LUCY MCRAE – BODY ARCHITECT

Lucy McRea

Body Architect

2019

Exhibition

Visiting and then reflecting on McRea’s exhibition, Body Architect seems an appropriate way to finish the semester. Walking through the show, I was overwhelmed by the proficiency (for lack of a better word) of her practice. She makes the whole enterprise look so obvious! Find your subject matter and research the hell out if it. Find the formats which best convey this. Work to develop those into a highly original and sophisticated audio / visual language. Build on that language until you create a kind of world building meta-fiction. In doing this, Body Architect doesn’t bother with trying to uncover truth in the world, it accepts from the outset that truth is forged in the furnace of cultural experience.

On a more subdued note, how the work is presented was useful to consider in relation to my own project. All of the images (except one, which seemed comparatively naff) were presented on screens rather than as prints, giving the overall impression that these were being broadcast to us from multiple distant futures, rather than existing as real-world objects. Images unashamed of their own fiction.

McRea. L. (2019). Body Architect. [Exhibition]. Melbourne, Australia: NGV. 30 Aug 19 – 9 Feb 20.

Images: https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au

Categories: Transhuman / Artifice

STELARC – EAR ON ARM

Stelarc

Ear on Arm

2008

Body Modification

A recurring theme within Stalarc’s body plasticity, is that of a body shaped by culture (in this case, the world of contemporary art). An act which simultaneously pushes against, but curiously also re-enforcing certain essentialisms concerning the borders of the body. In the work’s description, he lays out in great detail the medical complications arising from the operation and it’s interesting how the body seems here to have a trajectory of it’s own, one which doesn’t include these extra ears.

Here maybe my own interests differ slightly from Stelarc’s work, in that I believe the body is already a volatile patchwork of biology, technology and culture – without intervention. To hold a microphone is to wield an extra ear, a form of prosthesis already, without the necessity of having it surgically implanted into the body. I do however accept that holding a microphone and calling it prosthesis, is far less engaging than undergoing such a drastic transformation. If art only required discourse, we’d call it philosophy.

Stelarc. (2008). Ear On Arm [body modification artwork]. Melbourne, Australia.

Image: https://stelarc.org

Categories: Transhuman

Hideaki Anno – The End of Evangelion

Hideaki Anno

The End of Evangelion

1997

Animated film

Following on from my previous post regarding Cronenberg’s Videodrome, the animated film The End of Evangelion is another example of the body being inflated to breaking point, while at the same time remaining recognisably human through the use of the non-verbal voice. In this instance the pre-verbal breaths, stutters and hesitations of the protagonist – Shinji are increasing foregrounded as the film progresses. When the plot finally reaches fever pitch, their placement seems to suggest the film’s entire world (literally planet Earth in this case) being swallowed whole, ingested into Shinji’s own interior space.

This has prompted me to consider how when using disembodied voice to conjure an abject bodily presence, once that perceptual link has been established it’s actually fairly robust and perhaps I could push it much further.

The End of Evangelion. [Film]. Dir. Anno. H, Tsurumaki, K. (Toei Company, 1997), 85 minutes.

Categories: Voice as Material / Transhuman

David Cronenberg – Videodrome

David Cronenberg

Videodrome

1983

Film

Cronenberg’s 1983 film uses human breath throughout to render a world in which the body’s borders are ambiguous at best. Video cassettes wheeze, TVs groan and hand guns hiss – all becoming extensions of the human, while the actors themselves become non-characters, vacant bodily sites of pure potentiality. The use of breath is so all encompassing here (sound design and score) that not only does it conjure limitless bodies within the film, but the film itself as an object becomes a kind of queasy pornographic animal, both human and un-human.

As Philip Brophy has pointed out “As cinema spends much care not to advance or promote the non-linguistic utterances of the mouth (breath, gasps, drips, sniffles, groans, burps etc.), it leaves pornography to be the sonic realm that celebrates and fetishises the mouth running at its pre-verbal fervour. Listening to Videodrome can be like hearing pornography – or, in accordance with the plot’s themes – picking up interference deliberaely being broadcast from an Other dimesion(p. 247)

The film has provided some useful ideas as to how my own project could use the voice as material – not only to conjure phantom bodies, but that non-verbal utterances can also be used to convert any thing or space (gallery) into a type of body.

