Exhibiting the Voice

Jelena Novak, Kris Dittel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The title of this article carries an inherent contradiction. How could something so elusive, and most of all, invisible, as the voice, be exhibited? Despite the availability of recording technologies for over a century, the voice still conveys the impossibility of being caught in place and time.

It was this contradiction that the exhibition Post-Opera (TENT, V2_Lab for the Unstable Media, Operadagen Rotterdam, 2019) worked with, in order to show the affect of the singing voice, the bodies they emit it, and challenge the socio-cultural frame that influence the perception of who can have a voice and what is considered a voice.

In the Western world, the notion of “having a voice” is commonly associated with the right to have a vote, to have a voice in society, often expressed in individualised and humanistic terms. Critics of humanism, and in particular critical posthumanists, have already pointed out the non-neutrality and inherent privileges the term carries, with its underlying connection to white, patriarchal, anthropocentric and colonial meanings. Instead of this rather Eurocentric conception of the voice, Post-Opera demonstrated a disconnect between this view and brought forth a proposition where singing machines, mechanisms, beasts, animals and other “others” joined in a collective form of vocal expression. They sung beyond opera and at the same time beyond human. This way Post-Opera proposed a different ontological understanding of voices and their potentialities, as well as the variety of ways voices are let to be heard.

This text reflects on the ways in which the exhibition and surrounding programme materialised on the intersections of visual art and postdramatic opera, while confronting voice studies and theories of critical posthumanism in order to posit the voice beyond its humanist license.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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