This text follows ‘Intraplaces’, dialogic experience of place, and geographies of difference, a module led by Dr Elena Cologni, centring around the notion of place and it’s relation to identity. Through the mediums of speaking (documented in audio recording), writing (digitally) and photography, I explored language as a mapping tool (link), as a distance measure (link), as affordance (link) and primarily language as a confined space. Here, I continue with this idea in order to research what is excluded through the confinements of language and how it can become visible by performatively challenging the structure of language itself. It is important to underline that by language in this case I mean English, as spoken and written by a non-native, Greek, woman, within the framework of academia and performance art. My understanding of those elements that become excluded emerges from a negotiation between existing theoretical notions, and findings of a continuous personal engagement with language through performing streams of consciousness, nonstop speaking and nonstop writing.
The key idea of my research derives from the realization that the language in which I am thinking is not the same as the one I speak or write, not in everyday life but especially not within the academic framework. The academic parameters (and not only) often define the language of my thoughts as non-linear, non-sense, grammatically and syntactically in-correct. French feminists Hélène Cixous and Luce Irigaray both suggested that what is excluded from the existing (male dominated) structure of language is the voice of women, with Cixous calling it écriture féminine, and Irigaray parler femme. The nature of écriture féminine and parler femme is strongly related to the stream of consciousness and subsequently to speaking one’s mind. Although I am yet sceptical (or scared) about framing my research as a feminist practice I find the ideas of feminist writers such as Irigaray and Cixous (and many others) very important for my understanding of the constrains, boundaries, origins, and possibilities of language.
Irigaray in This Sex Which Is Not One, draws a parallel between fluids and the voice of women. In the chapter The Mechanics of Fluids she investigates how liquids are misinterpreted within the logic of science, and how the inadequacy of the logic to understand and explain them ends up defining their real physical qualities as non-existent (Irigaray, 1977). Following the example of fluids she explains how the male-constructed language system mutes or exiles the feminine voice; How the structure names wrong everything it cannot define, with ears ‘clogged with meaning’ (Irigaray, 1977, p.113) failing to see the comprehensibility, the continuity and the linearity of the fluid feminine voice. Following a similar approach Hélène Cixous in The Laugh of the Medusa, calls women to actively and confidently write, in order to ‘draw their story into history’ (1975, p.881).
Wanting to explore the boundaries of language as a confined space I therefore place my stream of consciousness within performance, or per-formance as philosopher Boyan Manchev calls ‘the activity of form that searches for its limits’ (2015, p.18). I aim to speak about language as a confined space through a language confined to my own constrains/rules, a simultaneous through and about. This exploration led to an online-writing-performance-lecture on the platform of Google Docs, lasting 20 minutes.
The self-imposed constrains where:
never using backspace / never editing / no autocorrect
never using the past tense / all verbs appearing in the present tense
The choice of never using backspace aims to highlight the unedited nature of the language of my thoughts and to challenge the often extensively edited language that appears in writing within but also outside academia.The choice of excluding the past tense relates to the notion of the continuous present as defined by Gertrude Stein ‘a continuous present is a continuous present’ (1926, p.220). As well as the proposition of an archaeological field named the archaeology of the contemporary past, specifically archaeologist Gavin Lucas’ exploration of contemporaneity and his argument that ‘all archaeology is the archaeology of the contemporary past insofar as the archaeological record is contemporary with us’ (2013). Unfortunately I do not have the space to further unpack in this text the importance and understanding of the continuous present within my research.
The idea of self-imposing constrains in language is highly influenced by the work of French writer Georges Perec and his multiple experiments of constrained writing, such as The Void, a novel from which he totally excludes the letter e. I see this exploration of the structure of language being similar to an exploration of a familiar physical space such as my home. By moving on the edges of comprehensibility, sense, and grammatical/syntactical correctness I aim to unclog the eyes/ears/minds of the reader (and mine too) from the meaning that they are subjected to, and search for alternatives in how the language of thoughts and perhaps women’s writing is being constantly defined in the negative.
Link to final performance documentation. I chose the documentation of my nonstop writing-performance-lecture to be the complete text rather than a video of it being written. The reason for that is that I see more possibilities of activation, contemporaneity, and the continuous present being understood, through the remains of my performance rather than an attempt for later viewers to spectate it as if they were present in the moment it was created.
P.S. A quote to finish: ‘ And if, by chance, you were to have the impression of not having yet understood everything, then perhaps you would do well to leave your ears half-open for what is in such close touch with itself that it confounds your discretion. (Irigaray, 1977, p.118)
Cixous, H., Cohen, K. & Cohen, P., 1976. The Laugh of the Medusa. Signs, 1(4), pp. 875-893.
Irigaray, L., 1977. This Sex Which Is Not One. New York: Cornell University Press.
Lucas, G., 2013. The problem of contemporaneity in archaeology. New York, Institute of Fine Arts.
Manchev, B., 2015. ‘The New Arachne: Towards a poetics of dynamic forms’, in Performance Research 20:1, 18-26.
Perec, G., 1995. . A Void. (La Disparition.) Translated by Gilbert Adair. London: Harville Press.
Stein, G., 1926. Composition as Explanation. In: J. Retallack, ed. Gertrude Stein: Selections. Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 215-225.