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Concerto transumante per flatus vocis
Transhumant concert for flatus vocis
The issue of the power of speech or the potentiality to produce speech is central in Concerto transumante per flatus vocis, conceived during the seminar held by Mauro Folci at the Fondazione Baruchello in 2005. The first stage of the seminar was devoted to the exploration of individual and collective forms in which words attempt to abandon the mode of instrumental communication. It was observed how reflecting on language today is connected to the issue of the ‘workforce’ (potentiality and pure ability) with which language tends to coincide. Breathing and the voice were also objects of research together with a reflection on the ritual dimension of the absolute performative. The dimension in which the body persists or insists and overcomes the supremacy of language was also explored. Language in its aspect as breath is pure potentiality to speak: the potentiality is a universe of involuntary signs that resist organisation and actualisation into language. The individuation of involuntary and pre-linguistic characteristics is at the foundation of Mauro Folci’s work, who in Concerto Transumante found another peculiar character from which a layer of his work derives: Fabio, a temporary worker in a Call Centre in the outskirts of the city of Milan, who talks about a strange sound which he is forced to emit in order not to be understood by the people whose job it is to check that his voice is used uniquely for the duties specified in his contract, i.e. selling. Fabio says: ‘We survive by inventing a noise, signalling the fact that we want to take a coffee break, a sort of bad imitation of the sound of a door closing in an underground train. When colleagues hear this sound they turn to face each other, and we continue the conversation through our gazes, which say ‘do you want to take a coffee break?’ and if you do this [a particular facial expression that Fabio shows], you let your colleagues know that you can’t. It is a language without words made up of inarticulate sounds’. As Mauro Folci explains, ‘It is in this oppressive workplace that Fabio’s sound originates, a sound similar to a duck’s quack, an animal sound that tells of an absurd prison-like Call Centre in which talking to colleagues is forbidden. In Fabio’s quack resonates an ‘empty voice’ that tells, if we listen carefully, of the resistance to the tyranny of production and of the desire to take back control over one’s life. […] Fabio’s quack is the undifferentiated voice of the animal before language is articulate in words, it is a sound devoid of a referential meaning, pure biological foundation. It is the ‘white noise’ of breath, of blood circulation, of the stretching of tendons, of bile, an inexpressible voice that places itself on the abysmal side of what is “animal” in a “human” being’. The real communication between people relegated to the chairs of a Call Centre for many hours escapes the market economy to which the voice is subjected, using a relational communication that does not need specific contents but only sounds to be expressed.
After the analytic phase, the seminar entered an operative phase that was structured in three stages: firstly, the group was invited in the homes of friends and acquaintances, who invited other people to the presentation and discussion of the project and to the concert’s rehearsal. The project was explained in its phases: first the artist’s home was to be emptied and all his possessions stored on the roof-racks of the “musicians’” cars. Subsequently, the participants were to go into the empty flat and begin a ‘concert for winds’ in that their only task was to breath and not say a word. The concert would end once all the participants had come in and gradually left, in the space of about forty minutes. In talking about his work, the artist says: ‘There is a house. It is lived-in, with all its objects, its furniture, its books, its electrical appliances and its family photo albums, a space of the self made up of layers of memory and full of sentimental value. It is a home that keeps the traces of the passage of time, a calendar marked with indelible symbols. Now it is a matter of thinking about its bareness, of emptying it of everything, of ‘dispossessing it of all its possessions’ in order to let it be occupied again by a crowd of people as if they were a herd of cattle. A home emptied in order to better listen to its original otherness, to house, and let oneself be contaminated by, a herd of men and women which gradually thickens and cements, through body contact, in an animal world that is both primordial and sacred. A true house move, a procession of people and things, an animal transhumance, a translation of places: everybody brings and leaves something, everybody translates and betrays something’
With Concerto transumante, Mauro Folci can be said to have ‘created an image’ just like a refrain, dissolving all references to personal memories and to rationality, reducing people to sheer breath and stripping them of the words with which to cover or uncover their bodies. Language has been deposed and has bared the body through breath and the herd-like proximity to which people have submitted. Once the room has been emptied of all personal references, people have found themselves in an original condition of physical promiscuity and animal relationship, joining their breaths in a concert. Rather than representation, the type of image created with Concerto transumante concerns process, something destined to dissolve but valid for its ‘internal tension, force mobilized to create a void or to open fissures, to loosen the grip of words, to mop up the transpiration of voices, to free oneself from memory and reason, a small, non-logical, amnesic, almost aphasic image, now suspended in the void, now quivering in the open.’ Mauro Folci has concentrated into an image a landscape of situations revolving around Fabio’s squawk: there is a rich tapestry of people, places and relationships in a delimited space, the artist’s home: a square room, white and empty, the container of a humanity whose sole ‘task’ is to breathe.
Fondazione Baruchello, Roma 2005
text by: Marta Roberti, from ‘Working whilst talking.Talking whilst working.Language at work in Mauro Folci’s art device’.
English translation: Valentina Mazzei
‘We survive by inventing a noise, signalling the fact that we want to take a coffee break, a sort of bad imitation of the sound of a door closing in an underground train. When colleagues hear this sound they turn to face each other, and we continue the conversation through our gazes, which say ‘do you want to take a coffee break?’ and if you do this [a particular facial expression that Fabio shows], you let your colleagues know that you can’t’. It is in this oppressive workplace that Fabio’s sound originates, a sound similar to a duck’s quack, an animal sound that tells of an absurd […]