Linda Marie Walker on Body and Voice--Four Cries: One

In December 1995 Linda Marie Walker, one of the founders of Parallel, an Australian interactive arts website, posted the following essay on body and voice in the INVENT discussion list [INVENT-L@NERVM.NERDC.UFL.EDU] in response to Gregory Ulmer's statements that "as voice comes to be body, the body [is] embodied by voice." She explains that "one of the things I'm interested in (here) is how one writes of 'body', the spacing for instance (in the text that follows), it may not hold. That is, its writing is not a matter of transparency (for/me), but a way, a style, a condition. In the spacing/writing about the body is the body. The body is spoken, and speaks."

This begins on a dark night:

"Someone cries out inside the hotel. No one knows who. Whoever it is calls out a strange-sounding, disconcerting name, made up of a long, wailing Oriental a quivering between two brittle and unrecognizable consonants, perhaps a t and an l. The voice is so clear and shrill that everyone stops talking and waits as if for an explanation, which is not forthcoming." (Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair London: Collins, 1988, 3)

"The second night envelops the first, the Darkness illuminates the Shadows: 'And the night was dark and it illuminated the night.' I make no attempt to emerge from the amorous impasse by Decision, Enterprise, Separation, Sacrifice, etc.; in short, by gesture. I merely substitute one night for the other. 'To darken this darkness, this is the gate of all wonder.'" (Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse, N.Y.: Hill and Wang, 1987, 172)

"This begins on a dark night." I've begun, and I've begun this way before, in the dark, at night ("night has the violence of light"[G. Bataille, Guilty, Lapis Press, San Francisco, 1988, 108], not in the dark that day can be, but at night, as if the night holds something precious - someone even, a name - or something creeping, or falling, and so I begin again and again the same way, somewhere unknown, where I believe (and insist) I too am unknown. And I will consider this sentence ("This begins on a dark night") as offered, as an offering then, as a preface - a dawn, although I would prefer a dusk - and so as preparation (or production of, but not presumption) for the entrance of the text, any text that follows: I am in the dark (artificial, of course) as I begin to write, and to read, especially in the dark to write, going along, stopping, holding the pen very close to the white space, very very close, hoping, stopping, and (the pen writes) listening while the minutes peacefully pass, by one, one by one, the clear bright silence of the dark, the start, the little eye (bright speck - a star) in the night, eyeing the time, no I'm not tired, I can stay awake a little longer, please, I'll be good, wide in the wake of the dark, swept along. The eyes stare through the haze of the yellow (or yellowing, the process of staining, of spoiling the illusion of perfection, a turning of the pure, of the beautiful white silk shirt, of the tight text, into cloth, into rag, ruined, at least a tempering, a lowering of idealism, the clouding of the blue blue sky, with the lovely gloom of shadow) drug, the lovely veil hovers, and gentle numbness stalks the back of the neck, the smooth tablet swallowed with water, sunk. [See Bishop, The Green of Psychology, Dallas: Spring, 1990]

Oh I am so ...

A dark night: as if night can be light, and it is, in the city, and there is the moon. Mine though, is way down south, in the country. Everything begins on a dark night, as a platform, a flat plane, a place then. The dark night is my place, a vein, atonal, in which to begin. I have come, two hundred words on, some way. A slight explanation, or exaggeration. I begin, as I have begun other times, in a place, the dark night, a cavern, the body of a bird, a note from afar, a postcard: "All the precautions in the world are taken in vain, you can register your envois with a return receipt, crypt them, seal them, multiply coverings and envelopes, at the limit not even send your letter, still, in advance it is intercepted. It falls into anyone's hands, a poor post card, it ends up in the display case of a provincial bookseller who classifies his merchandise by name of city" (J. Derrida, The Derrida Reader, Between The Blinds, ed. Peggy Kamuf, Harvester Wheatsheaf, N.Y., 1991, 490). ("Dear E. Am so sorry I could not get down to say goodbye but was too tired after going about town. With love Nettie, 22.11.09"(found postcard) "This begins on a dark night" becomes, or translates: in-a-place, as an edge, a site where an inside meets an outside, lips, but not a beginning, as: lips don't begin. The question or matter (what is the matter with you?) now is where - where is the place (now), what have I got myself into (now) - as the lips open, and for a moment no sound, then a stammer: I -- I -- am -- so -- so -- And this is all I form, breathing in and out - through a window, as I can be there, looking at nothing, sitting before the text. It's movement, this I of lips, inching along on my back probably, digging my heels into the ground, pushing: "To learn the transport by the pain ..."(E. Dickinson, Selected Poems, London: Heinemann, 1963, 11) The place is just movement, folding over and over, no more than a dark night, not a substitute (for anything), and it really is, it really is moving.

