Programme: Art - PhD/MPhil

Start date: September 2015

Mode of study: Full time

Research title: Mouthwork: Public Address and Laboured Expression

Jude Browning is an artist and writer based in Glasgow whose research examines the voice and acts of writing and performance. She is the recipient of the Edinburgh College of Art Scholarship 2015-2018.​

Recent events include Public Voices in collaboration with Naomi Pierce (funded by SGSAH), Morning Routines Under Microscopy The Cooper Gallery and Tayside Deaf Hub, To write, to speak, to publish, to move CCA Creative Lab residency with Emmie McLuskey, Figure 4 Baltic Project Space, Society of Art and Research Writing as Practice, Practice as Writing (The Hague) and projects with Wysing Arts Centre, X Marks the Böxship, The Whitechapel Gallery and PaperWork Magazine.

Mouthwork: Public Address and Laboured Expression is a practice-led PhD comprised of a thesis, written prose and a monologue performance. The interlinked three-part project investigates recitation as the procedure of committing previously written texts to memory, which are then recalled in the context of a spoken public address. I propose the ‘camp-rant’ as a methodology for writing and performance which contradicts paradigms of authority, masculinity and conventions of speaking in public. The contradiction between language and the body creates gaps between what is said and what is seen. In these gaps, new meanings and reconfigurations can be made possible by teasing apart the representation of authoritative masculinity, which is reinforced by the correlation of sound and appearance.

Masculine self-fashioning can be a performance which fails, or flops. Contradiction may be a strategic flop in methods of writing and performance which causes a gap between the body and language to appear. I will discuss how a flop may be pursued as a process of “seriousness that fails” (Sontag, 1964, p. 283). The methods of Diane Torr, Karen Finley, Andrea Fraser and my own practice, engage with an alignment (MacCormack, 2007, p.804) to masculinity and its presentation of authority in the delivery of speech and gestures.

This thesis explores Judith Butler’s writing on “performative contradiction” and agency in language (Butler, 1997), through three case-studies outlining the spatiality of the body, and voice and temporality in practice-led research. An expanded spatiality of the body is proposed in apprenticeship teaching methods found in Diane Torr’s Man for a Day workshops (2000-2016), and masculine oratory traditions of 2AD Graeco-Rome. The expanded spatiality of the voice is investigated as the relationship between the body and language in the monologue It’s My Body by artist Karen Finley (1994). Expanded spatiotemporality explores writing and speaking in Andrea Fraser’s monologue Men on the Line: Men Committed to Feminism, KPFK (2012), Quintilian’s methods of teaching (ca. A.D. 35-98) and Donna Haraway’s trope of the “modest witness” (Haraway & Randolph, 1997).

A standalone prose text, A Good Man Speaking Well, will serve as the practice-led component of my submission. I will deliver a further development of this narrative as a live recited performance for the PhD viva. Using Quintilian’s polemic for the coaching “correct speech” as the title, A Good Man Speaking Well describes in close detail and real-time the routine of a man preparing to start his day. The male figure of the narrative enacts an embodiment of procedural writing and the desired control of speech, gesture and self-presence. Written into presence as the “generic referent” (Fraser, 2012), my choice in using a male character reflects the limits of his figure as a socially constructed “vessel” (in Quintilian, 1987), filled with predetermined content.

The public address is a context where the speaker faces jeopardy engendered by slippages of control. I will focus on how the voice, body and spatio-temporality configure alternative readings of the figure and experiences of accountable subjectivity produced by language. The structure of the one-way address in the performances of Torr, Finley and Fraser engage with the material-semiotics of the body, or how “a figure embodied shared meanings that inhabit their audience” (Haraway & Randolph,1997, p. 23). The three case-studies explore the delivery of voice and gesture to provoke problematics of self-representation, and the bearing of language on the body. My practice-led methodology outlines expectations of the one-way address, which is deliberately undercut through its construction as a flop. Therefore, I propose the camp-rant as a methodology for writing and performance which expands spatiality for language to work against the body, and for the body to work against language.

Cited References

  • Butler, Judith Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (Routledge, 1997)

  • Haraway, Donna J Modest−Witness@Second−Millennium.FemaleMan−Meets−OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience (Routledge, 1997)

  • Quintilian On the Teaching of Speaking and Writing (translations from Books One, Two and Ten of the Institutio oratoria) Edited by James J Murphy (Southern Illinois University Press, 1987)