Final seminar with Janna Holmstedt, Ph.D.
Candidate in Fine Arts
Opponent: Brandon LaBelle (Berlin), Professor
of New Media at Bergen Academy of Art and Design
Where: Academy of Fine Arts, Umeå University,
Arts Campus, Östra Strandgatan 28 B, in the Seminar room.
When: Tuesday April 4, from 10 a.m.
to 3 p.m.
Preview material: (an essay and film
documentation of artworks), please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
RSVP: If you are not student or staff at the
Academy, please RSVP to email@example.com
If I ask you to listen, what is it that I ask of you - that you
will understand, or perhaps obey? Or is it some sort of readiness
that is required, an openness, or should we call it a displacement?
What does listening open? What occurs with a body in and through
the act of listening in relation to material objects?
In turning our attention to the sonic and the auditory, the
world emerges in a different way. Our field of view spreads out
before us. In contrast, sound envelops us; we swim, even drown in
sound. When it comes to our sensory perceptions, sound travels
faster than light, and sight isn't as trustworthy a guide as we
might like to believe. Sight, however, has long held precedence,
and it is high time to turn our attention to listening.
Holmstedt's artistic research project investigates listening
through practices that are situated in the borderland between human
and non-human, voice and gaze, contemporary art and performing art.
At the heart of the inquiry is a collection of artworks that make
use of voices, bodies, sound, narrative material, and existing or
constructed environments. The final dissertation will consist of a
series of performances and installations made between 2012-2017,
together with an essay that documents the research process.
Holmstedt describes her artworks as 'parasites' and 'set-ups'.
Though she makes extensive use of voices in her work, the main
focus is neither oral performances nor speech, but the presence of
voice in relation to trans-sensory experiences, and how sound and
voice structures audio-visual-spatial relations in concrete
One entry into this complex field is offered by the animal
"voice", and attempts to teach animals to speak English. There is a
specific case that Holmstedt returns to throughout her essay, where
humanoid sounds were found to emanate from a most unlikely source -
the blowhole of a dolphin. Between 1955-1969, a series of
scientific experiments were conducted on dolphins and attempts were
made to teach them speak English. Holmstedt investigates these
experiments, made by Dr. John C. Lilly in USA, while trying to
track down the sound recordings that were made at the 'Dolphin
House' in 1965, when a woman named Margaret Howe lived with the
dolphin Peter for 75 days in a flooded house - in an attempt at
equal co-habitation between woman and dolphin.
Another point of entry is offered by the acousmatic voice, i.e.
a voice split from its body, and a special kind of acousmatic being
that composer and film theorist Michel Chion calls acousmêtre.
Holmstedt discusses the acousmatic situation in relation to her own
encounter with the disembodied voice of Steve Buscemi in a prison
in Philadelphia. This listening experience triggered a fascination
with the voices that walk alongside us, the accompanying voice. At
first this appears to be quite a simple relationship, but it
quickly gets rather complicated. There is something significant in
this alongsideness, the way this sort of accompanying voice changes
one's perceptions and even one's behavior. In both cases, that of
the acousmêtre and the animal voice, the seemingly trivial
act of attending to a recorded voice quickly opens a complex space
of embodied entanglements with the potential to challenge much of
what we take for granted.
Umeå Academy of Fine Arts www.art.umu.se
Janna Holmstedt www.jannaholmstedt.com