Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Double-Mouth / Bergen exhibition

The Double-Mouth
Collaborations between students from Bergen Academy of Art and Design & Instituto de Artes, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro

March 12th - 17th, 2013 /
Opening: March 12th, 7pm
USF Verftet
Georgernes Verft 12
5011 Bergen / Norway
Gallery hours: 12 - 6pm, except Friday 3 - 9pm

The exhibition is developed from research on the topic of voice, text and collectivity. It aims to question the conditions of voice, and the complex dynamics of the spoken. Central to the works is an investigation of the gaps between sound and sense, between structures of language and the sensual body, and between a physical interior and a social exterior. Voice is understood as fundamentally multiple, acting as the primary means for the poetical, and the affective exchange between oneself and the other.
The collaborations amplify such views by taking on the challenges of finding points of contact across distances and nations, and of figuring the possibility of a shared language.

Organized by Ricardo Basbaum  and Brandon LaBelle, as part of the shared course "Voice, Text, Collectivity", Bergen-Rio de Janeiro, Fall 2012. The exhibition will travel to Rio de Janeiro in May for an exhibition at Galeria Cândido Portinari


Ana Paula Ferrari Emerich
Georgia Rodger

Gustavo Machado
Marit Tunestveit Dyre

Luiza Crosman
Rūta Vaitukaitytė

Raoni Moreno
Kiyoshi Yamamoto 

Isabel Carneiro
Numi Thorvarsson

Cecilia Cavalieri

Johnny Herbert

Tatiana Klafke
Susi Law

Robson Camara
Bjørn-Henrik Lybeck

Aline Oliveira
Kerstin Juhlin

Priscilla Menezes
Tor-Finn Malum Fitje

Luisa Tavares
Karla Katja König

Aldene Rocha
Ingeborg Blom Andersskog

Leandra Lambert
Alexandru Raevschi

Thais Boulanger
Anne Larsen

Juliana Notari
Maria Jonsson

Luana Cardoso da Costa
Hedi Jaansoo

Alex Barbosa
Leo Shumba

Nena Balthar
Malin Peter

Marina Fraga
Hidemi Nishida

Mayra Martins Redin / Bebeto Bahia Duarte
Trine Friis Hylander

Sara Kollstrøm Heilevang
Susann Jamtøy

Thursday, January 17, 2013

On Kristeva

This chapter covers key points in Kristeva’s theory of language, including her notions of the chora, the semiotic, and the symbolic. She first articulated these in her early books, primarily in Semiotiké: Recherches pour une sémanalyse of 1969, of which only two chapters have been translated into English, and her groundbreaking text of 1974, La révolution du langage poétique, a third of which was translated into English and published in 1984 as Revolution in Poetic Language. The English-language version of Revolution contains the theoretical portion of the text and omits its critical application to the literary works of avant-garde writers. The thesis of Revolution in Poetic Language is this: the works of literary avant-garde writers produce a “revolution in poetic language.” That is, they contain elements that “shatter” the way we think that texts are meaningful. Meaning is not made just denotatively, with words denoting thoughts or things. Meaning is made in large part by the poetic and affective aspects of texts as well. This revolution is not limited to the language of artists, but is present in ways that ordinary human beings try to express themselves. All our attempts to use language neatly, clearly, and in an orderly way are handmaidens of our attempts to be neat, clearly demarcated, orderly subjects. But such attempts are continuously disrupted by certain elements of our signifying practice.

Throughout her writing, Julia Kristeva focuses on “speaking beings” – those who not only use language but are constituted through their use of language. Kristeva describes language as the discursive or signifying system in which “the speaking subject makes and unmakes himself” (Kristeva 1989b: 265, 272). In Kristeva’s view, as the philosopher Kelly Oliver has noted, “any theory of language is a theory of the subject” (see Oliver’s introduction to Kristeva (1997: xviii)). Thus Kristeva folds two huge areas of inquiry – subjectivity and language – into one. This twofold aspect of her work makes writing this book on Kristeva difficult. I cannot begin to address her theory of language without also discussing her theory of subjectivity. Nor can I do the opposite. As we’ll see, we cannot set her views on language apart from the beings who use it. In Kristeva’s view, language is not a tool that we pick up from time to time. And there is not a speaking being to consider unless this being is speaking or using language in some way. To make matters all the more complex, we are engaging in this work using language ourselves.

