Vocal Stresses
Lecture series on the productions and politics of Voice
W139, Amsterdam
February 22, 23, 24, 2015

Organized by Brandon LaBelle in collaboration with DNK.


Breath expelled, forced out, vibrations in the throat, the pressures and pleasures that excite the glottis, to finally exit in the form of voice, to enter into that field of intensity known as public life. As Steven Connor suggests, the voice is essentially the result of physical strains and stresses.

Taking this as a fundamental perspective, the lecture series seeks to consider the intensities of voice, as a vocal stress that moves from the body into the social frictions of being amongst others. Voice is precisely a strained and flexed movement between an inside and an outside, passing from one to another, and carrying forward urgencies of identity, meaning, and the affective labors central to locating oneself. These vocal frictions and performativities will be elaborated by three artists whose practices show us the complexity surrounding what it means to speak.


Brandon LaBelle / Lexicon of the Mouth
Sunday, February 22nd - 7pm

Author and artist Brandon LaBelle will launch the lecture series Vocal Stresses with a performative lecture related to his recent publication Lexicon of the Mouth: Poetics and Politics of Voice and the Oral Imaginary. The third publication of Brandon LaBelle's sonic research and auditory investigations, following works addressing sound art and sonic cultures, LaBelle brings his attention to questions of voice, orality, and cultures of the paralinguistic.

Lexicon of the Mouth surveys the oral cavity as the central channel by which self and surrounding are brought into relation. Leading to questions of embodiment and sensuality, attachment and loss, locution and the nonsensical, LaBelle expands understandings of voice to support a range of oral expressions by which acts of agency and communion may be found. Lexicon of the Mouth aims for a viscous, poetic, and resonant discourse of subjectivity, detailed through the “micro-oralities” of laughing and whispering, stuttering and reciting, eating and kissing, among others. Subsequently, voice and vocality are unsettled in favor of an epistemology of the oral, highlighting how the tongue, the lips, and the throat enable powerful forms of resistance, attachment, and conversation, as well as radical imagination and creativity. Lexicon of the Mouth brings us to the center of an oral territory, revealing the poetics and politics that perform as soon as we open our mouth.

Brandon LaBelle is an artist and writer working with sound culture, voice, and questions of agency. He develops and presents artistic projects and performances within a range of international contexts, often working collaboratively and in public. Recent projects include "Civic Center", La Casa Encendida, Madrid, "Sixth Housing Estate", South London Gallery, London, and "Hobo College", Marrakech Biennial parallel project. His previous books, Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (2006) and Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life (2010) are also published by Bloomsbury. He is the editor of Errant Bodies Press and Professor at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Norway.

Piersandra Di Matteo / Capturing the Voice
Monday, February 23 - 7pm

The capture of speech, and the ineradicable materiality of the voice. Turning to examples taken from contemporary theatre, the voice can be seen as a specialized semantic dispersion within the body, a manifestation of the split between the utterance and what is being uttered, between the phonetic organs (in the oral cavity) and the fact of speaking, breaking the silence in the act of stating something. The performance scene becomes a lens through which the physiological events occurring inside/outside the mouth appear: laryngeal mutilations and oral mimicry, esophageal pulsation and spastic aphonia. The tangible materiality proceeding from the body-voice to the voice-object – a vector of linguistic erosion, a derailment of and in language – reveals a dismembering-memberment of the subject. Therefore, what kind of subjectivity do these cases enact?

Piersandra Di Matteo is a performing arts theorist, dramaturge and independent curator. A researcher based at the Department of Visual, Performing, and Media Arts of the University of Bologna, her work concerns contemporary theatre and performative formats, linguistics and contemporary continental philosophy. She is currently focusing on the politics of the voice. Her essays have been published in various international magazines, art catalogues, collective works and multimedia projects, and she regularly takes part in international conferences. A theoretical consultant for various European artists and performers, she has dedicated herself to projects involving performance, critical writing and curating. Since 2008, she has been working as dramaturge with Romeo Castellucci. She has recently won the UBU Prize for "Best curatorial-organisational project 2014" for the multi-format project E la volpe disse al Corvo. Corso di linguistica generale (Bologna, 2014).

Imogen Stidworthy /Vocal Traumas
Tuesday, February 24 - 7pm

Imogen Stidworthy will talk about traumatised material in her work and research, from the traces of experience inscribed into physical materials and objects to the voice itself. She develops dialogues, or "being with" others who exist in different paradigms of language; currently she is engaging with autistic adults and the people who care for them, with the question: what happens to our own language in the face of others who have no practice of language at all? Other work draws on conversations with ex-soldiers, for whom experience has gone beyond the capacity of language to make sense of it and who now suffer from PTSD (The Work), or on the nature of dialogue itself as a space of translation, in the exchange between a man with aphasia and a speech therapist as they discuss the potential for a purely visual language (An Introduction to Bliss for Two Voices with Chorus). What is at stake in these encounters between different orders of meaning, and what are the subjective and political dimensions of the voices we hear?

Imogen Stidworthy works across different media including installation, sound works and films; her work has been shown recently in group exhibitions such as Listening, a Hayward Touring exhibition at The Bluecoat, Liverpool and in 2014 at Baltic 39, Newcastle; The Inner Acoustic at Errant Bodies, Berlin (2015); Sao Paulo Bienal 2014, Through a Glass Darkly, STROOM, The Hague and Passages at AKINCI Amsterdam (2014); Bergen Triennale 2013, Busan Biennale 2012, Oktober Salon Belgrade 2011 and Documenta 12, 2007. Recent solo exhibitions include AKINCI Amsterdam and Galerie Raum mit Licht, 2013; Matts Gallery London, 2012; Kunstpavillon, Innsbruck and Arnolfini, Bristol, 2010. She curated BLACKOUT! at ERC Liverpool (2013), In the First Circle, in collaboration with Paul Domela, at Fundacio Antoni Tapies, Barcelona (2011-12) and Die Lucky Bush, at MuKHA, Antwerp (2008). Her work is represented by Matts Gallery London, AKINCI Amsterdam and LUX London.