Intimate performance, extended voice and embodied tactility: from performance to artist's book

Lead Research Organisation: University of Winchester
Department Name: Faculty of Arts


This project begins from an existing piece of live art work, entitled 'Soie soyeuse' (meaning, as an aural pun, both 'Silky Silk' and 'Be Silky'). The audience consisted of one to three spectators at a time. The devised piece is psychophysical, theatrical, and extensively uses extended vocal techniques. The piece was meant to literally bring an intense experience of silk to the audience in a very specific visual space, and was devised in collaboration with a designer.

This research intends to experiment with taking the ideas behind, and performance of, 'Soie soyeuse' to another level. In a social context where live performance - unmediated by mass electronic transmission - is becoming increasingly seldom consumed, I am interested in how notions of active, tactile and aural sensation and direct, intimate relationship with artwork might provide audiences with unique, literally 'touching' experiences.

In today's artistic environments, documentation of process and product in performance have become de rigeur, for creative research, marketing, and academic research purposes. This is usually done exclusively via various digital image/sound capture technologies. In the world of live performance, particularly in devised, interdisciplinary, contemporary performance, which is by necessity fleeting and intangible, there is a concern with how we might 'remember', reexperience, or hold onto the experience of temporal liveness, and with how these temporal performances effect our bodies.

These concerns underpin the practical and reflective exploration this practice-led research project involves. The exploration in question consits of:

1. Documenting in detail, using a variety of means, including audiovisual recording and performance writing, the a performance of 'Soie soyeuse', in the space for which it was made.

2. Creating a performance score, or instructions for performance, for an innovative kind of experimental, performative, textile-based 'artist's book', based on the documentation that has taken place in (1) above.

3. Using the materials in (2) to collaborate with three textile-related artist-designers. The collaboration will involve each of these co-desiging and manufacturing a different page for the artist's book. Some of these pages will include audio recordings. The process of creation will remain under my artistic, creative and conceptual direction, and I will act as co-designer/devisor of each page, and designer of the project as a whole.

4. The resulting pages would be bound by a publisher into 50 copies of a fabric-
based, multimedia textile art book, which would have been conceived not merely for its visual qualities, nor merely its text, video, or audio elements, but also for its tactile qualities. The book will be intended to be felt with the fingertips, and include elements such as raw spun silk, silk wadding, wood fibers, and other such sensation-generating materials. The artist's book will be formally published and distributed.

5. The process and product underpinning this artistic project will be documented and analysed, paying particular analytical attention to Didier Anzieu's theory of the skin ego and and the phenomenological approach of psycho-organic analysis to understanding the skin, the eardrums and the retina as forms of sensual membrane. The experience of making the book, including comparison and contrast among the different collaborative artists' approaches, will also be an area of focus. This will lead to the writing of an academic article called 'From voice to touch: from extended voice to artist's book', which will describe and reflect on the artistic discoveries made and will be submitted to a web journal, so that multimedia documentation can be incorporated into the article.

The project includes the creation of a wide variety of disseminable end products.


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Bonenfant Y (2013) Writing touch in textile: Talking touch in tactility in Journal of Dance & Somatic Practices

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Bonenfant, Yvon Repetition of Tactilities: The Living and the Dead in Performance as Research Working Group of the International Federation for Theatre Research Conference

Title Soie soyeuse (artist's book) 
Description This artist's book was an embodiment of the research undertaken as part of the programme of research. It brought together commissioned textile art; a CD recording; photographic transparencies in a beautiful custom-designed box. It was printed in a limited edition of 50 copies, and explored how we might 'make voice into tactile art'. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2009 
Impact This had a strong impact on the Performance as Research Working Group of the IFTR's thinking around documentation of intangible processes. 
Title The artist's book is also a performance and visual media output 
Description The book has been shown at a group exposition at Galerie Talmart. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2009 
Impact We developed new ways of thinking about documenting the non-verbal voice. 
Description The most significant achievement of this grant was to help us re-think the role of tactile publication in an increasingly digital age. The project was able to demonstrate a means of making the tactile interface of the 'book' relevant to the documentation of tactile experience in ways that electronic formats cannot do, suggesting a re-configuration of the role of paper and textile publication in the works of the future.
Exploitation Route These findings can be used by other artists and researchers as well as the publishing field to think about re-configuring the role of 'hard' or paper publications in the future.
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description This work helped the contributing artists re-think their relationships between voice and textile.
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural