Brandon LaBelle's works treat language and its enunciation, the act
of vocalization, language and speech, and the relationship between
the meaning of words and their function as sounds. Typical of his
approach is his 1998 piece <Writing Aloud> in which he recorded
the sounds of a pencil transcribing Roland Barthes' "Le plaisir
du texte. " In his works the text-as-object is written, spoken,
vocalized under difficult conditions, or typed in order to defamiliarize
and disassemble it. He has also done many readings, performances,
and installations inspired by literary works in poetry or prose. The
range of his work goes well beyond sound art to include more properly
musical activities as well as critical writing in art journals.
His contribution to this exhibition, entitled <Topophony of the
Text> takes as its sound source a reading of the last chapter of
Le plaisir du texte with all of the consonants removed to leave only
vowel sounds. The five vowels A, I, U, E, and O are all recorded separately
in different situations, grouped according to the five colors Rimbaud
suggested correspond to the vowels in his poem "Voyelle,"
and broadcast from five speakers. The text is thus separated from
its original form and suspended far from its meaning to be converted
into an abstract sound. LaBelle's work is an operation in reducing
words, meaning, and sound to the material of the body. As such, it
is Barthes' pleasure put into practice.
I benefited in the writing of this text from many conversations with
the artists as well as direct and indirect communications via E-mail
and other means. I would also like to express my gratitude to the
music critic Mr. Sasaki Atsushi, who has worked to introduce the work
of these sound artists to Japan and also runs his own record label
"meme." Without their suggestions and guidance, this exhibition
would never have been possible.
(HATANAKA Minoru / Assistant Curator, ICC)