Towards an ethics of voice as hospitable space

Bowes, Neil Simon (2007) Towards an ethics of voice as hospitable space. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis is a reflection upon two instances of practice- as-research, emerging through the performativities of responses to two invitations: to sing and record a note with me in unison, and to spend a Sunday with Me in a place of your choosing, documented through audio-visual recordings.
As the thesis progresses, I will describe a movement from performance and recording in experimental voice practices to a conception of voice and the recording as spatial practices. In the last chapters I will describe a movement away from voice as a disciplinary practice, toward a conception of listening described in our movements through place (which redescribes movement as place). Through these progressions, this research examines possible correlations between performance practices and the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1996) and other relevant philosophical disciplines, such as Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) and Richard Rorty's (1931-2007) hermeneutics. Levinas' ethics were founded upon a distinction between the structure of the face-to-face, or ethical relationship, and the structure of intentional knowledge described in Husserlian phenomenology. This thesis argues that in response to Levinasian ethics, the criticality at work in performance might be rephrased in terms of welcome and hospitality to others.
The methods developed here concern an ethos of renewable propositions, through which 'knowledges' become open to question, unstable, provisional, contingent. The research enacts a process of returning and beginning-again, first formalised by writer and philosopher Maurice Blanchot, as a disserninative and exegetical strategy.
The first invitation, One Note, used the medium of sound installation, voice and recording, to develop a method of performance documentation based upon context-specific face-to-face encounters. Whilst Levinasian ethics conceives discourse - or more specifically, spoken conversation - as an ephemeral, episternically unstable encounter, One Note developed compositional sensibilities to enact renewals of questioning intended to destabilize fixed outcomes.
The second invitation Sunday with Me, de-formalised 'voice' as a disciplinary practice, and examined how guiding and being guided through might constitute a form of (or response to) Levinas' ethical faceto- face encounter, reconsidering performance research as field of infinite encounter with others, conceived in terms of singular articulations of welcome

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