Composer Marcin Pietruszewski performs dia grammatology of space —a piece for human voice, synthetic speech and computer—with accompanying visuals by Diann Bauer. This is the second in a two-part event co-organised with Helen Hester examining gender, sonic media and the post-human. Diann Bauer is an artist and writer based in London. Her work spans a range of disciplines and has been screened and exhibited internationally, including at Tate Britain, The Showroom and The Drawing Room all in London. Bauer is involved in several collaborative projects including with Laboria Cuboniks with whom she wrote and published Xenofeminism, A Politics for Alienation in
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To tympanize then means to tire, trouble, bother by deafening the tympanum in the ear. Finally, to tympanize means to inflate or bloat the abdomen, stretching it tight with internal air pressure, like the skin of the timpani. In terms of the manual printing press, then, there is not one tympan but several. Two frameworks, of different material, generally wood and iron, fit into one another, are lodged, if one can put it thus, in one another.
One tympan in the other, one of wood the other of iron, one large and one small. Between them, the sheet of paper. Now, we know that feuille is French slang for ear. As a result, the vocabulary of typography is superimposed, as it were, onto the vocabulary of hearing, as though some structural affinity brought the mechanism of the ear together with what is most silent in the typographic mark, with the muffled beats of what remains unheard-of.
So-called phonetic writing. And an examination of the structure and necessity of these nonphonetic signs quickly reveals that they can barely tolerate the concept of the sign itself. Better, the play of difference, which, as Saussure reminded us, is the condition for the possibility and functioning of every sign, is in itself a silent play.
Inaudible is the difference between two phonemes which alone permits them to be and to operate as such. The inaudible opens up the apprehension of two present phonemes such as they present themselves. Two by two they stand guard: at the frontier or before the door, assigned to the threshold in any case, and these places are always dramatic.
The apparatus lends itself to theatricalization, and also to the hallucination of the stage and its machinery: two pairs of pegs hold in suspension a sort of drape, a veil or a curtain. Not closed, just slightly open. We should not, however, rush to conclude that this theatricality, this staged character of quotation marks, is at work in the realm of the visible.
Like other punctuation marks, quotation marks are of course inaudible and cannot be vocalized per se. And these bubbles abound, they proliferate, even and especially when we do not see them. For his part, Derrida, in what was the first session of a seminar he offered in —89, seems to echo this accentual mark around which The Principle of Reason turns. Beyond the contextual reasons that lead Heidegger and Derrida, in the wake of Nietzsche, to probe a given text or phrase in the philosophical tradition, what we must pause over is their very gesture, which, with a punctuating blow, brings out differences in tone where, on first reading, there were none.
Where then do these differences come from? From where do these jumps in intonation emerge? To be sure, this concern is not new in Derrida, who already alluded, here and there, to auditory stereophony in philosophic listening. More precisely, it is divided in two. There is a deaf ear like that of everyone today. The other ear over-hears the unheard through the deafness.
One can easily think of this in terms of an animal that can thus point its auricles in different directions. However, even if he was more attentive than anyone to what is at stake in such a movement, Derrida seems to relativize its import for the ear :.
Does it stem from the fact that physically the ears listen together as long as one is not plugged? What makes Derrida hesitate? Where does this caution, which seems to restrain and limit the scope of his deconstruction of Heideggerian monaurality , come from?
It is as if Derrida had stopped on the threshold of a phenomenon that should have interested him to the highest degree, well beyond its anthropological or zoological empiricism: that is, the discriminating faculty that we call echolocation , which in both animals and humans, resides in the gap between the two tympana. In the animal world, bats are virtuosos of this topographical use of the binaural, which allows them to locate with infinite precision an object on the otoroute of sounds, through the echo of their calls, returned from the target with a slight interaural discrepancy, from one ear to the other.
In humans, some blind people have become famous for developing a similar technique. This was the case, it is said, of the traveler James Holman, who managed to roam the world until his death in And it is also the case of the superhero Daredevil depicted in the eponymous comic published by Marvel beginning in after losing his sight in an accident, Matt Murdock, to use his real name, compensates for his handicap by developing his own particular way of punctuating or percussing his environment, collecting in return echoes that allow him to detect everything that happens within it.
The art of military listening was not to be outdone, of course; the technique of echo-location peaked with equipment whose golden age ended with the invention of modern radar and sonar.
One could say that this echographic auscultation that penetrates the interior of bodies or spaces is the paradigm of listening as clearing a path frayage. It is like the opening of a gallery or tunnel that, starting from a point that is struck, leads into the thickness of a blind area where more or less cavernous bubbles await here and there. And yet, at its auscultating tip, at the stigmatic extremity of its homing device, where it bores and perforates fore et perfore by tympanizing, listening proceeds by gathering the difference between two repercussions.
And if we had to give it a figure, it would be a double point that, unlike the colon in French, deux points , would not have the quality of a re-collection recueillement that brings the two parts together. Thus, it would not be a typographic synonym of equality, 32 but rather the mark of a between-two-punctuations , a sort of instantaneous interval that opens the possibility of all the angles, all the triangulations, in which listening can take place.
The only way to understand it, I believe, is this: precisely because it is structurally binaural, listening—or auscultation—can only play out in the gap between two ears, which therefore means that they cannot simply be disjointed or separate. One might say, playing on another Derrida title, that there is never any mon auralism except of the other. Listening thus opens its path by following the fine line that takes it from percussions to repercussions.
