challenges follow established ways of disruption. The poetic forms of a soft methodology, a tale and a study of cultural privileges, of racist inclusion and exclusion, for which the monuments stand as sign-posts, and also as a way of making my own “personal experience” heard.
There is an installation of two road signs inside a gallery. Part of the floor is washed out and appears whiter than the rest of the floor. In the front, a concrete stand holds a steel pole holding a street sign of a blue circle containing a white graphic of two public monuments with a red line striking through the whole sign. Next to the pole are concrete bricks on a wooden crate. The wooden crate is holding an upright wooden plank holding a road sign of a yellow triangle with a red outline, with a black graphic of a bird in flight. There are plastic crates in colours blue, brown and grey. The crates are holding white cloth envelopes. There are seven books installed on the wall on either side of the signs. There is a radiator behind the signs on the right side. (Image 1) A concrete stand holds a steel pole. There are plastic crates in colours blue, brown and grey. The crates are holding cloth envelopes with a black stamp of graphic of a bird in flight. There are concrete bricks on a wooden crate. All objects are placed on a tiles floor. (Image 2) Under the text a small book is held inside a plaster stand that is installed on the wall. The book cover shows a plinth without any statue. The colour of the sky in the background is orange (Image 3)
CREDITS AND LINKS
1. Monumentless Moments: the Utopia of Figureless Plinths, 2020, Maa-tila Project Space, Helsinki
2. Installation view from the exhibition Monumentless Moments: the Utopia of Figureless Plinths, 2020, Maa-tila Project Space, Helsinki
3. Installation view from the exhibition Monumentless Moments: the Utopia of Figureless Plinths, 2020, Maa-tila Project Space, Helsinki
All photos in the Monumentless Moments project are by Aman Askarizad.
LINK TO IMAGES
Vidha Saumya ±
My art praxis oscillates between many dimensions of ‘Heimat’. Translated inadequately as ‘(Home)land’, all its provocations and protections, its utopia and exile – are my warp and weft. Since moving to Helsinki from Mumbai (2016), the figure of migrant seagulls atop pristine nationalistic monuments have been a quasi-surreal and trenchantly political narrative engine of my transmedia artistic practice. Through the ‘seagull as the observer’, the subjugation of the most vulnerable in a specific group and a community at large, comes to light. The seagulls observe how even the most casual, callous remarks, a denial of one’s truth without dialogue can cause irreparable damage. The seagulls’ position is not only just as representatives, but as they gather atop monuments they transform the meaning and commentary of the monuments. As an artist-poet always at the bleeding edge of textual and visual modes of production, and as a trenchant brown drop in a sea of whiteness that is Finnish and international contemporary art, I aspire to the seagulls’ routine of iconoclasm, argument and research. This engagement has unfurled across multiple fellowships and many projects of murals, artist’s books and poetry performances. I use poems, murals, monumental drawings, anti-monumental projects, videos, artist's books, anti-sue sculptures, culinary interventions, cross-stitch embroidery paintings, and digital artefacts to question all kinds of normatives – be that of aesthetics, gender, taste, academics or the most gigantic one of our times – the populist nation-state.
My work in the embodiment of utterance. Mojo is an installation of cast iron lids, embedded with the enigmatic code of the Ifa corpus, known as Odu. The sculpture is an implied amplified device that expands the human language of prayer. Ifa is the traditional Yoruba spiritual system in place long before Great Britain colonized Nigeria, hence altering the language of the country. The language of Ifa is born of 256 patterns that reveal thousands of verses that speak to the relationship between humanity and nature. Mojo, as in the popular blues song “I got my Mojo working…” is a device in Black culture that is needed to effectuate change in an unjust society. A mojo is capable of being composed of any number of materials, in my sculpture Mojo I combined the forces of Ifa- the traditional esoteric practices of the pre-colonial Yoruba people with that of cast iron the material of industrialization. The Odu signs that surface the inner lids and their positioning within the chalk drawn diagram serve to contract and expand vocalization- utterance. It is only through the spoken word is power to be found. Thought alone will not impact the world, but spoken thought / language / utterance is vibrational and has the ability to alter circumstances. In my practice both professional and personal I employ the power of speaking- using objects that speak, or my own vocal cords, that will connect with the universe. The symbols, as arranged in Mojo, serves as an instantaneous announcement to the viewer as an altar would, It speaks to reverence, articulation and cosmic forces that share a universal language with the viewer's soul.
1. Mojo, 2010, Cast iron, Steel, Chalk. Photo credit: Phoenix Savage. Courtesy of the artist.
A votive cube shaped chamber of red yard six feet by six feet, offers the viewer the opportunity to commune with a listening banana. The word Ogede depending on the tonal inflection can mean banana or incantation. Red is viewed in Black culture as a color of power and magical force. The inner chamber of Joy's Ogede offers a red bench covered in flock that calls into question the stability of the bench. This small registration has the impact of destabilizing the viewer and recalibrating them simultaneously.
