Voice as Structure

February 1, 2012

Yesterday afternoon, I had the decided pleasure of partaking in a conversation with Natalie Bookchin, the amazing new media artist who is my friend and even sometimes collaborator. We spoke together with the Critical Digital Humanities group at UC Riverside about space, quotation, and community in relation to our critical media practices.

A highlight in our conversation addressed how we both conscientiously move and link our work between “real” and “cyber” spaces always anticipating how they are co-constitutive (thanks to April Durham for this clarification) while trying to maintain a shared, and admitted commitment to the “real” in the last instance (what I called a complex three-way). But I was most inspired by our interactions about the voice, body and structure: how Natalie explains the ways that her voice is visible in the system, tensions, arguments, and connections she draws from the indexical images of faces and words of others from YouTube, while my online feminist mantrafesto didactically insists that the (feminist, raced) body of the user must be seen. Bookchin’s unseen but anchored presence as artist may be the out I’ve been looking for, as participants at my road show have consistently been critical of these lines:

All voices want a body. A body needs to be visible
Visibility allows for warranting


One Response to “Voice as Structure”

  1. April Durham Says:

    This was one of the best talks I’ve been to in years! I especially enjoyed being a peripheral participant in such an intimate conversation. The work both you, Alex, and Natalie are doing is so complex and important to fleshing out what it might mean to be both a body and an avatar in a network of online and offline relations. I particularly appreciated the ideas evoked by the Mantrafesto and have many questions about these mandates relative to my own explorations of communities and collaborative creative practice. The very curious situation of forging inclusive and, as you say, safe but challenging and critical collectives concerned with the ethical considerations of networked life from its most banal to its most poignant, is one that invites, even demands, the kind of gentle but relentless rigor that your work engages.

    I was particularly struck by the comment you made, Alex, about not having a language for articulating what bodies and realities and spaces might be in these mediated worlds we inhabit. I have been thinking a lot, dreamily I admit, about “languagelessness” which is not the same as inarticulation but rather a kind of speaking through silence and static and mis-understanding that keeps us from coming to task- or goal-driven conclusions too quickly. I must admit I’m riffing a bit on Isabelle Stengers, but I have been thinking for a long time about the logics of madness and pain and what it means to speak through layers of language and knowing. So I hope that this is something that will continue to unfold in the work we are all doing.

    A continuing conversation about safety and change, inclusion and embodiment, boundaries and collaboration, voices and warranting that keeps teasing out and finessing these questions is so important to building the kinds of discourse and expression we can deploy to manifest an ethics reflective of the contemporary condition.

    Thanks again so much and I do hope we can host you again to continue to conversation.

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