Digital ventriloquism: Practices of vocal resistance and self emancipation

White, Jonathan Barry (2024) Digital ventriloquism: Practices of vocal resistance and self emancipation. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The spoken voice has long been regarded as the primary mode of self-expression, affecting as a grain or a body that carries its own fingerprint, yet an uncanny and disquieting vocal operation is uncovered when speech is displaced and ventriloquised through recording. When the spoken voice is disembodied, recorded and thrown back towards the body through audio playback, language is spatialised and the voice becomes rhythmic and kinaesthetic, inflicting an acousmatic violence on the human subject as if from a God or Master — one that is outside and inside the speaker’s visible body at once.

This practice research investigates the extent to which subjects can “have done” (Artaud, 1947/2021) with this godly voice, exploring how digital audio technology can help a literally present performer to resist the affective power of masterful speech. I approach these questions through a concept I call digital ventriloquism, which employs practical techniques such as live voice sampling, lip — synch and digital speech manipulation onstage. These help place the spoken voice into different spatial and temporal proximities alongside the live body, seeking to unveil the spell cast on subjects by logocentric speech.

I reveal recorded speech as a coercive agent that tries to puppeteer human subjects, promising them a sense of subjective unity — a ‘proper’ identity and a ‘whole’ body — for the price of aural obedience. This allows me to shed new light on “the metaphysical legacy of essences” (Labelle, 2010, 167), complicate normative understandings of selfhood and explore how the “capitalist sorcery” (Pignarre and Stengers, 2011) of masterful speech can be contested in live performance.

This thesis argues that if subjects can resist the self-controlling voice of the Master through the practice of digital ventriloquism, an openness to the multiplicity of voices within and beyond the human body becomes possible. I propose a radical rethinking of the affective power of recorded speech, to catalyse new ethical and political possibilities in a posthuman present requiring decentralised, interconnected and emancipated understandings of subjectivity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Lavery, Professor Carl and Bachmann, Dr. Michael
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84367
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2024 13:47
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2024 14:10
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84367

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