Friday, October 10, 2008

Spontaneous Voicelessness

Edward Casey imagines a distinct variety of silence, a soundlessness that is not a strict silence but "an amorphous auditory state in which no specific sound is heard" (Imagining, p. 27, his emphasis). Let's flesh out this image and study it. Imagine an amorphous auditory envelope in which one can sense the presence of voices, one feels enveloped in voices, yet no specific voice can be heard. An intimate bustle, intimate and slow. Something like breathing, irregular, vague, on the cusp of being respiratory. Murmurs. Subvocal vibrations. An infrasonic, glacial ebullience. Swamped near to drowning in this tide of ingenious vocables, spreading out boundless as if to submerge the world. (Our images not nearly our own, we borrow freely from cultural memory.) Splashes of voices, mere splashes without any clear sense of being animated, or of having sense at all. What can we learn from such an image of a voicelessness, or such images, such a flow of imagining, if we can talk about flow while suspending a question of continuity?

Casey cites Bachelard on "the need to animalize which lies at the origin of imagination" (I might say the need to animate, or even the desire to animate.) Bachelard continues, "The primary function of imagination is to make animal forms" (Lautréamont, p. 51, IN Imagining, p. 30). The connection between the animate and the form brings to mind a passage from an interview of Michel Henry that Michael Tweed translated and Shahar blogged about. Henry says (my bold):

A form is not actually a kind of exterior entity, but the expression of a force. The point, straight line, broken line, etc., are the expression of specific forces that occur in different ways, continuous or intermittent, in the same direction or changing direction. And the theory of forms, which refers to forces, refers at the same time to subjectivity, because the forces inhabit our body, our lived body, our subjective body that is our actual body. Consequently the world of forms is, in some way, a coded universe the true meaning of which amounts to the play of forces within us, hence to life, for the living body is a body that is made of forces: such is the origin of painting. Further, it is an invisible element, the invisible force with which the living body is identified, that is the principle of the composition of a painting.

So, incidentally, we might think that forms are already animated, animalized, animal, or on the verge of becoming animal, i.e. dynamic. Perhaps we are speaking of an animot voicelessness–yet we have before us precisely an amorphous voicelessness. Is there a dynamism without forms? Would such amorphousness perhaps be chimeral, a blending of for(ce)(m)s rather than a negation of for(ce)(m)s? Does our voicelessness under study here reveal in any discussable way a desire to animate? What would wildness mean if it weren't animated? A journey behind the back of forms–but how does it feel, this voicelessness?

Casey says that for humans "the voice seems to be intrinsic to the human body and not just an accompaniment of it" (pp. 32-33). It's hard to imagine a disembodied voice, he argues. Is it hard to imagine a disembodied voicelessness? Imagine a body without gestures, the body as womb perhaps. Now imagine an amorphous collaqueation of bodies without gestures, bodies without voices. This image of bodies without gestures accords with my image of amorphous voicelessness, but before agreeing that it is indeed easier to imagine an embodied voicelessness than a disembodied voicelessness I'd want to make sure that being without gestures doesn't represent a kind of disembodiment. Perhaps it even represents a kind of de-animation, an inversion of the basic function of imagination. Wouldn't that also be a power of the imagination? Can't we imagine with our whole bodies being outside of our bodies? There are limits? Silence, perhaps, is such a limit. Our dubious silence of the indistinct voices takes place at a border between the felt body and silence. Perhaps it is a shadow place, or even a shadow silence. And whose silence would that be? Now that the thought is out there, can you imagine it as either belonging or not belonging to anybody?

Thus a paradox of unwilled spontaneity, an imagination that imagines itself as other, may be at play in the image of voicelessness. In speaking about the relative spontaneity of an image, Casey has three things in mind: (1)its unsolicited arising, its feeling as if it effortlessly appeared, (2) its instantaneous, and (3) its capacity to surprise (p. 34). He regards the first as most crucial. Possibly we merely forget that we have called upon the imagination, that we have in fact solicited an image, and this forgetting allows for the illusion of spontaneity. However, what if the "illusion" of spontaneity is a necessary precursor to our imaginings? Or simply another way of saying how we imagine? We let our imaginations run wild. We let them function. We let spontaneity be, and this letting be of spontaneity takes the form of images. To let be is decidedly not to will. To will a spontaneity would be to will it out of existence, out of all irreality. The image is an unclaimed spontaneity. If it is called for, it is called for by a surprise that it creates the conditions for. Spontaneous voicelessness vanishes in the instant it reveals itself as surprise, at the border between the emergence of a human voice and an amorphousness. Voicelessness is a image from an unclaimed life, from the wild.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:53 AM.


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