Roland Barthes refers to speech as the theatrical and unpredictable other of the written word, freed of the former’s “tactical” feature. The semiotic conclusion is that the written word introduces “a new image-repertoire, that of ‘thought’” (Barthes, “The Grain of the Voice”). In our encounter with documentary film and media, the experience of first person testimony, framed confessions and forged memory work present us with an “aesthetics of ambiguity” (Waughan, 1999) where the logics of Barthes’ binary is upset, if not ruled out. It is very often the case that the documentary attraction of framed speech, or of an unfolding confession, is invoked by the paradoxical combine of the spontaneous gesture of the filmed subject, and the intentional framing and editorial control of the filmmaker. What is often at stake in the experienced realm of cinema is precisely, as Jean Epstein suggested, “a certain degree of contradiction between image and speech, of falsehood between the eye and the ear”, and, we may add, between what the person says and her gestures, between the words and the character of the voice (Epstein, 1955).
The aim of my paper will be to exemplify documentary approaches to memory work where strategies of re-enactment provide a means to escape the conventions of the talking head. Instead, closer attention is paid to the unfolding of speech, the drama of body language and telling moments of silence, the texture and character of a specific voice, and the filmmaker-subject encounter, which may not be seen or heard, but which may add to the experience of the film. References to scholarly work on the aesthetics and ethics of documentary film and media (Renov, Honess Roe, Sobchack, Marks, Piotrowska, Wahlberg) will meet with my Epstein-inspired notion of phonogénie which I discuss in relation to the gallery films by the Swedish artist Tova Mozard, in particular Stora Scenen (2011) and Repertoar/Repertoire (Tova Mozard, 2013).
2014. 1-15 p.
Face Value, Workshop II. Köpenhamn, 9-10 okt, 2014