Videodrome. [Film]. Dir. Cronenberg. D. Pro. Héroux. C, David. P, Solnicki. V. (Universal, 1983). 89 minutes.

Brophy. P. (2004). 100 Modern Soundtracks. London, UK: British Film Institute.

Categories: Processed Voice / Transhuman / Voice as Material

Jean Baudrillard – The Procession of Simulacra

Jean Baudrillard

The Procession of Simulacra

1983

Text

A recurring theme within my project has been that the body is (at least in part) is an effect of perception, intuited through the voice. At the very least it’s borders are porous and always shifting, rather than discrete and stable. In attempting to trace where this thinking originates, I have been reading the work of Jean Baudrillard which is relevant in its argument that representation (at least in our contemporary condition) precedes the real. That a perception of the real arises from a cascading series of untethered representations.

“Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.” (p. 3).

The voice as used within contemporary pop-music is a prime example, where it’s no longer arranged and mixed so as to refer to sense of real world performance and by extension – labor (breath is commonly removed all together), but instead only refers to other musical codes.

Baudrillard. J. (1983). The Procession of Simulacra. In: Art & Text (11). Translated by Paul Foss & Paul Patton. Melbourne, Australia: Art & Text pp. 3 – 47.

Categories: Artifice / Transhuman

Homer Dudley – Teeth Sibilant Sketches

Homer Dudley

Teeth Sibilant Sketches

1939 (approximately)

Roughly the same time that Karlheinz Stockhausen was formally dividing speech according to tones (vowels) and noise (plosive consonants), and Pierre Schaefer was working towards a general classification system for recorded sound, Homer Dudley of Bell Labs was also developing a methodology for breaking the human voice into constituent parts. The recent arrival of recording and transmission techniques had drawn attention to the materiality of the voice. A voice located firmly in the material world. While this kind of essentialist thinking has since come into question, pioneering work such as this provided the foundation for all synthetic speech to come afterwards. Its close attention to the properties of the body (teeth, tongue and throat in particular) provide a clue as to why synthetic voices today still imply or even conjure a bodily presence.

Categories: Artifice / Processed Voice / Voice as Material

Joan La Barbara ‎- Tapesongs

Joan La Barbara

Tapesongs

1977

LP

The metaphor on the cover of La Barbara’s 1977 album of extended vocal music is wonderfully simple. A cloak of sound, or a kind of sound-skin. A protective sonorous outer layer. But this is also magnetic tape – sound which has undergone some fragmentation and abstraction, small pieces of audio which have been cut off from a prior context and recombined to form new constellations of meaning.

Lauri Anderson who was also making extended voice works at that time in the USA, has spoken at length about her own use of audio voice-masks. Both through the deployment of pitch shifting techniques – to muddy representations of gender, and also through the use of quotational style lyrics – to muddy subjectivity and authorship.

La Barbara’s voice masks from this period work entirely differently, instead through forms which are highly idiosyncratic. Not quite music, not quite linguistic and not quite animal – they instead suggest a peculiar logic all to their own. A logic which is not directly accessible by the listener, but is there regardless.

La Barbara. J. (1977). Tapesongs [LP]. Pennsylvania, USA. Chiaroscuro Records.

Categories: Processed Voice / Transhuman / Voice as Material

Mamoru Oshii – Ghost in the Shell

Mamoru Oshii

Ghost in the Shell

1995

Anime, 82 minutes.

One of the most striking ways in which the human voice is rendered within Ghost In The Shell, is the use of what was then cutting edge technology – the spatializer. Throughout, dialogue is processed to depict voices which are both outside of the body, or within the metaphysical internal space, or occasionally channeled from other entirely synthetic spaces.