If the viewer chooses to sit down, they are positioned in conversation with a black porcelain banana with an ear presented in a red velvet cushioned gilded box. The ear implies the banana holds the power to hear the spoken or implied thoughts of the viewer. Ears were some of the original sculptures of the Yoruba, and would imply they held the expectation that something was listening. While Western culture predicated the power of thought (Rodin's The Thinker), many African cultures predicated the power of the spoken word. In Yoruba culture as with Black diaspora culture the world is made through language. In many African cultures and this is true of Yoruba culture speech, spoken language functions as a talisman.
Joy's Ogede is then its own talisman and is activated by the viewer, but the spoken words of the viewer. It offers a certain degree of privacy so it is not known what people say when they enter the yarn draped chamber, very much like the confessional booth in a Catholic church- One enters such a booth to speak, it is in the confessional chamber that absolution can be obtained. Joy's Ogede is not so much an opportunity for forgiveness as it is an opportunity to ignite the voice, to expand through utterance desire, shame, considerations and solutions. Language is employed in my works as an active device, not for its aesthetic considerations alone, but for its ability to activate a space and connect beyond walls of limitations of mere thought or policies of constraint.
A very good way to sum up the use of language in my work is the following quote from Audrey Lorde:
"... when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive."
In my work, every visual interplay of my practice is an utterance for survival- each vowels, each consonant, each syllable are strung together in form, color, shape, and experience to formulate haptic aesthetics that comprise my practice- Joy's Ogede is a prime example where speech is implied and language activation comes from the viewer's engagement with the installation.
1. Joy’s Ogede, 2017-2019, Yard, flock, porcelain, wood. Photo credit: Phoenix Savage. Courtesy of the artist.
2. Joy’s Ogede (detail), 2017-2019, Yard, flock, porcelain, wood. Photo credit: Phoenix Savage. Courtesy of the artist.
Phoenix Savage ±
My research / language based practice uses Yoruba language to investigate the spiritual, psychological, and social mores of the pre-colonial Yoruba and post-colonial Black cultures of the global south. Through a strategic interplay of materials, sound and object placement my studio investigations result in large scale installations of interactive wonder of haptic sculptures. My works intersect language in both its invocation / utterance / incantation and its implied value through the acts of movement and silence. Language is a critical component of my research, I employ it as a tool, similar to a chisel and mallet in the hands of a sculptor. Language is the tool I use to mold / form my works into visual consumptions of space and time. I am interested in the interconnectivity between art / space / viewing and action that take place as I aestheticize psychological mechanisms addressed through the spoken language of Yoruba and the implied sounds of black diasporic culture. As an Artist / Anthropologist and a product of these combined cultures I apply an emic approach to language. While some of my sculptures are programmed to speak to viewers, others are made to suggest that viewers should listen for the sound that can only be imagined, while still others, prod the viewer to speak to the works to activate their embedded magical forces.
Lena Séraphin ±
My research interest is site-specific writing in public space. It has been inspired by An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris that Georges Perec wrote in 1974 by making observations at Place St-Sulpice in Paris. The aim is to replay this writing experiment collectively and to engage with the result – a multitude of observations from intersecting perspectives.
When taking writing from the private and often solitary realm to public space questions of sharing become tangible. How do we share writing? How do we share public space? I have an interest in observational site-specific writing based on bodily perception, because it sidesteps language in a normative meaning-making role. Writing in public space utilises constraints to focus attention, but these restrictions also act as a guide towards unlearning. While writing in public space the liminal aspects of descriptive text become apparent, encouraging an enquiry into what can replace (writing as) a failing medium.
One tentative function of Perec’s writing experiment in the 70’s might be a kind of re-instalment of the everyday in cold war Europe. What could this intent be today, and might it become a re-enactment of the everyday?
In my doctoral thesis issues of fictional potentialities are discussed, especially in contact with controlling master narratives, and I think what I am trying to express here is; can fictioning be an option when realities are falling through? Writing in public space has an aspiration to evade fiction but equally it points at a place where imagining the not yet perceptible is possible.
An early attempt at writing in public space was tested during the process leading up to the show If Walls Could Speak in 2007-08, shown at two venues Botkyrka konsthall, Sweden and Keravan taidemuseo, Finland. The artistic process was open to museum visitors as a workshop, all artworks were to be site-specific and constructed within the gallery spaces during a few weeks. Fine art students from Helsinki, Lahti and Stockholm did works that were contrived from a list of observations from both locations, and an initial assignment was to sit back to back outdoors and make notes of the location. These lists became material for works that elaborated on inherent site-specific stories.
