Doktoratsprojekt künstlerische Forschung

Thou Shalt Not Speak – The voice-over and the exclusion of the world

Erik Bünger

This artistic research project focuses on the voice-over as an instrument of domination, and envisions an artistic practice, whose aim it is to use this instrument against itself. The term ‚voice-over‘ here, takes on a meaning, which is broader and simultaneously more narrow than the ordinary sense of the word. It refers – not to off-screen or off-stage commentary – but to a specific arrangement of the relationship between voice, audience and world: the power of one singular voice to take over and control the perceptions of an audience. This arrangement is epitomized by the disembodied voice-overs of actors and TV-anchors, whose words control the audience’s perception of the action on screen. But it may, just as well, be observed in the embodied voice-over of a lecturer, who commands the auditorium’s perception of a presentation screen and, in extension, its perception of the world outside the frame of that screen. A key premise of my research is that the voice-over does not exercise its power by giving voice to the world it addresses, but by taking voice away. By speaking of the world, the voice-over commands the world to silence. The research will be carried out through the production of a series of lecture performances and videos, that employ voice-over selfreflectively, in order to bring this exclusion of the world to the very center of attention. But more than just laying bare the mechanisms of this power, I want to explore the possibility of introducing a short-circuit into the system. If the voice-over addresses what it simultaneously excludes, then it incorporates into its own linguistic system something that, in the last analysis, resists language. Is it possible to make this resistance into an internal obstacle by which the voice-over itself is blocked?