Current and Upcoming
Manon de Boer
Mario Garcia Torres
Works by Other Artists
newsletter 40, January 2004
A category of language that links writing and speech.
by Paul Elliman
LONDON, JAN. 2003 - Voice 1: For The Gallery Show you are working with the gallery voice-mail system, installing the voices of other artists as if they were typefaces…
Voice 2: Yes, the outgoing message, which remains Jan’s in a kind of ‘first person’ sense, is now spoken by a range of other voices.
Voice 3: And you call this ‘typographical.’
Voice 2: The human voice is not only an agent for change, it goes through technological changes of its own. The disembodied voices of audio signage – vocal announcements used on public transport, in lifts, hospitals and supermarkets – are already a familiar feature of urban public space. These are all examples of the human voice being produced according to the production modes of the typographical word.
Voice 4: I know that in some countries passengers can arrange travel schedules and book tickets by telephoning and talking to an automated voice recognition system. ‘Julie’, for example, otherwise known as the Voice of Amtrak, is apparently ‘America’s favourite automated speech personality’. And many weather reports are also spoken by electronic voices, as if a politely spoken, geostatic satellite had suddenly decided to present the report itself.
Voice 3: Like HAL, in Kubrik’s movie 2001?
Voice 2. These are specifically machine voices, but I’m also interested in the older use of human voices for machines or infrastructure. And don’t forget HAL was the voice of Shakespearian actor Douglas Rain. In Britain for example, Emma Clarke is a famous voice, even if few people know her name or what she looks like. We hear her on the London Underground, on voice-mail menus, as well as ad spots on the radio. Her voice is employed as a kind of talking typeface. In another example, the voices used on the new New York subway trains were supplied by presenters from Bloomberg Radio. I might like the idea that you can follow these public announcements back to the Mayor himself. As if these were the voices of his authority. But I also like the fact that the voice shouting ‘stand clear of the closing doors please’ in an almost comical midwestern-sounding accent, actually belongs to an English guy. In a way, it’s not even his voice.
Voice 5: You mean it seems to be only a voice, as if once disembodied it belongs to nobody?
Voice 2: All writing starts from and goes back to a body, but somewhere along this circuit our perceptions of what a body can be are changed. If, in a technical sense, I’m interested in the idea of a category of language that links writing and speech, it’s because in every other sense I’m interested in who exactly a voice does belong to.
The Gallery Show* is organised in collaboration with Joe Scanlan. In this show, a series of elements pertaining to the operation of the gallery are highlighted. Ordinarily these elements are subordinate to the main function of the gallery, which is of course showing art. The idea of this program, however, is to focus on the physical aspects of the gallery itself; to investigate the practical decisions that cause a particular space to come to be defined as an art gallery; and to research how these decisions affect the art the gallery shows, the visitors it receives, and the traces they leave.
* Title by Tino Sehgal