[-empyre-] incompatible research practices - week 02 - performing revolutions // noise and gossip

magnus lawrie magnus at ditch.org.uk
Tue Feb 14 04:34:43 EST 2012

Hi Marie,

On Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 11:33:04AM +0000, Marie Thompson wrote:
> Hello everyone, and thanks, Menotti, for the introduction.
> Just to explain a little more about what my research is currently dealing with: having felt suitably alienated by both the academic environments and DIY/experimental music scenes that I regularly inhabit, where I often serve a role as ‘token female’, I have turned my attention to what I see as the intimate relationship between constructions of the feminine.  Without going into too much depth here, it is my contention that the philosophical and social constructions of noise and women occupy similar dualistic categories; women/noise as irrational excess, unreason, lack, chaos, darkness, disorder. Pythagoras spell is out nicely: ‘there is a good principle that created order, light and man and a bad principle that created chaos, darkness and woman.’

It might be quite ok to go into depth about this duality...I am
thinking disorder and the disorganization of (perhaps, noisy) protest
may inform in/compatible methods in artistic research (?).

> I have also been interested in the treatment of women’s sounds as noise. Gossip, for example, is seen as frivolous, extraneous, and meaningless. But it also carries with it the threat of noise; there has long been the suspicion that women talking together are out to cause trouble for men. The dual ‘noisiness’ of women’s speech is nicely implied the Bedouin saying that men’s talk is full, but women’s is empty; whenever two women talk there is the devil between them.
> So, having been asked to contribute a ‘performance’ or ‘intervention’ within the in/compatible PhD workshop session at Transmediale, I decided to do a performance based around these ideas, in particular, foregrounding the connection between women, noise and machines. While my PhD is ‘officially’ theory based, I’m very much active as a practitioner and I thought this might be more suitable/interesting.
> The performance turned out to be a bit of a disaster. First, I was fairly limited in terms of my equipment  - taking home made/ circuit bent electronics on a plane is never a lot of fun in terms of getting through security and I don't perform using a computer. When I arrived, the soundman was not expecting me to play (I think something had got lost in the communication channels) and there was no chance to check levels etc. While I explained very briefly what I was doing to him, I perhaps didn’t make clear enough a necessary component that he had control of: volume. The idea was for the noise suddenly to kick in – quite a sudden interruption, and continue to build. But what actually happened was the noise kicked in, and the soundman turned me right down. From where I was it sounded like the speakers were broken; just omitting a bit of fuzz. There was no bass, none of the higher frequencies and it just sounded a bit rubbish.

Though it's a matter of perspective - I know that some people who saw
it didn't recognize the lack of noise/volume (myself included).

> I should emphasise now that I’m not in any way ‘blaming’ the soundman, or anyone really, for this. He wasn’t to know what to expect and I’m sure that to his ears it sounded like I’d lost control of the volume. It was, admittedly, ironic that I had introduced the performance by speaking for a couple of minutes about women’s silence as noise abatement and the threat of feminine noise towards male order. I do think this was performed beautifully. But, after I got over my slight embarrassment, it did give rise to some lines of thought that might be interesting for discussion. Alongside my usual thoughts about how it is always important to be nice to the person controlling the sound, I was curious about the disjuncture between academic spaces, art spaces and experimental music spaces. As Menotti put it rather brilliantly: ‘we can research noise, but how noisy are we allowed to be?’ To be sure, working in a music department and talking about gender, feminism and noise has often led to my research
>  being treated as a noise in the system. 

I would be glad to hear more about these disparities (architectural,
institutional, power) and about this sense of becoming bodily noise in
the system. I am also wondering about the relation to the person
controlling the sound. How do they play into the network of a
performance - are they managing or maintaing?

>Also up for possible discussion there is ‘preparing for the unprepared’. While I had planned there to be a sudden blast of noise, and while I could have explained to the soundman what was going to happen, how do we deal with these noises in relation to improvised materials? How much information, as performers, do we have to disclose before be play?

I am not certain. I like preparing for the unprepared, though I
suspect I practice more improvisation through disorganizing!

Best wishes,


> I hope there is some content in there that may be of some interest/use for discussion, and its not all noise!
>  Best,
> Marie
> On 13 Feb 2012, at 06:10, Gabriel Menotti wrote:
> Hello!
> Thanks very much to Baruch and César and all the other participants
> for the generous input last week!
> I don’t mean to interrupt the ongoing threads, but it is time to
> introduce some new guests into the discussion: Marie Thompson and
> Ioana Jucan. Both their researches engage with a range of practices
> not entirely unproblematic to academia, such as experimental
> performance and noise improvisation. Biographies below.
> *Ioana Jucan*
> Ioana Jucan is an interdisciplinary artist-researcher primarily
> focused on performance-making, philosophy, and new media. She is
> currently pursuing her Ph.D. degree in Theatre and Performance Studies
> at Brown University. In her research, she is interested in exploring
> the role of performance in the production of epistemological shifts in
> periods marked by major technological breakthroughs, towards
> rethinking the notions of the experimental and the revolutionary. In
> her artistic work, Ioana combines traditional and experimental
> artistic methods in her exploration of performance as a site for the
> creation and transmission of knowledge and as a story-telling device.
> She is an alumna of the Watermill Summer Program 2011 under the
> artistic direction of Robert Wilson. She is also the co-founder and
> artistic director of the Listening LabOratory performance group
> associated with Brown University.
> *Marie Thompson*
> Marie Thompson is a AHRC funded PhD candidate at Newcastle University,
> based in Culture Lab and the International Centre for Musical Studies.
> She has previously studied at the University of Liverpool, where she
> undertook her Baccalaureate in Music/Popular Music and Masters in
> Musicology. Marie is also a musician, interested in noise-based
> musics, circuit-bending and free improvisation. She regularly performs
> solo as Tragic Cabaret, in the duo Ghostly Porters, and as part of
> Newcastle’s audiovisual collective, Kira Kira.
> Also, welcome to Magnus Lawrie, an old member of empyre who also
> participated of the in/compatible research workshop and will be
> co-moderating the debate from now on.
> Best!
> Menotti
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