QUAND ILS PARLENT      WHEN THEY SPEAK



This project aims to apprehend the relationship between performativity and political expression, through a theoretical and practical exploration of political speeches performed in public space.
I consider any speech-act as a performance, and try to highlight how they function, affect the audience, or else, to cite John L. Austin's book, “How to do things with words”. Performativity, both in a linguistic and artistic sense, is the keyword of my questioning. Assuming that every speech is an answer, to another speech, to an event, to a situation, I bring together discourses produced by the mainstream politics as well as alternative contexts.


When they speak / Quand elles parlent

A performance

First try out at Jeux Isthmiques Festival, Paris, June 2021

 

 

 

An attempt to engage my own body with issues such as embodiment, (re)enactment, and exposure.

A montage of written, uttered, readable and audible texts by Judith Butler, Hannah Arendt, Sophie Wilmès, Bintou Touré (La Voix des Sans-Papier), Queen Elizabeth, Audrey Lorde, Las Tesis (Chilean feminist collective). 

A triple layered event, in which the substance and coherence of speech is at stake. Questions arise, such as : who is speaking, where, how speeches respond to each other, what are the connections between the words, the orator and the context, and what happens if these connections are missing or twisted?


 

 

 

When they speak

in Romania

 

During two months, Bucharest has been the territory of an extended laboratory in which I have transported and translated my practice. 

 

The restitution of this residency has been presented at GoodBuy Gallery in Bucharest.

 

 

 

 Research residency, Bucharest, April-June 2021

 

 

 

While discovering and mapping this new political landscape, I have connected with several political

actors and interviewed them.

I invited them to give a personal definition of a list

of chosen words. Through the mingling of their

answers, the diversity of their approaches and experiences towards engagement and public

expression appear.

 

Participants : Elena Ghioc, Eugen Matei, Dorin Minea, Răzvan Pascu, Veda Popovici, Elena Trifan.

 

    Când vorbesc...

 

 

 

I have designed specific spaces and installations to make, create and share new experiences of listening, watching, and speaking, by placing the public in a participatory posture.

The speeches re-activated have been selected according to my investigations and own understanding of the political context of the city and the country. I have tried to hear and disclose plurality and contrasts, looking for voices and bodies carrying alternate narratives and discourses.

 


                                                     What we call  violence...   

 

                                            France—Chile. 2018-2021.

 

 

Calling things by their names.
                     Knowing what these names mean.
                      Claiming the use of these names.

 


On July 28 2020, the French Minister of the Interior, pronounced a speech in which he refuted the existence and the very term of "police violence", under the pretext that such violence would be "legitimate". He even dares to use the expression "I'm suffocating" to qualify his own sensation hearing this term.
He justifies his statement by mentioning Max Weber, who proposed a definition of the State, as a "human community, which within a determined territory (...) claims for itself and succeeds in imposing the monopoly of legitimate physical violence".
 
This declaration has obviously been very criticized, because of the indecency of the words used, in relation to several victims of police violence who died by suffocation and because of the abusive misinterpretation of Max Weber's words.
It is also a dangerous declaration because it is an intent of stealing  language, the basic means of expression, of violating the right of people to name facts, acts and experiences they need to report.
If police violence can’t be called violence, how do we call it, how do we make it known, how do we fight it?
 
The dictionary definitions are clear, there is no contradiction between the terms “violence” and “police”, or “violence” and “legitimate”, and no equivalence between the terms “police” and “legitimate”. Legitimacy in this case cannot be a justification and even less a negation of acts of violence.

About 12.000 km away, in Chile, on November 2019, the feminist collective Las Tesis denounced loud and clear, acts of violence and rape, committed by the Police and tolerated or supported by the State.


Facts are called by their name, no euphemism in their words.
 
The strength of their performance  Un violador en tu camino  has crossed borders, reached a number of countries around the world, and is still performed today.

Video de la cuenta Youtube del colectivo Las Tesis.

                         Lyrics of Un violador en tu camino


Speech by G. Darmanin

 

"Quand j’entends le mot ‘violences policières’, moi,  personnellement, je m’étouffe!
La police exerce une violence, certes,  mais une violence légitime. C’est vieux comme Max Weber. Après, elle doit le faire de manière proportionnelle, elle doit le faire de manière encadrée. Que quelques personnes le fassent en dehors des règles déontologiques: la sanction doit être immédiate.
Mais il est normal que les policiers et gendarmes soient armés, interviennent par la force, pour que justement la force reste à la loi de la République, et pas à la loi des bandes ou des communautés.
Donc par principe, l’idée même de violence policière me paraît être totalement antinomique, d’utiliser ces deux mots, voilà. Il peut y avoir des dérives, qu’on doit sanctionner, et je pense que le gouvernement les sanctionne et s’il le fait pas, il faut que la presse, les syndicats, les parlementaires rappellent évidemment, à la hiérarchie policière, au ministre de l’intérieur, ce qu’ils doivent faire, et c’est bien légitime. Mais je ne pense pas qu’il faille comparer les violences."

 

 

 

 

 

A story of speech acts

 

Definitions. Larousse french dictionary.