In 2017 a replay of Georges Perec’s work An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris was carried out with nine writers making notes at the market square in Tammisaari, Finland, resulting in the mutilingual book Omspelning-Replay-Uusintaotto-Repetición. The book interweaves nine individual sets of notes into one text so that events that played out at the same point in time are shown next to each other. Writing in public space was further tested in June 2019 when 50 writers, 16 in Venice and 34 in different locations from Medellín, Colombia to Marksjön, Sweden took part in the workshop Wording organised at the Research Pavilion #3 as one of the Disruptive Processes workshops. The texts written in Venice were read aloud at/to the site where they were written, Campo de la Chiesa in Giudecca.
CREDITS AND LINKS
1.Site-specific writing in Vaasa 14/9/2019. Photo by Johanna Halme, Pro Artibus Foundation.
2.Site-specific writing in Vaasa 15/9/2019. Photo by Johanna Halme, Pro Artibus Foundation.
LINK TO DOCUMENTATION If Walls Could Speak
LINK TO more on REPLAY or to the BOOK
LINK TO EXPOSITION (WORDING)
LINK TO EXPOSITION (SITE+SUBJECTIVITY).
As a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies at the Åbo Akademi University my attempt, during a three-year period, is to launch a program entitled Sharing text, including a series of works presented at the campus Academill and workshops building on collaborative writing in public space.
The first invited artist-poet is Vidha Saumya with a mural titled Reading-List. The aim is that the artwork, now installed in an intimate space where students gather to work, is entwined into the activities at the faculty spurring reflections on writerly agency and how writing and reading is being unceasingly defined by master narratives. The poem Reading-List proposes a list of 96 authors from India who should be in global reading lists – the list is potentially endless. The mural addresses literature by authors names in multilayered capital letters and brings to the palpable foreground the concept of cannon to be discussed beyond normative intents.
The upcoming work in Sharing text builds on collective site-specific writing. A group of writers comes together in August 2021 in order to write, read (aloud) and rewrite at the Kauppatori market square in Vaasa, Finland. The collaborative work dwells upon questions concerning intersubjectivity in writing and reading, and how that resonates with expressions of (inter)subjectivity in public space. It looks at how we interact with each other while sharing space and asks how text and public space can be reciprocated. How can we publish text in public space? Can a market square act as a publishing surface?
LINK TO Vidha Saumya’s Reading List
LINK TO EXPOSITION (Wording)
Rachel Smith ±
I produce artists books to address how the material and conceptual form of language may be used to explore the partial nature of communication, challenging the fixity of meaning implied by dualisms in language. My work produces spaces where any compulsion for definitive terms and reliance on the or of binary sense may be called into question. Fragmentary techniques are employed to reject immediate coherence, opening spaces to reflect on minor processes of meaning making.
The position of the author is an issue that is continually being re-fused. As an author(ity) continually re-emerges, and cannot be killed, silenced, or neutralised, I suggest how distraction, meandering, and misrepresentation in relation to reading and writing challenge authority and expectations of research behaviour. I develop a method which combines elements of Caroline Bergvall's call for conceptual poetics of engaged disengagement – breaking the relentless submission to the rules, while acknowledging the complexity of lived experience – with ideas from Barthes’s insolent but smitten reading approach. My own disruptive devotion to reading, writing, and making are enmeshed in the practice, using drawing, photography and writing.
Artworks disrupt existing texts by using association, distraction, and error to fragment. Reading as writing as making are combined into a generative process, understood via a term I have developed: read(writ)ing. This term defines the over arching methods, used by the read(writ)er, where practice cuts together-apart processes related to reading/writing/making to reveal how sense is thought or sought and re-fused.
This book work materialises the act of glancing as reading using a deliberate meandering through the Library space. Virginia Woolf recognises libraries as sanctuaries affording us license to read what and how we wish, a place where no authority should possess the power to instruct on how to read.1 Faced with the organisational structure of the library, or a instructional contract to behave in a particular manner, users often take delight in finding their own path. In this project I use distractions while reading to develop a speculative and spontaneous line of enquiry across the Library shelves. Ignoring traditional search methods, I follow the visual detritus left by those before me. Drifting through the space following found bookmarks, post-it notes, and the marginalia of others I construct pieces of visibility using a preplanned but chance strategy. Distractions that interfere with immersion or flow become a tool for scrutinising reading behaviour and challenging the premise of a good reader. These bookmarks are a reminder of the physical presence of previous readers that have already encountered each text. Their annotations pose questions about my own engagement as I note phrases that stand out in the moment of glancing. In Drawing out Language:Library Collection research is visualised rather than articulated, opening a space for fluid associations between the bookmark, note, and image. Hélène Cixous suggests poetry over the novelistic form, allowing for fluidity of associations between signifiers, as opposed to the established structure of a narrative.2 Here, photography functions as poetry.
1. Virginia Woolf, ‘How Should One Read a Book’, The Common Reader: Second Series, Vancouver: Read books, 2012
2. Hélène Cixous, ‘Laugh of the Medusa’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 1, no. 4, 1976.
1 - 3. Rachel Smith, Drawing Out Language.
