ACTS OF VOICING
On the Poetics, Politics and Performance of the Voice
October 13, 2012 – January 13, 2013
Nancy Adajania, Daniel García Andújar, John Baldessari, Samuel Beckett, deufert + plischke, Ines Doujak, Juan Manuel Echavarria, Tim Etchells, Rainer Ganahl, Mariam Ghani, Gary Hill, Karl Holmqvist, Ranjit Hoskoté, Minouk LIM, Mara Mattuschka, José Perez Ocaña, Manuel Pelmus, David Riff, Anri Sala, Marcus Steinweg, Imogen Stidworthy, Raša Todosijevic, Fadi Toufic, Ingrid Wildi Merino, Katarina Zdjelar, Yang Zhenzhong and others.
Acts of Voicing is a transdisciplinary project that focuses on the aesthetic, performative and political significance of the voice from the vantage point of visual art, dance/performance, and theory.
The exhibition centres on the nature of the voice as an event and performance, its techniques, efficacies and modes of functioning. The aim is both to examine the intractable and “rough”, the disciplined and the disciplining voice, voices that are heard and others that are not. Fighting to have one’s voice heard is as much as topic as the power to silence or to force someone to speak.
The political implications of the voice, which Acts of Voicing explores and questions, hark back to ancient Greece. Aristotle, the originator of political philosophy, for instance differentiates between the bare voice (phone), meaning the scream that can do little more than express desire and pain, and the meaning-producing voice (logos), which may signify the just and unjust, the good and evil. This difference is—at least in the Occidental tradition of thought— constitutive of the distinction between human and animal, between bare life (zoe) and political life (bios): that is, between those excluded from the political community and those included.
For Jacques Rancière, political agency—as well as aesthetic agency—consists in the constant challenging and reconfiguration (or "repartitioning") of that order, which is responsible for certain words being understood as discourse and others not.
But what would encountering this other voice – or voice of the other – mean? A voice which, according to Ranjit Hoskote, is there suddenly, without warning: "it disrupts rather than smoothening the textures of the listener's experience; it demands that the listener engage with its meaning in a full-bodied manner, placing his or her entire being on the hazard. The act of attending to such a voice, the voice of the Other, the sometimes sublime and terrifying Other, breaks and re-makes the attending self” (Hoskoté, p.1)."
What would it mean to speak with this other – as opposed to for or about him? And does not a foreign kernel always inhere in one's own voice?
Acts of Voicing examines this foreign kernel of the voice, that is to say, the paradox of the voice of being at the same time one's own and foreign, internal and external, bound to the body (and the word) and divorced from it. As Slavoj Žižek writes, it seems as if the voice "never quite belongs to the body we see, so that even when we see a living person talking, there is always a minimum of ventriloquism at work: it is as if the speaker's own voice hollows him out and in a sense speaks 'by itself', through him" (Žižek 2001, p. 58, cited from Dolar 2006, p. 70).
This foreign voice, that can never be fully silenced, or rather the gap between one's own and the other voice opens, as Mladen Dolar has explained, the space of the political.
How can artistic practices—specifically, that of the visual arts, dance, and performance—on the one hand, and theory, on the other, bring into play this foreign kernel of the voice and the voices of those who go unheard, the significance of orality and oral cultures, and a different culture of listening? To what extent can artistic and theoretical methods imbue, speak to and with each other?
Acts of Voicing looks into these and other questions in an exhibition which seeks to fathom the possibilities and limits of a performative exhibition model. The aim is to create a fabric of space that is at once a work-space and stage for exhibits, performances, lectures and workshops. Instead of a static exhibition display, the idea is to create a space of experience that is constantly changing, all the time forging new, surprising links between exhibits and events, exhibition and performance, art and discourse, and between art and the viewer.
Acts of Voicing thus sets out to interrelate three central spheres of contemporary art discourse: the question of the politics and poetics of the voice, of the peculiarities and relationships of visual art, dance/performance and theory, and of the realignment of their spaces of action and performance.
The exhibition was developed in a close collaboration of the participating curators, artists and scientists. In addition to several new productions, the exhibition also features numerous other art works and performances from the 1960s to the present that revolve around the significance of the voice.
Agamben, Giorgio. 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Dolar, Mladen. 2006. A Voice and Nothing More. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hoskoté, Ranjit. 2010. Notes towards the Possibility of Transformative Listening. Lecture transcript. See: www.initiative-humboldt-forum.eu/index.php.
Rancière, Jacques. 1999. Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Rancière, Jacques. 2007. Das Unbehagen in der Ästhetik. Vienna: Passagen Verlag.