it speaks of Others Kate Brown & Thomas Hungerford
Airspace Projects 3 - 18 June 2016
it speaks of Others traces the impact of new technologies on the human voice to unpack the way we communicate in the post-digital world. The human voice as a material is innate, rhythmic, bodily, transitory and responsive, conveying meaning and emotion through vocal contours and intonations. We live within a cacophony of human voices, each as idiosyncratic as the next, yet while the human voice is distinctive to its speaker it is also flexible and can be altered with treatment and training. In the contemporary age of disembodied voices where machines speak back to us, the distinctions between the human voice and the automaton is increasingly uncanny. This artwork will reveal the elusive, immaterial and infinitely textured nature of the human voice through non-verbal forms of communication to re-imagine the way these sounds can be traded across bodies.
The human voice can be one of the most profound and idiosyncratic sounds in nature. It can offer clues and revelations about its speaker through tone, pitch and vibration. The utterance of sounds created by the human voice can facilitate instinctive and gestural communicative forms that are traded across bodies. Sounds from the human voice are fragmented within an ever-changing liquid form, liberating the exchange between artist and audience, free from the need for translation.
It Speaks of Others is concerned with creating new points of contact between the way the human voice communicates and the complex and varied ways in which this sound is embodied through both the speaker and listener. There are particular and unique vocal folds that articulate a linguistic signal upon singing, humming, moaning and laughing. These sounds, like words, designate a set of meanings to produce various emotional responses between the speaker and listener. This is an innate biological effect that generates greater significance to the human voice above any other sound.
Oral traditions associated with the passing on of cultural knowledge through storytelling and singing still resonate through art forms like spoken word poetry. This form of poetry uses the voice as an aesthetic tool, articulating and revealing messages through words and sounds. The act of singing or chanting has been interwoven within the history of collective ritual and religious practice across the world. These sounds free communication from rational, concrete meanings into new modes that are expressed instinctively, collectively, intuitively and organically.
There is power in language because it alters the way we communicate and the way we perceive the world. When Ludwig Wittgenstein declared, ‘the limits of my language mean the limits of my world’ he was revealing that different languages have a different set of values which can only be spoken by those understand it.
The human voice also carries power by manifesting communication in the everyday. When this communication fails, it reveals the complexity and vulnerability of language itself. We are living in an age of unprecedented language loss. It is estimated that one language is lost every two weeks around the world; locally we will lose 90 Australian Indigenous languages within the century. This loss is felt not just linguistically but culturally as each language holds unique ways of perceiving sounds and images. At once this absence is felt whilst new languages are fast being born, heralding untouched ways of experiencing words, voices and imagery.
This sonic installation reflects on the dynamic between the way sound exists in space and the effect of sound heard through our bodies. The gallery architecture at AirSpace Projects is situated between exhibitions within a long passageway, a shape that Brown and Hungerford claim will act as the resonating throat of the building. Created from PVC pipe, microphones and fabric, the installation is suspended from the ceiling so that visitors can discover different sounds as they walk around it. It Speaks of Others aims to sit in a space between spoken and listened language to enquire into their complex and nuanced intersections. The human voice as a material is innate, rhythmic, bodily, transitory and responsive. It is unique to its speaker in a way almost no other sound can be. Brown and Hungerford have used their voices as an aesthetic tool to allow the audience to explore multisensory experiences and bodily responses to sound. By negating language, the artists provide a unique perspective that posits new questions about how we communicate in the contemporary world.