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The Unconscious Voice

The voice, which slips from description, is determined as located within the body. An object body but not delineated as clearly as is imagined. The body’s perimeter, its skin, a smooth, erotic container of bodily nerves, a protector from the exterior, peels and sheds and excretes outside its demarcated zone, forming a continuum with the external. The voice finds itself residing not as object within an object body but, alongside the formless spit that releases it, within an ecosystem that has a complicated relationship with the external environment. Thick, muscular, fleshy-toothed, lubricated materials produce a fragile response carried on air; a response that needs to be heard to exist. In search of the origin of this voice that lies within the posed as object body, the foot reveals itself. As the voice finds itself ephemeral in the air, the foot, its bodily opposite, works in direct contrast, grounding the body where it finds itself, in the dirt. The foot roots the individual body; it is an eternal placenta, connecting the living body to the earth. The foot returns the voice through the body to its natural environment. It is through the foot that the voice finds itself.

The psychoanalytical theory and lectures of Jacques Lacan are widely acknowledged as a central reference point for the study of voice. Searching for a representative form as a signifier of voice, the visual imagery of the botanic provides ‘an obscure vegetal resolution,’ which results in an emphatic response from the observer.[1] Connecting Lacanian theory and this representation of the voice and the body it inhabits, to the botanic, the image finds itself in the space of Surrealism. Accessing the Surrealist world as defined by André Breton - a proposal to express, ‘the actual functioning of thought,’– offers a significant platform for practice-led research, through the relationship between the voice, the unconscious and the image.[2] Psychoanalysis and Surrealism are both problematic for an intended feminist reading of the work and a suitable framework is required to address this.

While the voice is located, studied and analysed, possibly as object, in a Surrealist world on a platform of psychoanalysis and philosophy … it is also performed. I am currently working on two installations. The first, Ritual: Chant 1/7b, considers the voice and ritual; triptych and polyptych still images are accompanied by a sound piece. A chant that uses the unconscious voice, with its repetition and absurdity, performed and punctuated by critical theory; a way of presenting research. Quotes are drawn from George Bataille, Visions of Excess (1927-1939), Suzanne Blier, Ritual (1996), Malden Dollar, A Voice and Nothing More (2006), Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which is Not One (1985)and Jacques Lacan, The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (1953). The second installation, Speaking in Tongues, explores the relationship between the voice and the Gaze – both Lacanian objects of anxiety and desire. The moving image is of the eye, the still images are of ears and the performed voice uses the changing grammatical role of the words ardo mardo to create, break and question meaning.

[1] Bataille, G. (1985) Visions of Excess, Selected Writing 1927 – 1939, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pg. 10.

[2] Breton, A. (2011, [1924]) ‘Manifesto of Surrealism’. In A. Danchev (ed.) 100 Artists’ Manifestos from the Futurists to the Stuckists, U.K.: Penguin Random House, pg. 247.

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More about Gabrielle

BSc Edin, MA Open, MSt Oxon, MRes RCA