Breathing as Writing: The Productive Tensions and Murmurs of the Telematic World.

November 22nd, 2020

“The one who understands is not extracting from the abstract from out of the tone, the rhythm, and the cadences the noise internal to the utterance, the cacophony internal to the emission of the message. He or she is also listening to that internal noise – the rasp or smouldering breath, the hyperventilating or somnolent lungs, the rumblings and internal echoes – in which the message is particularized and materialised and in which the empirical reality of something indefinitely discernible, encountered in the path of one’s own life, is referred to and communicated. With this internal noise it is the other, in his or her materiality that stands forth and stands apart making appeal and demands…an empirically desirable vulnerability and intrusion.“

Alphonso Lingus ‘The murmur of the world’, The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common (Bloomington and Indiaopolis: Indiana University Press, 1994): 91


Recently many of us throughout planetary archipelago have found ourselves navigating various teleconferencing software to share our research. One may have assumed that the Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) had all but been there and done that. However this was not the case, where #AoIR2020 noted “For the first time in its history, the AoIR conference took place online, addressing the thematic ‘Life (online)’ across time zones due to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic” 27-31 October 2020, deploying YouTube, Zoom and the digital environment of “AoIR2020 Town”. 

One of the crescendos of the event was ‘From AoIR to Air: A Collective Sonic Selfie Experience, October 2020’ a live spoken word and sonic performance poetry, zoom soundscape, by Klare Lanson who coined the term Sonic Selfie in 2018. This was an addition to her presentation about the project #UNMASKEDSELFIESINSOLIDARITY: FROM SELF<IE> CARE TO COLLECTIVE CARE—AFFECTIVE ARTIVISM, NETWORKED BELONGING AND MOBILE MEDIA PARTICIPATORY ART.

AoIR2020 Town (social hour meeting spaces)

A transversal sonic practice and choreographic entanglement of breath, software, and non-human acoustic resonance Klare describes the work “From AoIR to Air: A collective Sonic Selfie Experience” captures a live performance work that occurred at the closing social event for the AoIR2020: Life(online) conference, co-hosted by Klare (Dancin) Lanson and DJShanitaVICE. At the tail end of this 80s/90s electro and non-stop dance hour, Lanson performed a reflective spoken word listening experiment with event participants across three different time zones. This socially networked performance echoes the Fluxus art movement and embraces the process of folding back into the feminist glitch via the zoomiverse. The collective form of these fleeting and sonic system faults serve up a metaphor for thinking through the gendered and emotional labour inequalities that can be found within our digital data driven every day. The creative process manifests the body through voice, spoken word, meditative breath, multivalent forms of collective listening, and mediated sonic disruption. Attempting to radicalise the Selfie through the form of a collective sonic selfie experience, we contemplate life online as situated through, in and of the soundings of amplified screen activation.”

As listener I am struck by the noisy recalcitrant breath, of which source is the lungs, the organs moving in stasis. The “From AoIR to Air (2020)” translates the urgencies of the time – to a manifestation of emergent subjectivities by indicating an affective dimension of a set of lived conditions and constraints that many of us are under, by acknowledgement of the apparatus of which the audience, the researchers are all ‘zooming’ into. We have been exhibiting our research into the void of online platforms and participating in Q&A’s despite the children and domestic interludes and intolerant kin knocking at our door whilst we orate to international audiences wondering what we are actually spending all our time on. This is potent as it sidesteps the digital cleansing and fixing machines which vulnerable and intrusive organs that write themselves aloud. As I listen to the lungs and the other bodies remote are also unified by the force of the break flowing with the information that moves to carve out new bodily spaces. Here individuation is quieted and the body and organs of those whom are engage are tempered. As I hear the rasp of the breath, I could read the urgent breathing of the lungs as erotic reverberation taking me back past the new materialists theories of entanglement firmly into the realm of jouissance as described by Barthes in the grin of the voice, beyond the throat the mouth animating inspiring the throat and the mouth in the organs of the lungs, the rasping breath of consumption.

Tuning in I love the rhythm and found myself reacting to sudden movement caused by the sound the work has strong cultural traces of its sources; we sense the visceral systems and processes at work. Attuning myself to the corporeality behind to the organs, I hear to the social, philosophical and spiritual complexity for speech through the body, over a remote network in a trans local space reverberating from and in its various organs of the transmitter and the receivers [1 > .* many].

From AoIR to Air: A Collective Sonic Selfie Experience, October 2020. Klare Lanson and collaborators.. Image: Klare Lanson

Listening to an acknowledgement of country we were drawn to how history shapes the body the body shapes history and the cultural imaginary. Our voice becoming tangled with the voices of others. The submersion is also an occasion for self-reflection on a writerly practice, concept and performative presence come together here beautifully within the sound of the performative text. With the loop in the background of the breath and description of the glitch gives – setting the ways that such symposiums have enfolded 2020. As an audience, this was also a funny, affecting, somatic techno-shamanistic happening. As Lanson explains “I introduced the experiment by way of a poetic spoken word reflection in relation to the conference thematic and of course the feminist glitchy online self.” I am struck how this transformative shift in consciousness can only come about through a telematic encounter of  sound somatisation through a proposition that actualises latent desire and unspoken hopes, having the capacity to elicit emotional response. The ritual and feminist online intertextuality the ‘glitch’ and remixes comes across as both a self-conscious cultural reference, an affectionate homage / appropriation, and a fictional techno-seance – a somatisation that seems to present itself as a transformative and galvanising force a closing of a circle if you will.

To speak of circles and their magic I’m reminded of the work of  Marcell Mauss who studied the structural organisation of the gift, in trade within biological through culture expanding how practices and methods of the body have profound biosocial echoes and effects. The asynchronistic acknowledgement of the audience on all these levels is challenging and satisfying. The breathing the pulses not just in the body of the speaker but agitates the sterile infrastructure and instead igniting the voice vibrating with traces of exchanges across the network.

The corporeal rhythms, porous fluidity, breathe and voice as mirrors our subjectivity as it becomes manifest, sounding into our organs is in turn to also caressing them from the inside. The urgency of interiority and the lungs that inscribes transversal space – through theor breathe – becomes all the more urgent in this information society and networked ubiquity where everything is reduced to a common denominator; measured, exchangeable and transactional. The current state of these infrastructures feign to truly allow corporeality to come into a new form we are yoked into a vendor lock in strategy. Meanwhile through Zoom and other related teleconferencing software we are habituated to grasping corporeality only biologically and to understand its veracity as we are learning to know the body as if outside culture and history. Are there only surfaces to inform us fully of who we are? Resisting this fate through an aural tactic Lanson, by asking the audience to close their eyes and disengage from the optical centrism of the screen, shows us a path which we move along – in order to not eliminate the messy uncontrolled cacophonous unconscious unknown of the networked subdued but a calculable singular signal.  

The noisy organs of continue their tactic speech which is protolinguistic. Notable here is the ‘sound work experiment’ and breath that operates as site of research. The productive tensions that underpinned embodied knowledge and the obfuscation of the audience and the field of internet research  and artistic practice of  sound ethnography  and the challenges posed by these tensions is an important source of knowledge creation. For instance, how might we create and capture other artifacts and forms of restaging, retelling or reenacting such sonic selfies / artifacts that now become historiographies beyond the hard copy of the opus expected of us eventually.


And now I can Breathe.

Klare Lanson is a writer, poet, sound artist and editor. She is currently a PhD candidate at RMIT University under the Design & Creative Practice ECP platform, and is researching multisensorial mobile methods, emotional labour, mobile performativity and digital parenting.


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