One way to approach Kristeva’s theory of language is to compare it to the other theories that were accepted when she wrote Revolution in Poetic Language. Kristeva’s view of them is rather harsh: “Our philosophies of language, embodiments of the Idea, are nothing more than the thoughts of archivists, archaeologists, and necrophiliacs” (Kristeva 1984: 13). In other words, most non-post-structuralist theories of language treat language as a dead artifact, something that can be cataloged, archived, entombed – a formal object of study. They do this in keeping with larger socio-economic forces, namely capitalism, which treat people and their languages as isolable, static entities. In so doing, they deny the dynamic processes in which people generate meaning and experience.

Along with others in her circle on the Left Bank, Kristeva entered the field to change all that. Instead of treating language as a separate, static entity, Kristeva has seen it as part of a dynamic signifying process. Kristeva never explicitly defines this key term, but she seems to use it to mean the ways in which bodily drives and energy are expressed, literally discharged through our use of language, and how our signifying practices shape our subjectivity and experience: “linguistic changes constitute changes in the status of the subject – his relation to the body, to others, and to objects” (Kristeva 1984: 15). Kelly Oliver describes Kristeva’s view of signifying practice this way: Instead of lamenting what is lost, absent, or impossible in language, Kristeva marvels at this other realm [bodily experience] that makes its way into language. The force of language is [a] living driving force transferred into language. Signification is like a transfusion of the living body into language.(Oliver 1997: xx)

So we should not study language apart from “the subject of enunciation,” “the subject who ‘means,’ ” or, to put it more plainly, the person who is talking or writing and trying to express something. For this speaking being’s own living energy infuses meaning into language. The best example of this phenomenon is a negative one: think of what it is like to talk with someone who lacks what psychiatrists call “affect,” that is, evident feeling or emotion. This is sometimes the case with someone who is severely depressed. Such a person’s speech may be devoid of the usual rhythms and modulations that infuse speech with meaning. He or she speaks with no enthusiasm and seems to be nearly absent from the conversation. A listener would take away very little from the words that are uttered, for they do not seem to signify anything real or vital.

Interestingly, our everyday uses of language in social settings generally operate by trying to contain the “excesses” of language, that is, the potentially explosive ways in which signifying practices exceed the subject and his or her communicative structures (Kristeva 1984: 16). Some such excesses have been sanctioned in the arts, religion, and rites – realms in which passions that might disrupt the social order are channeled. But in “polite society” we are expected to “contain ourselves.” For most of us, we have to find a path between the two poles of language, devoid of affect and expressions that overwhelm order.

In fact, when we attend to language within the signifying process, Kristeva says, we may notice two ways or modes in which it operates: (1) as an expression of clear and orderly meaning; and (2) as an evocation of feeling or, more pointedly, a discharge of the subject’s energy.

In other words, we may find ourselves using certain words because they get something across clearly or because they express some feeling, desire, or unconscious drive. The words she uses for these modes are, respectively, symbolic and semiotic. These terms draw on a rich background of linguistic and psychoanalytic theory, to which I will turn shortly. First, notice the following passage from Molly’s soliloquy at the end of James Joyce’s Ulysses:

the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me yes first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth and it was leapyear like now yes 16 years ago my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of the mountain yes so we are flowers all a womans body yes that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for you today yes that was why I liked him because I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him and I gave him all the pleasure I could leading him on till he asked me to say yes.

Believe it or not, I’ve selected one of the more coherent passages from Molly’s soliloquy. It expresses meaning in both modes that Kristeva discusses: (1) symbolically, i.e. through the use of logical terms; and (2) semiotically, through a breathless (punctuation-less) flow of words that are more emotive than logical. Clearly this passage partakes of the second mode more than the first, at least in so far as Joyce’s semiotic signification helped produce Molly’s stream of consciousness. Molly shifts back and forth in time and perspective. We get a keen sense of Molly’s jouissance (one of Kristeva’s favorite terms to signify both erotic and psychic pleasure). We read Molly’s uncensored thoughts in her stream-of-consciousness recollections. This is an important part of semiotic signification: Molly’s prose comes forth almost unbidden from a wellspring of internal desires and drives, or at least Joyce’s writing seems to do so.

