Asta Gröting, Katalin Ladik, Meredith Monk, Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec, Irena Tomažin, Joyce Wieland, Katarina Zdjelar
To use such a wide-ranging common denominator as ‘the voice’ as the title of an exhibition must seem imprecise and eclectic. We could have started to approach the voice through its connection with language, materiality and physical connections, or its ethical implications. However, the exhibition The Voice seeks to include such diverse implications of the phenomenon of the voice based on a minimal definition that is sufficiently precise and clearly highlights the fascinating and enigmatic essence of its subject. The most basic definition has the voice as the surplus of effect over cause, a paradoxical entity, an space of in-betweeness . While the voice should be a neutral medium for transferring meaning, it is always revealed as excess meaning that is phantasmatically experienced as dually transcending the symbolic and culture: on the one hand as ascendance to the divine, and on the other as direct contact with nature. Its material dimension is similarly paradoxical, and points to the physical origin of the signifier. Here, the voice is again something that is impossible to relate in simple, one-dimensional terms to the body as the emitter; it is something that does not fully fit the body.
This is shown by the phenomenon of acousmaticism, the inability to link the voice to its hidden source. While we know the origin of the voice, the inability to directly pinpoint it to its source “deep inside the body” makes it enigmatic. The installation Insight No 2 by Tao Sambolec points to the gap between the auditory experience of the voice and its source, which can never be completely bridged. Every time we try to approach the video in which the artist’s image is producing a voice, it slips away to be replaced with a cacophony from the background. The artist’s mouth, from where the voice comes, is the level before last before the unattainable ‘inner’ origin, the point where the voice is made a fetish that defends us from the crevice, the voice’s supposed origin, which threatens to suck us in. Therefore, as Mladen Dolar notes, there is always a minimum of ventriloquism at work, as it comes from ‘the belly’ and is not consistent with the movement of the mouth. Through this experience Asta Gröting develops her work The Inner Voice / You’re Good, witty conversations of ventriloquists with their puppets, who somewhat ironically discuss the formation of ethics around the instance of the voice.
Katarina Zdjelar approaches the voice from a linguistic perspective. The video The Perfect Sound records the first lesson of learning received the pronunciation of standard English and is juxtaposed with the work A Girl, the Sun and an Airplane. The former builds on learning, and the latter on forgetting the voice (language), while both share a basic ‘drama’ of the voice, our engagement with the voice of the Other that inscribes a norm into our voice. The voice that is inscribed in the body is also the focal point of Irena Tomažin’s experiments. Her performances radically develop the process of the voice’s inscription into the sculptural moulding of the body, while her exploration of folk heritage highlights the dual dimension of the voice as an element of the imminent, the present and its historical bearings. This issue is also examined by the video by Joyce Wieland, Pierre Vallières, which is a recording of a conversation with the Quebecois political activist in a format defined by the artist as an “mouthscape”. It reveals the multi-layered inscription of history into the body, which is revealed through the voice: the personal history of the body and the mark of the social habitus.
Katalin Ladik applies the dimension of the voice that is always revealed as an excess over the basic structure of the signifying process to visual poetry. With her collages, which are used as music scores to perform phonic poetry, the basic premise of concrete poetry, where form becomes content, is expanded to the area of the voice, thereby highlighting it as a message sui generis. Yet the fascination with the voice always takes place in the tension with language as the limit that the voice seeks to cross. This is shown in Turtle Dreams, a hypnotic work by Meredith Monk, whose “expanded vocal technique” combining the voice, theatre, music and performance, establishes a parallel yet evasive language.
It is impossible to think the voice without dualities and paradoxes: this dimension is characteristic of all the works showcased in the exhibition. There is no voice without a mould, a cultural code, without conflict. We cannot return to the mythical natural origin, as we are unable to transcend the symbolic, escape language. The only option is to approach the voice through its contradictions, as this is the only way to reflect on emancipatory pathways.
Curated by: Vladimir Vidmar
Guided tours of the show with the curator on Tuesday, 14th April, and Wednesday, 22nd April, at 6 pm.
Vocal performance by Irena Tomažin on Tuesday, 28th April, at 6 pm.
Acknowledgements: artists, Barbara Borčić, carlier | gebauer, Kontakt. The Art Collection of Erste Group and ERSTE Foundation, Meredith Monk/The House Foundation, Igor Španjol, Tevž Logar
The programme of Škuc Gallery is supported by Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and Cultural Department of the City of Ljubljana.