This begins south, on a dark night, blue-black, faint lightening perhaps, the smell of rain, and silent. A wooden house, pine plantations. And the outside as if no outside, an emptiness instead, nowhere to go (from the window). And it's raining. And hours yet till morning. And nothing to think, and nothing to read. Cradled and cornered. Some smoke from the tall chimney in the distance, white smoke lit from below. The four walls. What could I be, that I could think, and I could think of nothing, easily.

"This begins on a dark night" gives me everything: the fullness of black, as well as the blankness of space. The gift of plenty as nothing (black/nothing, space/nothing: no fullness, no void, just the words as gossip, the night swelling), and I can leave, or stay, still and constant. With the dark night I am in motion (quivering, at least) - whether I leave or not, my situation alters, the emphasis shifts. "My thought was that in our ordinary life our bodies are led to return regularly towards certain objects and places and to find them always as they were in the same places and positions. Bed, window, remain exactly where they were, separated one from another in the same aspects and same inter-relations. My body also, always comes back to the old situation, and at last stretches itself out on the unmoving bed. But these very places, these objects, and this body, though situated in that space which may be called visible, and though in that position they are static, somehow give me the impression of having been, through all this time, in some other order of space, invisible to us and to have traversed vast distances and described strange orbits which modified their relation to each other, so that the resulting changes are sometimes painful to endure, at other times pleasant. So much so, even, that these familiar objects and myself are never twice in the same relation to each other; so much so that never twice has the air wrapped me round in the same manner, so that my body, like a house removed by magic at night from a hill-top to a valley, its north turned to the south, is bewildered to find itself sometimes pleasurably, sometimes miserably, exposed"(J. Romains, The Body's Rapture, tr. John Rodker, N.Y.: Liveright, 1937, 101).

Some fraction of I is punctured, I leak out through the dark, a fluid or sound - the cry, voice, not 'crying', but speaking or calling, in the air or on the page, the cry which begs repetition, for love and fear of silence. The cry of rejection, the rejection of believing I must not cry, or repeat. It's a tendency then to voice the I's silence, even when the I, split and/or fragmented (faceted), revels in its silence. Calls it inside, closes all the doors. Until it's the silence which punctures, and releases the cry - abjection.

"Abjection is a state or condition of the ... subject that is related to its attempts to differentiate itself from the world and others. These paradoxical but necessary attempts at self-identity are bound up with various bodily cycles - the cycles of incorporation, depletion, loss, summed up as forms of repetition. They are the cycles of rejuvenation and death. Abjection is in part a consequence of the fact that, in ingesting into and expelling objects out of the body, these 'objects' can never become completely distinct and separable from the 'subject'. These ingested and/or expelled 'objects' are neither quite part of the body nor entirely distinct from it. Such 'objects' - among them tears, faeces, urine, vomit, food and so on - help to specify those privileged spaces of the body that psychoanalysis described as 'erotogenic zones' - anus, mouth, genitals, eyes etc. Lacan claims that, in the first instance these zones or spaces are structured in the form of a rim - a (folded) space designating both inside and outside without itself being either. This rim which expels wastes also 'attracts' and is attracted by objects. It seeks satisfaction by 'filling itself' with the object, seeking its attainment, ingestion, incorporation and eventual expulsion as residue. Lacan designates this 'object' by the formula objet petit a, using it to designate those parts of the child's body that are capable of being 'detached' (either psychically or literally) from it to confront the subject as alien or exterior. The objet petit a is an impossible object, nominating not a thing, but a process or movement, the movement Lacan calls desire" (E.A. Grosz, Language and the Limits of the Body: Kristeva and Abjection, in Futur-Fall: Excursions into Post-Modernity, Sydney: Power Institute Publications, 1986, 109-110).