To help understand the distinction between semiotic and symbolic, the reader could imagine mapping that dichotomy onto more familiar dichotomies: such as the distinctions between nature and culture, between body and mind, between the unconscious and consciousness, and between feeling and reason. In the history of Western thought, these dichotomies are usually taken to be extreme opposites: either one is a savage brute or a civilized human being; either one is acting out of lust or using one’s head; either one is driven by emotion or steered by reason. The difference with Kristeva’s use of these kinds of polarities is that the former pole (semiotic/nature/body/unconscious, etc.) always makes itself felt – is discharged – into the latter (symbolic/culture/mind/consciousness). Instead of holding to the dualistic thinking of the West, Kristeva is showing how the poles of these dichotomies are intertwined.

In a certain respect it may seem that the symbolic and the semiotic modes of signification are at odds with each other. This may be so, but certainly it is also true that the combination of Joyce’s symbolic mode of signification (his words with clearly demarcated meaning) and his semiotic mode (a syntax that undercuts order) together signify something more than the sum of the parts of Molly’s words. We have here neither pure logic nor pure music. What we have is a symbolic mode of signification (the words in whatever semantic order they are given).

In Kristeva’s theory, the signifying process has two modes: the semiotic and the symbolic. The semiotic (le sémiotique, not la sémiotique, which means semiotics, the study of signs) is the extra-verbal way in which bodily energy and affects make their way into language. The semiotic includes both the subject’s drives and articulations. While the semiotic may be expressed verbally, it is not subject to regular rules of syntax. Conversely, the symbolic is a way of signifying that depends on language as a sign system complete with its grammar and syntax (Kristeva 1984: 27). The symbolic is a mode of signifying in which speaking beings attempt to express meaning with as little ambiguity as possible. The expressions of scientists and logicians are paradigmatic examples of people trying to use symbolic language, whereas expressions found in music, dance, and poetry exemplify the semiotic. The semiotic could be seen as the modes of expression that originate in the unconscious whereas the symbolic could be seen as the conscious way a person tries to express using a stable sign system (whether written, spoken, or gestured with sign language). The two modes, however, are not com- pletely separate: we use symbolic modes of signifying to state a position, but this position can be destabilized or unsettled by semiotic drives and articulations.

Molly says “that after that long kiss I nearly lost my breath” and the words are energized by the breathless semiotic rhythm of the text. This is Kristeva’s point: the symbolic mode of signification is meaningful because of the way the semiotic energizes it. If it weren’t for the bodily energy that speaking beings bring to (and put into) language, language would have little if any meaning for us.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A dupla-boca

dupla boca + boca coletiva: ações em áudio nas lacunas da voz
Brandon LaBelle e Ricardo Basbaum

Nosso mecanismo vocal pode ser entendido como contendo duas bocas – uma, compreendendo a cavidade oral, incluindo a língua e os dentes, e articulada pela abertura e fechamento dos lábios; e outra, aquela da glote, com a abertura um pouco mais abaixo, na garganta, e que controla a pressão e modulação do fluxo de ar. A boca e as cordas vocais, os lábios e a glote: duas bocas, cada uma em sua relação com a fala, cada uma participando nas fricções e faculdades da vocalização. A dupla-boca pode ser destacada enquanto encontro do corpo e da linguagem, onde a glote como a boca interior (a carne corpórea) conversa com a boca exterior (a voz social), articulada pelos lábios.

Ao explorar esta dupla-boca, o projeto procura ocupar e amplificar o espaço intermediário – aquele intervalo onde corpo e linguagem se encontram, em que o interior se emancipa a partir da vibração da glote, para então viajar através da boca, estendendo-se através dos lábios em direção à enunciação. Todas as dinâmicas e intensidades que ocorrem nesse intervalo, este espaço entre entrada [in] e saída [out], a glote e os lábios, podem ser compreendidas através da história das poéticas do som, das performances vocais, o que de Certeau chama de "a ópera da glossolalia".