This experimental work assembles fragments from a material dialogue around reading, writing, and making. This collective response to reading is both ‘insolent and smitten’. Jean Paul Sartre’s autobiography Words [Les Mots] provided the source reading material though what is generated extends beyond any faithful study of the original text. Interruption, error, and distraction are considered useful tools, while collaborative working enables a negotiation of sense as the construction of meaning is re-fused and folded between the coherent and the asemic. By developing a ‘collective utterance’ (as a minor gesture) the intention was to dislodge the author’s position, and experiment with a cutting together-apart action of the author, reader, and maker to produce a multiplicity. Questions were posed about how disruptive the processes would become (how far would the work stray, fragment, or unhinge the original?), or if it would remain devoted (tied visibly or thematically to the text, respectful of the original source). I associate my methods with a description by Anotonia Point in ‘Philosophising Practice’ about ‘active laziness’ in order to challenge the binary of discipline and laziness.1 She uses relaxation to challenge this dualism, as one of her criteria for ‘doing-inflected-as-practice’ because it ‘disturbs the logics at play […] by unsettling […] habits of thought’.2 I aim to challenge the terms ‘good’ or ‘real’ reader, which implicitly engage in the dualism of productivity versus stagnation.3 By materialising flighty associations, errors of memory, and glancing as reading I can mobilise these tools for interruption and activation.
1. Suzie Attiwill, Terri Bird, et al, Practising with Deleuze: Design, Dance, Art, Writing, Philosophy, Edinburgh: Edinburgh 1 University Press, 2017, Antonia Pont, ‘Philosophising Practice’, p. 31
3. Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Literature, New York, NY: Harcourt, 1980, p. 3. Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1978, p. 27.
1 - 3. Rachel Smith, Read(Write)ing Words.
CREDITS AND LINKS
1. Klaus Spiess + Lucie Strecker: Entangled Speech. Museumsquartier/Schauraum Angewandte Vienna and International Society of Electronic Arts ISEA online 2020. Credits: Spiess&Strecker
2. Klaus Spiess + Lucie Strecker: Entangled Speech. Museumsquartier/Schauraum Angewandte Vienna and International Society of Electronic Arts ISEA online 2020, Credits: Spiess&Strecker
3. Klaus Spiess + Lucie Strecker: Entangled Speech. Museumsquartier/Schauraum Angewandte Vienna and International Society of Electronic Arts ISEA online 2020, Credits: Spiess&Strecker
LINK TO MORE
Entangled Speech, the performance associated with this practice, develops less in interaction with an audience than as a posthuman entanglement between the researcher, the research objects and the method of investigation. Entangled Speech explores the voice as a milieu associated with microbes based on Gilbert Simondon’s theory (1958). in which the individual subject is considered as an effect of individuation rather than as a cause. Between the technical apparatus, not used as an instrument of objective observation but as a constitutive part of the performance, and the microbes, ‘phenomena’ emerge which do not precede the experiment but arise from it (Karen Barad 2007). The technical apparatus is not some necessary experimental setup to gain knowledge, but becomes a performance itself, from which the relations between phonemes and microbes unfold and emerge. In Entangled Speech we raise the question of whether the human is indeed the exclusive ontological unit to start an epistemological inquiry into language. Entangled Speech challenges the definition of language, considered as the one property of the human subject that necessarily excludes all other species from participation. How might language, disembodied and decoupled from the rational and essentialist humanist subject, function with no clear connection to its human source? To what extent can human speech and arbitrarily motivated words be disconnected from a human source or principles in order to introduce other than human sources? How can we explore the range of vocal and oral modalities as a way to foreground a politics of speech that includes both non-human participation and human identity?
Entangled Speech, together with Lucie Strecker, has recently been shown at two conferences, the International Society of Electronic Arts (ISEA) and TabooTransferenceTransgression, at the Museumsquartier and Vienna Art Week, as well as will be published in Performance Research, ‘On Diffraction’ 25:5 (2020).
The performance associated with this practice, Microbial Keywording, aimed at a hybrid language that not only processes formal symbols but interacts with the microbes in the speaker’s mouth. MK argued that the metaphors that have historically been used to frame the relationship between oral microbiota and speech cannot account for the co-creative material relationship between human speech and microbial, environmental and biotechnological needs. In MK, oxygen, moistness and temperature in the mouth present themselves as the condition related to the rhythmic alteration of salivation and breath during actual speech. During the performance, the speakers’ oral cavity becomes a unique wetland, moisture as a precondition both for the microbes, for their life and for the phonemes to be spoken. In MK we harvest oral yeast microbes from the audience. Via a spectrogram, repetitively spoken phonemes drove pattern pumps, which added pheromones which were then faded out, to the microbes. In the microbes, for some replication cycles an ecological adaptation to the individual phonemes persisted, affirming – in our definition – some phonemes and deleting others, thereby improving the eco-sphere in the mouth by changing the alphabetical order of the input phonemes. The audience observed the adaptation by respelling words. MK proposed ‘microbial speech’ as a category between semantic and phonetic meaning, with a transcorporeal mattering between speech, aiming at a language becoming a biological state in order to protect its own ecology. Much of MK’s vivacity was based on Lucie Strecker’s immersive humanist performance, emphasizing the importance of space and sensual environments and focusing on the individual audience experience.
