Rui Vilela: As the Word was Told. Monologue and the Valence of Two Voices


Independent reviewer: Mladen Dolar

Arnhem, June 2012


I have chosen to begin this thesis from the sentence "But we are so different . . ." in order to analyse how a dialogue emerges from its ellipsis. Because a dialogue is made out of, at least, two voices, the thesis also describes the origin of the voice. While being created, the two voices still encapsulated within one, that of the writer. When written down, uttered, they become distinct. In order to better understand why a voice is interchangeable between bodies, I have analysed two scenes of the film Persona, by Ingmar Bergman. In these scenes, and through Elisabeth's character, it becomes clear why gaze and gesture are idiosyncratic but not the voice. Because a voice is volatile, dialogues emerging within the artwork do not need to follow the reasonable flow of communication. Instead, what characters say, in its entirety, becomes the essence of the artwork.


The thesis by Rui Vilela for the completion of his MFA studies at DAI presents a very sustained engagement with the problem of the voice, the dialogue, ellipsis, silence, writing, gesture, communication. The focal problems are interrelated and the author addresses very well the web of their interconnections and overlaps, indeed it is rather the 'same' problem that he pursues through a number of different angles and shadings. The thesis displays a very high quality of writing and reflection as well as a vast acquaintance with a number of relevant sources and theoretical tools, ranging from Derrida, Deleuze, Agamben to Lacan and Nancy. He treats these authors in circumspect manner, since this is not a theoretical thesis, but a reflection that uses various concepts that appear necessary for tackling a particular problem. The two strong points of the thesis are, first, the treatment of ellipsis, the three dots, the silences that interrupt and suspend communication, where the meanings, the affects, the desires flood in and simmer, the enigmatic and far-reaching breaks and silences pregnant with effects and consequences. And second, the analysis of some sequences of Bergman's Persona, which presents an apposite and ostensive staging and enactment of such a break that the author treats lucidly and with precision. But there are some parts in the thesis where the precision is somewhat blurred and the writing runs the danger of becoming too abstract. M.D.