Além disso, quando dois corpos se relacionam um com o outro, a linguagem e os sentidos desempenham um papel nos processos de entrar em contato e se comunicar – isso constitui outra dupla-camada que envolve o corpo e o espaço-social, as ferramentas da comunicação e seus protocolos. Através desses protocolos, a boca é treinada socialmente para desempenhar e administrar a economia das várias camadas de contato que se abrem entre este corpo – seus sentidos e pulsões – e outros corpos. Aqui, a fala, a escrita e outras ferramentas e mediadores da comunicação e do contato movimentam e estendem o corpo para os territórios exteriores e o tornam multiplamente audível. Este seria um segundo aspecto da dupla-boca: aquele que empurra o corpo para seu lado de fora; a boca enquanto um lugar social exteriorizante.

Ao investigar esses intervalos, histórias e poéticas, o projeto se desenvolve como uma dupla- ou mesmo tripla-boca: colaborações em áudio entre estudantes de Bergen e do Rio de Janeiro.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The double-mouth

The double-mouth + collective-mouth: audio work in the gaps of the voice
Brandon LaBelle and Ricardo Basbaum

Our vocal mechanism can be understood to contain two mouths – one being the oral cavity, including the tongue and teeth, and which the opening and the closing of the lips articulates, and the second, that of the glottis, the aperture residing farther back, in the throat and which controls the pressures and modulations of air flow. The mouth and the vocal cords, the lips and the glottis: two mouths, each with their own relation to speech, and each participating in the frictions and faculties of voicing. The double-mouth can be highlighted as the meeting of the body and language, where the glottis as the interior mouth (the bodily flesh) converses with the exterior mouth (the social voice) articulated by the lips.

Exploring this double-mouth, the project sets out to occupy and amplify the space between – that gap wherein body and language meet, where the interior rises up to vibrate the glottis, then traveling through the mouth, to extend from the lips and into enunciation. All the dynamics and intensities taking place in this gap, this space between in and out, glottis and lips, can be understood through the history of sound poetics, vocal performances, and what De Certeau calls the "opera of glossolalia".

Also, when two bodies relate to each other, language and senses play a role in the processes of getting in touch and communicate – this constitutes another double layer that involves the body and the social space, communication tools and their protocols. Through these protocols, the mouth is socially trained to perform and administrate the economy of the several contact layers that open up between this body – its senses and pulsions – and other bodies. Here, speech, writing and other communication and contact tools and mediators perform and extend the body to the outer territories and make it multiply audible. This might be a second aspect of the double-mouth: one that pushes the body to its outside; the mouth as a collective, social external site.

Researching these gaps, these histories, and these poetics, the project is developed as a double-mouth, even triple-mouth: audio collaborations between students from Bergen and students from Rio de Janeiro.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Zizek on human voice: Muholland Drive, The Dictator & Dr. Mabuse - the weird [creepy?] dimention of the voice

When I think about "the human voice" I always remember this Zizek's film, "The pervert's guide to cinema", when he analyses the diabolic apspect of the voice on some classic scenes. I found a transcription of the movie here and I copied and pasted the fragment where the talks about:

The first big filmabout this traumatic dimension of the voice, the voice which freely floats aroundand is a traumatic presence, feared, the ultimate moment or object of anxiety which distorts reality, was in ’31 , in Germany, Fritz Lang’s The Testament of Dr Mabuse.

"You and the woman will not leave this room alive.
Monster! Stop, please!"

We do not see Mabuse till the end of the film. He is just a voice.

"You will not leave this room alive."


And to redeem through your son, who lives and reigns with youin the unity of the Holy Spirit,God, forever and ever.  So, the problem is, which is whywe have the two priests at her side, how to get rid of this intruder, of this alien intruder. It is as if we are expecting the famous scene from Ridley Scott’s Alien to repeat itself. As if we just wait for some terrifying, alien,evil-looking, small animal to jump out.There is a fundamental imbalance, gap, between our psychic energy, called by Freud “libido”, this endless undeadenergy which persists beyond life and death, and the poor, finite, mortal reality of our bodies.

This is not just the pathology of being possessed by ghosts. The lesson that we should learn and that the movies try to avoid is that we ourselves are the aliens. Our ego, our psychic agency, is an alien force, distorting, controlling our body. Nobody was as fully aware of the properly traumatic dimension of the human voice, the human voice not as the sublime, ethereal medium for expressing the depth of human subjectivity, but the human voice as a foreign intruder. Nobody was more aware of this than Charlie Chaplin.