Microbial Keywording, together with Lucie Strecker, has been presented at Ars Electronica 2019 and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin 2019 and is published in Performance Research 25:3: 51-57 (2020).
CREDITS AND LINKS
1. Klaus Spiess and Lucie Strecker: Microbial Keywording. Ars Electronica. Out of the box. Human Limitations- Limited Humanity. Linz 2019. https://ars.electronica.art/outofthebox/keywording/ Credits: Spiess&Strecker
2. Klaus Spiess and Lucie Strecker: Microbial Keywording. Ars Electronica. Out of the box. Human Limitations- Limited Humanity. Linz 2019. https://ars.electronica.art/outofthebox/keywording/ Credits: Spiess&Strecker
3. Klaus Spiess and Lucie Strecker. Microbial Keywording. Cruising Corpoliteracy. Reading Bodies. The New Alphabet. Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Berlin 2019. Credits: Spiess&Strecker
Klaus Spiess ±
My language-based artistic research originates in my work as a medical psychosomaticist dealing with the quasi-ontological gap between somatic destruction/expression and language-based emotions and how it is glued by gestures, hormones and somatic memory. As such, I am interested in what is not speakable. My previous research focused on an ethnographic choreographic analysis (i.e. analysis of immunologists’ gestures) whereas my recent work focuses more on artistic performances to explore how the recently detected simultaneous decrease in oral microbial biodiversity and the decrease in diversity of languages may be linked. The backbone of this recent research is posthumanist microperformative performances which explore the connection between oral microbes and phonemes with a material-discursive approach.
In my earlier performances I have already experimented together with artist and performer Lucie Strecker with dis/embodied speech. In Spitparty (Spiess and Strecker 2014) saliva played the role of the semiotic material passable directly from mouth to mouth. In Hare’s Blood (Spiess and Strecker 2017) voicescapes stemming from capitalist auction chants controlled the survival of a living microbial artwork.
I am interested to explore the in-between of the physical and the semiotic to open up a fluid boundary between things like letters, marks or lines, populated by all sorts of strange entities, as Derrida said. I am also interested in the grotesqueness of the uttering mouth. Strangely, we are both familiar with and withdrawn from our mouths. The mouth we discover through is: ‘nonsensical yet perfectly logical, and that is funny: the sight of something maniacally deviating from itself in a desperate attempt to be itself should remind us of Bergson’s definition of what makes us laugh,’ Timothy Morton wrote in 2016.
AFEELD is a full-length collection of playable intermedia and concrete poems. These compositions take as their subject the creative, playful role of the individual in defining space using the materials of written language. Each section of AFEELD deploys invented forms to bridge the gap between poetry and video games. These forms reveal (as stated above) that play is a poetics, a practice of meaning-making.
The static concrete poems in the first section, Alphabet Man, suggest that our languages and our bodies are the inseparable materials we use to construct our worlds. This suggestion is carried into Feeldwork, where poetic images proceed into a more dynamic form. The third section, Count as One, requires that users compose its pieces in order to read them, by clicking the play space to stamp linguistic patterns. Finally, the concrete game M!ndsweeper remixes the classic PC game Mindsweeper, replacing the informational numbers with groups of consonants that change after each round of play. To play M!ndsweeper is to engage in a kind of purposeful forgetting, in the tense space between competing acts of signification.
This space of purposeful forgetting, of tension and competition, is the space of human play. As the title poem in AFEELD suggests, we cannot understand a space until we insert ourselves into it, but this act inevitably transforms the space into human context. We make sense of the world through play, as play is the definitional act, and sense is always inscribed with and as language.
CREDITS AND LINKS
1. Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Count as One:6 Poems series, 1/6
2. Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Count as One:6 Poems series, 2/6
3. Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Count as One:6 Poems series, 4/6.
LINK TO MORE
Adam Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz ±
I am an artist-researcher who playfully explores new technologies and emerging forms of cultural expression. My practice treats play as a program of research, an anti-method initiated by open-ended experimentation. As a result, I have worked across a wide range of genres, including games, virtual reality, browser extensions, machinima, mobile applications, installations, and artists’ books. These projects did not proceed from a specific set of hypotheses; they are simply artefacts, the objective results of directionless inquiry. They may seem unrelated at a glance. But there is a throughline in my practice, an argument that emerges in retrospect. My artistic research suggests that play is a poetics, a process of meaning-making, that is bound inexorably to the interactive affordances of language.
