Magazine article Artforum International

"Acts of Voicing": Wurttembergischer Kunstverein

Magazine article Artforum International

"Acts of Voicing": Wurttembergischer Kunstverein

Article excerpt

The voice has been a major theme in contemporary political theory, especially since Judith Butler began directing attention to the potential violence of speech, for instance in her 1997 book Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. The great value of the deeply thought-out exhibition "Acts of Voicing: Uber die Poetiken und Politiken der Stimme" (On the Poetics and Politics of the Voice) was its demonstration of how the voice has been a theme for art as well. At the center of the exhibition was a projection showing a disembodied mouth: lips, teeth, oral cavity. It was moving fast--too fast. A female voice could be heard describing the fate of a nearly mute woman, but no, she herself is not this woman, though one could hardly understand the voice, which speaks too fast: It is reciting Samuel Beckett's play Not I, filmed by the BBC in 1977. Only shreds of it can be understood, but that isn't the point. Rather, at stake here is the sensual act of speech--the mouth attracts the eyes like a vagina. The mouth seems to be possessed by the voice, and by the fact that it is a female voice speaking, not a discourse-dominating male one.

The exhibition extended from this mouth in every direction, with an architecture of stages and recesses one could sink into with headphones. To allow for the work of more than thirty artists as well as events including performances, lectures, and workshops, the installation was constantly changing. The voice is no static thing; its observation requires space and time.

Who speaks and who listens? In John Baldessari's video Teaching a Plant the Alphabet, 1972, a houseplant "listens" to a pedantic voice. Unerhorter Bericht uber die deutschen Verbrechen in den kolonisierten Gebieten und iiber das fortwiihrende Wirken der Gewalt bis in die Gegenwart (Unheard Account of German Crimes Committed in the Colonized Territories and of the Ongoing Impact of Violence to the Present Day), 2012, a documentary by Anette Hoffmann, Matei Bellu, and Regina Sarreiter, shows, in contrast, that one can be rendered mute even while speaking. …

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