“The bodily process of speaking – that defining human faculty – was perverted and distorted in the most literal, material sense in the ravings of possessed girls. Dramatic physical symptoms revealed that the Devil had invaded the victim’s speech. One victim’s tongue clung to the roof of her mouth, “not to be removed” though “some tried with their fingers to do it.” (Kamensky)
We frequently read about the social construction of a standard for beauty and attractiveness, and most of us are familiar with terms like “body fascism” “lookism” or “the body beautiful”. However we are less familiar with the social construction of a standard for speech, or as I like to call it “vocal supremacy”.
This is a topic I am exploring in my current artistic enquiry on the ‘non-normative voice’ and how it’s sonic reference points redefine selfhood – by both interrupting our understanding of personhood and also presenting a possibility of transcending vocal perfection.
Beyond Vocal Norms explores both how we sound (vocal) and what we say (verbal), with three interconnected strands.
Strand 1: Exploring historic notions of fluency and current expectations to ‘talk normal’.
Strand 2: Recreating and re-imagining the ‘perfect voice’
Strand 3: Mapping “dys-fluency”/ fluency, movement and the unspoken language of the othered body.
Work so far ….
For Strand 1, I have presented my research at academic conferences, such as ‘Taking Space’ ‘Beyond Words’ and ‘Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane’. A blog summarising my research can be found here. I have also produced ‘The Non-Normative Speaking Clock’ (sound art) in collaboration with Lewis Sykes and Drake Music Innovation Lab North.
‘The Non-Normative Speaking Clock’
This sound piece came out of a series of R&D sessions between myself, technologist Lewis Sykes and the Drake Music Innovation Lab North. We settled on the “speaking clock” – the iconic British Telecom service which began on 24 July 1936 and receives 12 million calls a year – as a classic example of the hegemony of the ‘normative voice’. See the demo by Lewis Sykes.
Changemakers Lab METAL
For Strand 3, I will be working with METAL in November 2017 on a bespoke R&D residency in collaboration with Live Artist, Gareth Cutter. We will be exploring concepts of the ‘othered body’ and how we can utilise movement (disjointed or otherwise) as the main tool for interaction.