Chaplin himself plays in the film two persons, the good, small, Jewish barber and his evil double, Hynkel, dictator. Hitler, of course. He bit my finger. The Jewish barber, the tramp figure, is of course the figure of silent cinema. Silent figures are basically like figures in the cartoon. They don’t know death. They don’t know sexuality even. They don’t know suffering. They just go on in their oral, egotistic striving, like cats and mice in a cartoon. You cut them into pieces, they’re reconstituted. There is no finitude, no mortality here. There is evil, but a kind of naive, good evil. You’re just egotistic, you want to eat, you want to hit the other, but there is no guilt proper. What we get with sound is interiority, depth, guilt,culpability,in other words, the complex oedipal universe.Here you are.Get a Hynkel button. Get a Hynkel button. A fine sculpture with a hooey on each and every button.

The problem of the filmis not only the political problem, how to get rid of totalitarianism, of its terrible seductive power, but it’s also this more formal problem, how to get rid of this terrifying dimension of the voice. Or, since we can not simply get rid of it, how to domesticate it, how to transform this voice nonetheless into the means of expressing humanity, love and so on.
German police grabs the poor tramp thinking this is Hitler and he has to address a large gathering.

"I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor.
That’s not my business.
I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone.
I should like to help everyone, if possible.
Jew, gentile, black man, white,we all want to help one another.
Human beings are like that."

There, of course, he delivers his big speech about the need for love, understanding between people. But there is a catch, even a double catch.

"Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!"

People applaud exactly in the same way as they were applauding Hitler. The music that accompanies this great humanist finale, the overture to Wagner’s opera, Lohengrin,is the same music as the one we hear when Hitler is daydreaming about conquering the entire world and where he has a balloon in the shape of the globe. The music is the same.

This can be read as the ultimate redemption of music, that the same music which served evil purposescan be redeemed to serve the good. Or it can be read, and I think it should be read,in a much more ambiguous way, that with music, we can not ever be sure. In so far as it externalises our inner passion, music is potentially always a threat.

There is a short scene in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, which takes place in the theatre where we are now, where behind the microphone a woman is singing, then out of exhaustion or whatever, she drops down. Surprisingly, the singing goes on. Immediately afterwards, it is explained. It was a playback. But for that couple of seconds when we are confused, we confront this nightmarish dimension of an autonomous partial object. Like in the well-known adventureof Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, where the cat disappears, the smile remains.

You may have noticed that I’m not all there myself. And the mome raths outgrabe. The fascinating thing about partial objects, in the sense of organs without bodies, is that they embody what Freud called “death drive”. Here, we have to be very careful. Death drive is not kind of a Buddhist striving for annihilation. I want to find eternal peace. I want… No. Death drive is almost the opposite. Death drive is the dimension of what in the Stephen King-like horror fiction is called the dimension of the undead, of living dead, of something which remains alive even after it is dead. And it’s, in a way, immortal in its deadness itself. It goes on, insists. You can not destroy it. The more you cut it, the more it insists, it goes on. This dimension, of a kind of diabolical undeadness, is what partial objects are about.

And you can download this film's torrent here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Ana Paula Ferrari Emerich /
Georgia Rodger /

Gustavo Ribeiro Machado /
Marit Tunestveit Dyre /

Luiza Crosman /
Ruta Vaitukaityte /

Raoni Moreno /
kiyoshi farias /

Isabel Carneiro /
Numi Thorvarsson /

Cecilia Cavalieri /

Jonathan Herbert /

Tatiana Klafke /
Susi Law /

Robson Camara /
Bjørn-Henrik Lybeck /

Aline Oliveira /
Kerstin Juhlin /

Priscilla Menezes /
Tor-Finn Malum Fitje /

Luisa Tavares /
Karla Katja König /

Aldene Rocha /
Ingeborg Blom Andersskog /

Leandra Lambert /
Alexander / Александр Раевский />

Thais Boulanger /
Anne Larsen /

Juliana Notari /
Maria Jonsson /

Luana Cardoso da Costa /
Hedi Jaansoo /

Alex Barbosa /
Leo Shumba /

Nena Balthar /
Malin Peter /

Marina Fraga /
Hidemi Nishida /

Mayra Martins Redin /
Trine Friis /