Games are definitions. They are structured communicative events designed to share human experiences and situated knowledges. Conventional games are driven by rules, which must be codifiable and parsable -- some rules are written for humans, some for computers, but always they exist as language. To follow the rules of a game is to follow the rules of language. But what happens when we break the rules?
My work appropriates linguistic materials and remixes them into self-reflexive situations. It encourages readers and users to play with rules, to understand language as a kind of game. And if games are definitions, then playful interaction is a way of defining and redefining human experience. Play allows readers to become authors, and users to become designers.
Throughout my book, words disappear. This “missing” text (in both the print and pdf version of the book) is there to further activate opacity as well as performativity. These moments have various reasons: some are there to protect me from being too vulnerable and exposed, others are there to open up space for the reader/participant to perform a sort of mental exercise and try to imagine the word or phrase missing, others are there to keep the space open for the reader/participant to add their own words and make the text more relatable for them, and others are there to challenge entitlement and reflect on who has access to what.
These produce additional moments where opacity is activated. Opacity is a concept borrowed from Édouard Glissant to refer to the tactic employed by native and enslaved peoples in the Caribbean to escape the demand for transparency and understandability by the colonisers. Similarly, queer slangs attempt to escape being understood by cishet people and authorities.
LINK TO EXAMPLE
I have used code-switching between the main language of my work, and defacto language of academia (English), and the languages and slangs I use (Greek, Kaliarnta [the Greek queer slang], Polari [the British queer slang], German, and others to a much smaller extent). This way the text produces moments of disruption for the reader who unless able to read and understand this combination of registers will therefore always be excluded from part of the content. I chose to do this not only in the body of the text but also in the chapter titles and subtitles, a choice that induces more confusion and disorientation to the reader and further challenges long-established privileges and assumptions.
This was important to me methodologically in order to evoke the secrecy (opacity) activated by the slangs, clarify my positionality as a queer migrant woman who works and thinks in all these registers and for whom code-switching is an everyday occurrence, and challenge the reader’s entitlement (and by extension the Enlightenment paradigm which demands a forensic dissection of products of knowledge that leads to the Truth).
LINK TO EXAMPLE
Anna T. ±
My book Opacity - Minority - Improvisation (situated in the intersection of queer theory, artistic practice, and linguistics) explores the proverbial closet (from the expression “to come out of the closet”) and as such employs linguistics as its research subject matter, one of the research methods, as well as the main manner of dissemination of the knowledge produced. Those three bleed into and inform each other constantly and therefore cannot be viewed as methodologically separate.
Embarking on an exploration of the “closet” led me to the languages it produces. Secrecy (being closeted) means finding communication avenues that bypass non-members. This is a phenomenon that appears in 11 queer slangs (from Greece, Brazil, the UK, Indonesia, Philippines, Turkey, India and Pakistan, Israel, S. Africa, and the English-speaking world) used by queer subjects to secretively (and safely) communicate. These slangs are playful, cutting in their social critique and employ a high degree of opacity, improvisation and performativity while showcasing the particular mores of the speakers and their subcultures.
Therefore, my work (text, performance art, street art) explores: How do I communicate something respecting opacity when Western knowledge is so heavily premised on an imperative for clarity and shedding light? How to make improvisation and performativity part of an (expected to be) academic text? How do I express myself not only as the author-researcher but also a “native” speaker of one of these slangs? What role does autoethnography play in this meta-analysis of language where the object of research has to remain partly concealed?
Iuliana Varodi ±
Language as a word has its origin in Latin where lingua also means tongue. In Romanian we have the same: limba as noun for both language and tongue. It’s langue in French and this might sound a bit more familiar to anyone who has had some French in school or any close connection with this lingua franca. Language makes life easy when your native one happens (not by accident, but that is another topic) to have become adopted, or imposed, by most high education institutions across the globe, which happens to be the same as the coding language of most computer programming ‘languages’. Standardization facilitates globalization, as much in the IT and financial sectors, as in the field of education, which adopted its functioning models - and with them, its language - from the business world. Not only are students world wide trained in standard MBA programs, they are trained to speak/write/think in standard academic English, in most fields other than business. This appropriation and internalization of academic English is something that students and academic staff pay for, just as they pay for the TOEFL-like examinations that issue the well-known, highly demanded certificates. Meanwhile, our lives are increasingly, yet covertly, impacted by AI-algorithms. How do APA, MLA, etc. academic language standards facilitate AI reading of academic papers, and will all academic knowledge end up via unknown clouds in Sophia the robot’s brain? (Hint: ask a computer engineer!) What is our awareness of and contribution to this process? Here is mine.
