Sound body, sound text
On a.rawlings and Maja Jantar
Performance, especially of the type that a.rawlings and Maja Jantar execute, creates a new syntax for sound and text as they swirl vividly around each other. You can see it in the way their bodies move, pulling sound out of lungs through stuttered and sometimes simultaneous arm movements. In their performance, we witness these two bodies on stage, connected through sound and text, looking to physically touch each other at all times. Chests push out or suck in, arms move up or down or yank toward abdomens. Try watching on mute for a minute: a.rawlings’s mouth is incredibly expressive.
The most powerful moments arise from the physical and aural linkages and disruptions that occur throughout the performance. What is happening here? Their hands reach out and sound or silence comes, somehow seeming connected to the movement of the arm. Here: two voices piecing through language simultaneously but also against the other. They’re in different speech patterns, as we all are. We all have cadence and comfort zones for our tongues and limbs. And it’s the moments where the two voices sync up as best two voices can where I feel I lose the most language and enter something else: song? Voice? Sound? Music?
I say lose, but I don’t mean loss. What I lose is the connection between signifier and signified. I reach aporia, a space where all those doubts I have about language become useful through the exhaustion of the words and the sometimes violent, sometimes beautiful separation of word as a vassal of meaning from its aural genetics. Once in this aporatic moment, I’m able to let go of language as a fixed centre for meaning. “I will not ruin the environment.” When synced up, repeated, pulled apart and reconstructed, then pulled apart again, this phrase is ultimately exhausted; it becomes an aural environment of its own that is directly connected to body and time through the various affects and defects of language. This is a gain. So a.rawlings isn’t “exhausting” language in the Deleuzian sense of a total destruction of possibility, but tiring it, weakening it in a productive way that allows us to see possibility in it through the affective and the physical.
What strikes me about a.rawlings’s work is how well situated it is in the body, even when we’re observing her poetry alone on a page. The physicality of sound is what is “here” even as it swirls away from the body and the page. She creates a presence for language that is complex and powerful for the reader and the listener.