And this rhythm of ours—a sort of structural jump or burst that immediately restitches every step, move, or mark into an angulated playback—I have consistently described as an overpunctuation ; and we must now try to understand its general logic. The overpunctuating beat that affects the tympanic blow—returned either from the other ear or the ear of the other—immediately splits, forming the two foci of an ellipse, of an invisible bubble:.
The point represented above, exactly at the instant that it is perceived, begins to expand in every direction towards infinity: it continues to expand, at the speed of light, for the entire time that these words are being read, but returns to its original essence instantly after the last word has been read. With this work, fascinating in its obviousness and meant to be seen and read at the same time, 34 the American conceptual artist Douglas Huebler —97 was able to capture or encapsulate what we might call the phrasing of the point , understanding the expression in terms of both values of the genitive, the subjective and the objective.
Phrased and phrasing, alternately dilated and contracted, discontracted , the point is caught exemplarily in that movement that I have tried to describe as overpunctuation. And its pulsating mechanism here appears suffused with clarity that even the most didactic discourse would struggle to achieve. Ekphrasis is often defined as the verbal—literary—description of a painting or image.
And if we provisionally stick to this classic definition, 35 the point unfolded then refolded by Huebler is in fact the limit case of ekphrasis, a sort of linguistic stretching or expansion of the point by the point. To approach this question, we will take a long detour, follow what will seem like a Tristramesque digression that in reality will lead us to the heart of what is at stake in ekphrasis: the overpunctuation of the image and, perhaps, the image itself as over-punctuated pulsation.
Preparing the submission was an almost unending task. A bit like in the impossible undertaking of the autobiotristramography, Joseph K. Later in the same chapter, this impossible and yet threatening totalization of the self is no longer inflected in the register of speech or discourse by composing a submission that is doomed to remain unfinished but in the relationship between K.
Titorelli, he believes, he is told, will be able to offer advice leading to his acquittal. Then, when K. Astonished, surprised by this question, which his letter of introduction should have allowed him to avoid, K.
Before the unfinished painting, the dialogue that follows between K. He even appears interested in the canvas on the easel, which, he learns, depicts a judge seated on a throne, adorned with an allegorical figure, half Justice, half Victory. The potential solution for K. Or, more precisely, by the description of an image in the process of being made, since K. Gradually the shadow encircled the head, like an adornment or a sign of distinction.
Around the figure of Justice, however, it remained bright, apart from some imperceptible shading, and in the brightness the figure seemed to advance more than ever, it hardly recalled the Goddess of Justice any more, nor the Goddess of Victory either, rather, it looked completely like the Goddess of the Hunt. These lines look a lot like the old rhetorical figure of ekphrasis, which, so far as I am aware, is rare in Kafka.
While the painting Bild is taking shape sich bildet , the outcome of the trial, happy or unhappy, still awaits. As though the one were substituted for the other. Nothing in the scene escapes these girls who await the moment when K.
Finally, Titorelli seems to resign himself to helping K. Of course, K. Before the canvas, then, as before the court : it is as though, more and more, pictorial frame and judiciary space come to be superposed upon, or substituted for, each other even in the infinite deferral that postpones or delays their closure.
Facing an increasingly discouraged K. There is therefore no other prospect, the painter explains, than endless procrastination. It would almost seem that postponement itself never comes to an end. Like the Tristramesque interinterruptions, it postpones itself before the canvas, before this construction site of the image that is deferred in being formed. In the sequence corresponding to the pages we have just read, we see a close-up of the faces of the girls who appear between the slats in the door and the studio walls, then a low angle medium close-up shot of the painter, with K.
They seem to think. I told you: Ostensible. At the precise instant when the shot reverses to a high angle, there is a moment of wavering in the dialogue: perhaps for the painter to consider alternatives to painting K.
This brief point of indetermination, marked by the change in camera angle, allows us to understand, even more than in the novel—that one must phrase vor der Leinwand , before the canvas, to defer the judgment. One must chatter to space the image and stall the verdict; one must banter bonimenter 41 to put off symbolically the crystallization of the icon of the imaginary law.
But before coming to them, and so as to get a good sense of what is at stake, we must take the time to go briefly through the ancient history of ekphrasis again. Which is the prelude, from afar, to that of the film explainer bonimenteur. It is a way of making phrases of expressing or explaining: phrazein that translates and exhausts a visual representation in language the prefix ek here indicates completion rather than a movement to the outside.
One of the most beautiful ancient ekphrases that I have had occasion to read is by Ovid in the sixth book of the Metamorphoses. Here, briefly, is its context. Arachne is an artist of the loom. She weaves, she works with wool like no other. Her talent is such that the nymphs come to contemplate her admirable work opus admirabile. And, Ovid insists, it gives them pleasure to look at not only the completed cloths nec factas solum vestes spectare but those being made tum quoque cum fierent 6.
Not only the work, then, but—and perhaps most of all—the process. Arachne, however, denies that she owes her gift to Minerva, the goddess who presides over the arts and artisans. Soon, preparations are made for the competition certamina : the looms are set up, the competitors weave texitur , and in the cloths are spun ancient stories vetus in tela deducitur argumentum 6. Arguments or narratives are woven, threaded, into the texture of the cloth. In short, ekphrasis begins the moment the threads of the textile and the textual intermingle in a contexture that complicates the one with the other, that co-implicates weaving and the tessitura of the narrative voice.
Ultimately, the competitors also interweave the linguistic textures of the Latin texere, textura, textus, textum , and the rest, etcetera.
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