Longing for one’s home. Not feeling at home anywhere. Not understanding. Not belonging. Operating as a stranger, as an outsider. Not knowing the rules. Missing Transylvanian hills and fresh mangoes. Not making sense. Trying to find meaning in a reality one apparently does not understand. Persistently questioning if reality might be something else than any combination of sensorial perceptions and academic theories might reveal. What happens when one gives up? When one stops asking, interpreting, deciding, thinking, watching, listening, talking, writing, hoping? When one surrenders to a seemingly self-inflicted alienation? Or could the act of writing/speaking itself as a practice, offer shelter?
The above are fragments of intuitive exploration of language – written, sang, spoken, typed – as locus and means of enquiry, during a one year artistic research on the Relation between Reality and the I at APASS in Belgium. What are the different textualities of a text when it emerges from handwriting, singing, typing on a laptop or speaking on a stage? How does the performativity of voice changes in these various approaches? How does the context and technology in which a text is produced influences its reception? Of how many layers is a text made – letters, words, sentences, sound, the body that utters it, the stage or home setting, the light, the scenography? How do rhythm and tonality change when one switches between different languages? If gazing is a means of seeing the world, could we say voicing is a means of speaking it?
1. It is Monday morning and I wanted to write something. I wanted to write something that... I wanted to write, I wanted, I want to, I am trying. Words. I am trying to write. Right... Morning... morning thoughts are... Writing... words... in the pen or the finger, or my fingers, that paper. Can I? Now... Trying. I want to write. I try. Writing. Words. Letters. Lines. Shapes... Writing. I try... Writing I want to... something... I want... Writing is... no, noise. No, no is not, no. I. Words. I want, I try, I... I... These lines, no... no. Lines, words, language... As vrea, dar nu pot acum... Cuvintele care... Mais non. Dat is het ook niet. Ah... je veux écrire mais... Oui... Les pensées... c'est... La trace, c'etait... Dans le rêve c'est... c'était, il y avait... mais... Ah... écrire... Mda…
2. Și’așa-mi vine câte-un gând mai dorule, și-așa- mi vine câte-un gând, să plec pe păduri cântând, să plec pe păduri cântând, mai dorule... Dear Anil, I am writing to you again from Antwerp, in Belgium. I spent one year in this city. It has been a long, cold, boring winter. I don’t know what kept me here….
3. … and I thought... well, I thought different things, you know, I thought… maybe this, maybe that... I was kind of remembering the states of mind I went through and I liked a lot, so... And then… but then, suddenly I realized: actually what I would like to create is no state of mind. Just no state of mind, at all. And I would like not to create that, I would like if it… just happens, without me doing anything, without saying anything, without moving, without dressing up like this, or like that, or being naked, or being bold… or telling things or... just somehow… But then I guess, I should be doing something else. I was actually wondering: why do we, what is it, what is that we look for in art, why do we come, take a seat and watch someone doing things on stage, what are the expectations that we have, ‘cause… It’s very personal, I guess; someone would like to hear something really intelligent, someone else would like to see something maybe very sharp, someone… or maybe, you know… you might have no expectations at all, and I am just making up this whole thing. Ah! Hospitality…
CREDITS AND LINKS
1. Iuliana Varodi, Writing (one shot performance / raw video, 2010).
2. and 3. Rehearsals for the performance ‘Idiosyncratically here, The stranger as a Lens’, Antwerp, 2010. Camera by Elise Passavant.
LINK TO MORE
Nathan Walker ±
My practice explores what I call ‘the vocal-body’ as an emergent space of enquiry into language, sound and writing. In my live work, the vocal-body is both my material and the initial site of performance. I also explore the page as another kind of site, a location for expanded understandings of language through mark making and as scores for embodied vocal performances.
My practice is action-oriented, which is to say I work toward a poetics of action that uses performance and time-based media. I often describe my work reclaiming the little-used phrase ‘action poetry’ which more precisely locates my trans-disciplinary practice as existing both across and between performance art and poetry. Action Poetry is a term attributed to and used by the French sound poet Bernard Heidsieck. It has a short-lived history and is mainly used interchangeably with sound poetry.
My performances are task-led and construct situations where the body pursues tasks over extended durations. Vocal tasks are physical and linguistic ways to understand, develop, and explore the tension between the interior voice and exterior vocal sound. This tension extends to the space between writing and speaking and ultimately foregrounds the vocal-body as a site of transformation.
Currently lines of enquiry:
- the voice in relation to Badiou’s definitions of events as moments of radical and unpredictable change, to consider the poem-as-event in performance art.
- The mouth as a site in performance
- disclosure, telling, and revealing as vocal rupture
- non-linguistic marks in page-based scores
- the history of the vocal-body in performance art
- the legacy of sound poetry as an expanded-language practice
‘How can we adapt speech to a series of disasters?’
(Alain Badiou 2009, Pocket Pantheon, p.149)
I found the word ‘cope’ in the word ‘stethoscope’. I had already written ‘cope’ in my notebook and had been considering how I might survive a performance, how my body might cope with the repeated vocal sounds I had been making in my studio. Hyperacusis, acousmatic sensitivity, domestic disturbance, rooms of over-spilled sound, thin walls, insensitive sound unabsorbed by buildings. I found the word cope when catching myself listening to the air.