Violence

nom féminin

Légitime

adjectif

Policier-ière

adjectif

"El patriarcado es un juez, que nos juzga por nacer

y nuestro castigo es la violencia que no ves.
El patriarcado es un juez, que nos juzga por nacer

y nuestro castigo es la violencia que ya ves.
Es feminicidio.
Impunidad para el asesino.
Es la desaparición.
Es la violación.
Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba, ni cómo vestía.
Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba, ni cómo vestía.
Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba, ni cómo vestía.
Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba , ni cómo vestía.
El violador eras tú.
El violador eres tú.
Son los pacos (policías).
Los jueces.
El estado.
El presidente.
El estado opresor es un macho violador.
El estado opresor es un macho violador.
El violador eras tú.
El violador eres tú.
Duerme tranquila niña inocente, sin preocuparte del bandolero,

que por tus sueños dulce y sonriente vela tu amante carabinero.
El violador eres tú.
El violador eres tú.
El violador eres tú.
El violador eres tú".


Brussels, April 5 2020. Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès.

Brussels, April 20 2020. Undocumented migrants protest. Rabia Benkh.

Brussels, June 7 2020. Black Lives Matter Demonstration. Bintou Touré.

Brussels, June 9 2020. Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès.

 

My practical approach consists in collecting video recordings of speeches, and re-activating them. By re-activation, I mean here, making visible and audible this speeches again, transposing them to different contexts and medium, including their re-enactment by other bodies and voices. The idea is to unravel the components of these verbal objects, and by shifting this components, improve their  effects. I will focus on embodiment and enactment, considering the physical experience, that both receiving and delivering a speech implies, as a crucial aspect of its meaning and impact. I will wonder how voices are empowered, how words are uttered, how bodies are framed.

Black Lives Matter demonstration. Brussels. June 9 2020.

In front of th City Court.

On a placard, I read : " I will use my voice to amplify yours". 

It reminds me of the "human amplification" used  during protest movements like Occupy Wall Street (US) and Nuit Debout (FR). 

When orators speak, people close to them repeat their sentences all together, so that people further away can hear them.

 

 

 

 

It means, first, that everything that appears in public can be seen and heard by everybody and has the widest possible publicity. For us, appearance—something that is being seen and heard by others as well as by ourselves—constitutes reality.

 

Hannah Arendt - The Human Condition

Since a few years, especially in the current post-quarantine context, we are assisting what seems to be a global political awakening. Many voices that remained un-audible, because of gender, class, or race issues, are raising. I decided to focus on the specific situation of Belgium, my residency country. From my collecting work, antagonistic figures arise, like the Prime Minister of the government, or the spokespersons of an illegal immigrants organization, both dealing with the Corona crisis. By confronting and commenting their speeches, I try to reflect on their impossible dialogue.

How to do things with words?

Currently, I am working on different forms of interactive installations that aim to re-activate a selection of speeches. They are based on audios, transcriptions and descriptions of video-recorded speeches, collected during and after the confinement between March and July 2020. The idea is to create the possibility of making the experience of these speeches in another context and situation, in an unusual embodied way. An invitation to hear, think and feel differently what is at stake in these speaking engagements.

 

I think of this bodily exploration of speeches, as a way of experiencing what can men do when they speak, beyond theoretical assumptions. I wish it might open a space for a creative and critical practice of listening, speaking, and engaging, for an encounter between poetical and political expressions, that are liable to empower each other.

What is public space?


Yellow : Undocumented migrants protest

Blue : Prime minister headquarter

While discourses of power are characterized by their uniqueness (body and location), discourses of protest are characterized not only by the plurality of bodies, but also of places. As if the multiplication of these "spaces of appearance" were the condition of this very appearance.

 

“the Polis, properly speaking, is not the city-state in its physical location; it is the organization of the people as it arises out of acting and speaking together, and its true space lies between people living together for this purpose, no matter where they happen to be.”


Hannah Arendt - The Human Condition

 


When bringing together many speeches, produced both in the frame of state institutions or mainstream political parties, and in the frame of citizens associations or militant networks, the first thing that strikes is the contrast between bodies. On the one hand, single bodies, supported by a whole infrastructure, the media and financial means, on the other hand, collective bodies, supporting each other, creating their own means for visibility and audibility. If institutions representatives are hosted in dedicated spaces of expression, citizens and protestors have to conquer them.

        Photos of speeches collected on the internet,

        from october 2018 to october 2020, in Belgium, France and Chile.

 

Excerpts of a talking constellation

In this context, concepts like speech-act or performativity, both originating from linguistics, can't be thought outside of social contexts.
Indeed, the performativity of speech-acts, depends on a lot of conditions that will allow them to be effective. And these conditions are not accessible to every one.


Published in  TYPP, the Yellow Press, Sint-Lucas, Antwerp, 2021.

 The five people involved in this conversation are friends, part of what I have called my ‘talking constellation’. A constellation that started spreading questions and answers all around me in March 2020, turning into constant interpellation. These voices echo each other, directly or indirectly, through social networks, through my ears and eyes. The following text intended to share an insight into this constellation, bringing together some of these voices, their energy, tempo and velocity.

 

 Just an echo...         

 


 

 

 

"Take care of you, take care of others" 

How to reactivate words

that are not mine?

Can I reapeat them?
Can I  reenact speeches of people speaking in their own name, whose reality is so different from mine?

 

 


It came to my mind that the term "monoculture" could be suitably applied to the linguistic field that have been growing during the past year. The corona crisis has given birth, not only to certain words, but to a whole series of things that have to be said. The official discourses therefore seem to be interchangeable. This royal speech, composed in the manner of a potpourri, is an example.

A royal speech by

Elizabeth (GB)

Philippe (BE)

Willem Alexander (NL)

Henri (LU)