In Formation III - Neither Voice Noir Class - with Carey Robinson & Tristam Adams
Emoji summary: 🗣👂👥
I really do have a stubbornness against reading tbh and I need to get over it because learning new things can be so dramatically freeing. Like, I go about the world with little stones in my belly;; they r calcified bad-gut-feelings I can’t articulate. Why did I turn off the episode of Atlanta where the black boy told the camera he actually a 35 year old white man? Why was i like, really quietly surprised when I found out George Ezra was white or that Bruno Mars wasn’t black. on another brain channel plays: Am I a sociopath for slowing down my accent when I’m in London so people can understand me slash take me seriously as a professional?? Am I slow, violent, unwoke for too-often presuming people’s genders when I speak to them on the phone? why did I find the birmingham accent annoying when i was a teenager, but as an adult i think it’s normal, good? I am not completely unthinking but I can do better, exercise more. I’ve relaxed into casual Twitter discourse levels which see me outsourcing my own opinions to other people’s hottakes - not because I want to fall in line with filter bubble group consensus but because clever people on the internet have a way of dissolving the stones in my stomach with succinct explanations of why a thing might be good, bad or complicated. suspicions confirmed, cleared, like we are always looking to resolve what we come up against in new content. i felt stones like those above leave me today at a talk I went to at the ICA as part of their In formation III series. left a lighter girl with energy and new words in my mouth.
The talk was Neither Voice Noir Class with ICA curator Carey Robinson and theorist Tristam Adams, who were speaking together around listening practices, tangled by class and race difference between speaker n receiver. that sentence sounds tipsy but just see it as an equation of accent class race and gooood chat. I learnt so much,, like How acousmatic means a sound you hear without seeing the cause of it (a siren, someone on the radio); a vocalic body is what you imagine that speaker or sound is attached to, u dream it up to fill the space of the acousmatic sound; n also how hearing is closed in relation to listening, which is open and searching for meaning. It was int erest ing, and I am not here to badly relay everything Robinson n Adams offered the group. us attendees were sat around a table as the two pulled up a selection of tv, film and advert clips on YouTube for illustration. (More use of YouTube in seminars please). Through the discussion, i saw more clearly how if there is distance between hearing someone but not being able to see who they are, u fill that gap based on ur own knowledge, biases and experiences. and u might not guess the look or class of a speaker right, because so much identity is pulled into a voice through influence, appropriation, exposure, or even aspiration. some people go to uni and start sounding posher. some kids watch a lot of american youtube and use upspeak (or god help them, shout because they watch jojo siwa. why do i even know who that is). It made me think of how the vocal fry that a lot of women podcasters get trolled over for sounding stupid/ irritating actually originated from upper n middle class British Men in the 1960s with whom it was popular as a tone of intimidation and ‘superior social standing.’ mad how things flip n mix. Adams told us Tony Blair took elocution lessons so he sounded LESS posh (and then he married Cherie who poshened up her accent. i guess they tried to meet in the middle but never really got there).
This entire conversation rests on power and which way it flows. I raised it at the talk but it would be good to expand on it here n now: that there’s something interesting and wild west about how the internet can often flatten the acousmatic range of comments to the point we don’t know who that person is or where they are coming from in terms of class and race. it should feel freeing but I just find it stressful, like it opens up space for weirdo anonymity and misunderstanding. A mild example of that: when the Guardian interviewed us for a profile on The White Pube, they left out the fact that I am from liverpool n have grown up in a class atypical to other art critics, so you can imagine i fyuuuuumed when the comments assumed we were ‘rich middle-class knobs,’ ffs. Online it is like we are slappin each other in the dark,, which is why i try to accent my writing as much as possible, mention who I am n let readers get to know me. it’s also why I place so much value on Scottish Twitter (examples like ‘Shame ye canna contour yer horrible personality’, ‘Why dae fitbaw players have it in there bios n pictures ae them playing in thur dp’s imagine a had joiner in ma bio n me skelpin a nail way a hammer as ma dp, ad get terrorised' or ‘No chance 😂 😂 ma maw shouted on ma da to ask him suhin, n he's walked into his bed room wae the tadger oot no knowing the guy fae virgin media wiz fixin the box 😭 guys came in for a 10 min job to get greated wae ma da's 2 inch banger'). With its abso perfect control of language, scottish twitter manages to twist spellin to fit its accent properly. and in doing so, it pierces thru the acousmatic veil that obscures most internet users: i KNOW in my heart who’s typin. Good localism (natural) and like, always a pleasure to see/hear on the timeline bc it has pushed forward its authenticity, but also bc it tends to be fukin hilarious. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
I think Neither Voice Noir Class has helped me see the shape of this more clearly. it clicked for me that i had turned the Atlanta episode off because I thought transracial satire would undermine transgender identity, but how might we criticise one without the other?; that George Ezra stresses me out because as Robinson and Adams pointed out, white singers who sound like black soul singers are treated as exceptional/natural and gifted! in a way black singers are just not. he gets a pass, he gets fast forwarded through the system. tricks u over the radio. ah. i’m glad for this talk, was sad it was under-attended but hopefully I’ve presented some things here that can help keep u thoughtful like it did for me.
we've been commissioned to write about n review events in this In formation III series at the ICA, by invitation of curator Carey Robinson. we are also using the texts to engage the ICA's Social Creative Network, and all payment amounts are on our accounts page as ever if u are interested. also important: we r totally allowed to write what we want, otherwise we wouldn't do it.