Valentina Miorandi (DAI, 2016): "Is meaning the property of individual words or an ongoing performance of the world?"
Excerpt from Valentina's 20 minute presentation for Speaking Without Thumbs - DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, July 2016
Heuristic records 2015 - ongoing
Before the lecture performance started, everyone was handed one sheet of paper that looked like it could be a copy of the artist’s notebook. Upon closer inspection, it appeared that a number of versions had been handed out: not everyone had the same page.
A video projected on the large screen showed cross-faded images of people talking or being interviewed. The faded-out images and noisy recordings made it hard to catch full sentences or thoughts; phrases broke free from their authors and entered a vast and senseless realm. As soon as the video ended, Valentina walked confidently through the room and placed herself between the audience and the video projector, casting a shadow of her figure in background. Wearing headphones while pacing the floor with her laptop open and in use, Valentina made a spatial and experiential division between herself and the audience. She accentuated this division by reacting to what she was hearing in her headphones (precisely what we miss). It is unclear how she is responding to the sound. Is she mimicking what she hears or answering a question? She makes sounds and speaks a few words, which are punctuated by silences. As an audience, in short, we are listening to someone else listening. She has adopted a mediating role. In the second part of the lecture-performance, Valentina broke the fourth wall and spoke to the audience directly, inviting them to inhabit the sounds she makes with their own vocal apparatuses. She asked the audience members to come closer and they complied, standing up in an informal group and imitating the sounds, words, and paralinguistic activity. “If I look after the sounds,” she asks, “will the senses look after themselves?”
Ekaterina Degot interpreted this performance lecture as being against analysis, understanding and dissection. She admitted to have been thinking about other things during the performance – (“this is how I listen to music”). Compared to an exhibition, where you can leave at will, “here in the performance we are coerced, we have to be here. So in these participative works, where we are together – if you suddenly walk out it makes a big statement.” Degot remarked that the presentations carried out on this day have mostly gone toward performance and this is an “expression of temporality and mortality of an artwork. Performance adds to this poignancy [and] leaves it a little enigmatic.”
In response to the question Valentina asked about sounds, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung reflected, “I was thinking about the sounds we make and how they influence subjectivities.” He expressed an interest in how the bodily sounds we make (willingly or unwillingly) impact us. Since there is a tendency to control those sounds, he began thinking about some of the sounds Valentina made and had asked the audience to mimic in the performance, noting that some of these sounds are usually only made in private spaces. Here, however, they were expressed collectively. Considering the point of utterance and the reception he wondered aloud whether the role Valentina played was that of emitter or transmitter, and came to the idea that “of course it is both – the artist calls on the audience to come and repeat.” Finally, the work made him think about embodied sound, that is, the idea that “sound is a medium that gets into another medium – the body.”
Rachel O’Reilly took an interest in the relationship that this presentation established between nonsense, dialogical imagination and erasure. She pointed out that everyone in the audience was given a different text by Valentina, and that not all of the texts were legible. This illegibility was connected to what she saw as the anxiety and challenge surrounding information transfer in education. She linked the concept of illegibility (which amounts to erasure) to the “cacophony of talking heads in the discursive educational situation and your [video] overlay and whatever you are hearing through your headphones.” She asked, “What is speech imagery?” or “the oral image of language?” and reflected on Valentina’s sensitive handling of the problem of information transfer with regard to the desire and goal of transformation within and by education.
Marina Vishmidt looked at Valentina’s artistic role in this performance-lecture as a medium, translator, or vessel. Picking up on O’Reilly’s comments, she looked at how Valentina used the audio-image/vocal-image. For Vishmidt, an audio-image could be something that one encounters while editing video or sound on a timeline (where other senses are required in order to work with audio). “What is the process of translation? Where is the continuity between research and performance and where do you locate the breaks?” Vishmidt pointed out that she always tries to respond to the lecture performances by finding allegorical moments that locate a work and point to something beyond. “What are the stakes of having this opacity in the continuum of research and performance or research and education?
About: Speaking Without Thumbs
Valentina Miorandi's website