The vibrational sounds that I performed in Cope were developed as conscious shakes of my diaphragm, the fluid sounds of an almost ‘W’ with my mouth nearly closed / barely open made my lips itch like a hum. After only five minutes of this vibrational sound there is an ability to force shaking sound from the body.
Body-Sound manages, curates, holds. What happens in the performance is not automatic, it is continuous sound, continuous voice, continuous vibrations. The room shakes with this repeated voice. Whilst there is agency there is also a feeling of accepting, allowing the body to make the sound and relinquishing a fear of making sound, becoming sound, hearing sound. During the performance my mouth slowly opens and I gradually turn on the spot. It takes thirty minutes for a full rotation of my body and for my mouth to fully open. When my mouth is open the sound is altered. Form, edges, corners are lost and are replaced with a bellowing, peeling call.
CREDITS AND LINKS
1. Video still from Cope (2018)
LINK TO VIDEO
In my practice questions surrounding scores and vocalization have been critical to my continued exploration of a poetics of action. Specifically, in questioning how performers interpret and make audible inert marks on a page as vocal sound I have initiated my own practice-led experiments. ‘Back Hand’ (2019) exists as page-based score and video performance demonstrating a ‘reading’ of the score. It pushes and pulls the voice out. It gags and interrupts, dislodging an interior sound as it becomes exterior, catching it out as it oxidises and traverses the body.
The live performance of non-linguistic scores require the performer to embody the written mark and translate it into vocal sound. Performers interpret marks on the page by internalizing the mark as visual information and externalizing this information as vocal sound. For me, this complex space of interpretation and communication engages in a poetics of action, it is an attempt to action language, to allow a radically unpredictable but contingent embodiment of expanded writing with the vocal-body. In this work the non-linguistic score is performed as vocal sound and gesture which opens up other lines of enquiry with the vocal and the choreo-graphic.
This work was commissioned by Linda Kemp for Black Box Manifold Issue 23.
CREDITS AND LINKS
1. Video still from Back Hand (2019)
2. Video still from Back Hand (2019)
LINK TO VIDEO
Ilya Ziblat Shay ±
My practice as a composer and improviser is focused on creating and playing live-electronics systems that process speech samples into electroacoustic sounds. To me, the speaking voice not only provides a resource with an endless sonic potential but can also open up a distinct, defamiliarizing perspective on language. By deconstructing words into their phonetic building blocks, by stretching, compressing, blowing up, or itereating over the seperate speech particles, and by reorganizing the original syntax, I compose musical structures that offer for the listener an unusual encounter with language.
Using speech as the source material for live processing, I aim to create a body of work which is situated at the intersection of sound and text. In my works music and language are in a continuous interplay: A constant fluctuation between background and foreground positions, a continuous recontextualization of semantic syntaxes and sonic material, resulting in a network of emergent links and associations.
I am interested in developing further my live-electronics tools and to be able to connect between researchers, musicians, and their audience. In the following phases of my work I intend to collaborate not only with musicians but also with speakers, whose original voice content is combined with its processed version. The result can be thought of as a hybrid of musical composition and a lecture, featuring concepts and discourses as much as musical aesthetics.
My work SLIL is a live-electronics interface that allows to process pre-recorded samples in real-time using a touch-sensitive controller. The word Slil (in Hebew) means a reel, and, as the title suggests, the player can manipulate the sample as if they were manually handling a tape reel or a film roll: Playing it forward or backward, variating the playing speed, or remaining at one spot and extending or “freezing” one single moment out of the entire material. The different manipulations the interface allows are ideal to work with speech content: Syllables can be intersected into consonants and vowels, or further into smaller semantic particles, and the original content can be chopped, augmented, repeated, stretched, etc. The result is an electroacoustic musical structure in which the characteristics of the original words can be easily traced, however the freedom to re-create is endless.
The technology of SLIL allows me to deconstruct language and to expand it beyond its textual sense, creating an experiential sound world from the original text. By amplifying the paralanguage – intonations, articulations, voice gestures, etc – “objective” truths can be stripped away. The attention of the listener shifts from the words themselves towards the voice pronouncing them, in a process which reveals situated knowledges about the speaker’s ideological or social disposition.
The following recording features an improvised interaction between the live-electronics interface (using samples of my own voice) and a viola.
CREDITS AND LINKS
1. SLIL , the virtual and physical interfaces.
2. f.k.a. Composition #2 (Continuance) , from Strings and Syllables. (Viola: Maya Felixbrodt, Electronics: Ilya ziblat).
LINK TO SLIL SOLO
LINK TO AUDIO f.k.a. Composition #2 (Continuance) , from Strings and Syllables. (Viola: Maya Felixbrodt, Electronics: Ilya ziblat).