Going back to Derrida’s Grammatology, where he talks of the implications of this internal / external vocal dichotomy,

‘The system of “hearing (understanding) oneself speak” through the phonic substance which presents itself as the non-exterior, nonmundane, therefore nonempirical or noncontingent signifier – has necessarily dominated the history of the world during an entire epoch, and has even produced the idea of the world, the idea of world-origin, that arises from the difference between the worldly and the non-worldly, the outside and the inside, identity and nonidentity, universal and nonuniversal, transcendental and empirical” (p. 8).

As a major theme within the film is that of the individual subject being superseded by the network, it’s interesting how crucial this internal / external treatment of the dialogue is in depicting a splintering of the post-enlightenment individual.

Derrida. J. (1976). ‘Writing before the letter‘. In: Of Grammatology. Translated by G. C. Spivak. Baltimore & London. John Hopkins University Press. pp. 1 – 87.

Ghost in the Shell. [Film]. Dir. Oshii. M. Pro. Mizuo. Y, Matsumoto. K. Iyadomi. K, Ishikawa, M. (Shochiku, 1983). 82 minutes.

Accessed 20/09/2019 https://biblehub.com/1_corinthians/13-12.htm

Categories: Processed Voice / Transhuman / Voice as Material

Jacques Derrida – Of Grammatology

Jacques Derrida.

Of Grammatology.

1976.

Book.

Reading Derrida is difficult. Sentences are often as long as paragraphs, with multiple bracketed qualifications. I’ve had to read Part One: Writing Before the Letter four times and still I’m only scratching the surface. Despite this, part one alone has been a gold mine of ideas relevant to my masters project.

And, finally, whether it has essential limits or not, the entire field covered by the cybernetic program will be the field of writing. If the theory of cybernetics is by itself to oust all metaphysical concepts – including concepts of the soul, of life, of value, of choice, of memory – which until recently served to seperate the machine from man, it must conserve the notion of writing, trace, grammè, [written mark], or grapheme, until its own historico-metaphysical character is also exposed.’ (p. 9)

This is the missing link which I’ve been looking for and relates to my own practice through the idea of artifice – that in order to expose or undermine stable and naturalistic representations of the human voice, that process of exposure need to lay bare its own mechanics. This is what perhaps interested both Barthes and Sontag about Bunraku theatre, that not only is the human experience presented as the flimsiest of surfaces, but that its mechanics only point to other mechanics. – ‘the signifier cunningly does nothing but turn itself inside out, like a glove’ (Barthes – P. 49). In showing that representation proceeds the real, representation must never itself become another refuge for the soul.

Barthes. R. (1983). ‘The Three Writings’. In: Empire of Signs. Translated by R. Howard. Los Angeles, USA: Hill & Wang. pp. 58 – 60.

Derrida. J. (1976). ‘Writing before the letter‘. In: Of Grammatology. Translated by G. C. Spivak. Baltimore & London. John Hopkins University Press. pp. 1 – 87.

Sontag. S. (1984). A Note on Bunraku. In: The Threepenny Review, No. 16. California, USA: Threepenny Review. pp. 16.

Categories: Language / Transhuman

Kate Brown – Title Unknown.

Kate Brown.

Title Unknown.

2019.

Extended Voice Performance.

As part of Liquid Architecture’s satellite events surrounding the Ventriloquy show at Gertrude Contemporary, Sydney artist Kate Brown performed an extended voice work at the Melbourne Meat Market. Using a stripped back setup of contact mics and talk-box, the performance masterfully undermined naturalist and stable representations of the voice and its associated body. While the concept of a prostheticised, distributed and outsourced self certainly speaks to our current condition, it was interesting how through costume Kate was able to viscerally draw in historical references to 19th century gothic horror, a genre in which the voice’s relationship to a rightful owner was often stretched to breaking point.

Brown. K. (2019). Title Unknown [Extended Voice Performance]. Melbourne, Australia. 09/07/2019.

Images: https://liquidarchitecture.org.au

Categories: Processed Voice / Transhuman / Voice as Material