Incl. fragments from R.Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse, 1977 The Human Voice, Jean Cocteau (played by Ingrid Bergman), 1966 Bruce Sterling, The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier, 1992
The ephemeral qualities of speech only live adjacent to the mouth which releases their form. But we are not our bones, but rather, that which is in between. When our voice is gone, when our voice evaporates, who can reconstruct the muted tone of our digital dialogues and narratives? The mechanical sounds of incoming texts and emails, hovering voice-recordings, numbing elevator music and automatic clinical replies, merge with our own uncontrollable as well as controllable human sounds. A machine without a melody evokes scepticism. Is it dead or alive?
For what is a body without sound?
No one answers, for what is given is precisely what does not answer. (R.B)
My hello, bonjour, ciao, coucou, salut, vanishes into thin air. Unable to see their mouth behind the mask, my voice in waves resonates down the hallway, greeted only by their blank stare. Just like the unreplied email stares back at you in its present absence. It does not exist, and yet it exists too much. In fact it exists so much that every time you hear a plingyou think, it’s the thing, finally, a response, to my wait-
ing, but it’s only a pling, and then no
Nothing but an ad for expat accounting services, or a group email about how, what and where to take down the trash in your sublet studio building; please fold the cardboard according to the attached jpg, empty the empty plastic bottles of any excess air, discard any surplus fluids. Your email gets lost and time passes, as does your smile behind the mask, the carnal version of two dots and a colon, hiding behind two layers of 100% cotton, tightly woven. Where do all your wasted communicative efforts end up when nobody replies? Deep down in the colon of unreplied emails and greetings, your answers are bulking up, only creating a pile of unreplied shit. Digestive issues, are also issues. You see, there’s a hell in hello, not only an oh.
Freud, apparently, did not like the telephone, however much he may have liked listening. Then, too, on the telephone the other is always in a situation of departure; the other departs twice by voice and by silence: whose turn is it to speak? We fall silent in unison: crowding of two voids.
First of all, this voice, when it reaches me, when it is here, while it (with great difficulty) survives, is a voice I never entirely recognise; as if it emerged from under a mask (thus we are told that the masks used in Greek tragedy had a magical function: to give the voice a chthonic origin, to distort, to alienate the voice, to make it come from somewhere.
I’m going to leave you, the voice on the telephone says with each second.
11. 20. pm: the phone rings. I pick it up only to see the name of an old friend who I haven’t heard from in years sliding sideways along the screen. I look at the phone. I look at her name. I look up from the phone. I look down again. I look at her name. I look up and out into the empty room and wonder what to answer; a simple hello seems so out of place and even more so; time. What do I expect her to say? What would we talk about? Before I manage to answer to all my frenetic internal questions the call stops. Instead she leaves a message on my voicemail, initiating a latent conversation. After an hour of contemplation I listen to it. The message is about three minutes long but I struggle to hear anything but the sound of a faint bass in a club, and even more faint, among other voices, her voice, saying something indecipherable. I try to make sense of her words, but no sense can be made. The message is clearly, or unclearly, not meant for me, nor was it ever meant to be recorded. The unclear message is a message in itself, it is a non-verbal confirmation that we are now worlds apart.
You can’t hear me??
Well, I’m speaking quite loud!
Well that’s strange, now I can’t hear you
Now I can’t hear you
Yes, but you sound very far off
And you can hear me
Oh it’s my turn then (laughs)
No darling don't hang up
Please don’t hang up! (Hysteric)
Now you’re back
Oh I can hear you again
Ah yes I hate that
It’s like being dead
R.B a ajouté un « J’adore » à « 😍 ».
I.B Gav ett hjärta till en bild
B.S laughed at :-)
Cyberspace is the “place” where a telephone conversation appears to occur. Not inside your actual phone, the plastic device on your desk. Not inside the other person’s phone, in some other city. The place between the phones. The indefinite place out there, where the two of you, two human beings, actually meet and communicate. (B.S)
Before the world comes to an end this will already have dispersed: the sound of her discretely smoking a cigarette over the telephone, as well as the restless tapping sound of her nails upon a glass table once she decides to quit for a week, the loud sighs heard in a shared workspace over the growing immaterial pile of yet unreplied mails, the groans and moans expelled loudly when missing a bus, a flight, or an opportunity, the ticking of the digital clock which keeps you awake at night, painfully aware of your own nocturnal existence. These million miniscule sounds of mortality which encompass our own existential etcetera and viscera, repeated daily, weekly, yearly, subtly, but not always softly. What will be left of our voice-messages, our long-distance phone calls, our skype conversations, our amorous emojis exchanged through passionate DM scrolls? They will evaporate with ease, like our own mortally salivated droplets, witheld only by a single piece of cloth:
The mouth shapes the O
The breath shapes the H
Together, they say
It’s almost a cough
But it’s not.
The communal fear of touching both strangers and those familiar to us, is exceedingly present in its physical absence. The resistant physical de-magnetisation of our bodies are now lingering in a space of confusion, creating a thick social wall of its own, obstructing ourselves from a gentle act of physical touch, a hug, or a kiss, that otherwise would be completely normal, or even considered polite or kind. It’s as if we are putting the interaction of bodies on hold, in the same way we are holding our public breaths to ourself. Any external interaction apart from touching our own bodies and surfaces, is deemed potentially lethal. And so we fervently touch our phones, stroking the glass surface, begging for a response. If B has hearted your comment from a 100 km distance, that must surely mean something? The surface of my screen has more than twenty splinters, and I am close to cutting myself badly with every digital caress. My ears, my fingers, my jaw. The screen broke when I threw it with full force in the wall during a fit of jealousy. Unable to confront the person in question, I was forced to attack to the wall instead. The wall remained silent, untouched. I went to bed shortly after, but the phone remained awake until dawn. Damaged, but still functional. So was I.
Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. The emotion derives from a double contact: on the one hand, a whole activity of discourse discreetly, indirectly focuses upon a single signified, which is " I desire you," and releases, nourishes, ramifies it to the point of explosion (language experiences orgasm upon touching itself); on the other hand, I enwrap the other in my words, I caress, brush against, talk up this contact, I extend myself to make the commentary to which I submit the relation endure. (R.B)
R.B a ajouté un «point d’interrogation» à « hello ».
I.B Gav ett hjärta till “LOL”
B.S gave a thumbs up to ’crescent moon emoji’
You can hear but you can’t make yourself heard
Yes oh yes, much better, even better than before
But theres a strange, sort of echo
Doesn’t sound like your phone at all
Your phone always sounds the same
Whenever I listen to you I can see you
Oh no no pyjamas
The blue one with a grey pattern
In the left hand, you have the receiver
Yes, that’s easy, I know
And you have a pen, you’re doodling
Ha ha, You see I have eyes instead of ears
Oh but whatever you do, don’t look at me
Afraid, no I’m not afraid, its worse than that
R.B a ajouté un «point d’exclamation» à « I’m going to leave you ».
I.B Gav ett hjärta till “BRB”
B.S gave a thumbs down to ’yes’
To undo a reaction, repeat the steps above and deselect the expression you selected. The person who sent the message will receive a notification that your reaction has been "removed."
This human has ended the conversation. This human has disconnected from the discussion. This connection has ended. Thiscussion, is thus over. Us, as us, too.
Hanne Lippard, 2020