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A voice that aims to turn the throat upside down
RITA NATALIO

A voice that aims to turn the throat upside down

Rita Natálio

 

 

“cette musique d’autrefois qui persiste encore aujourd’hui [...] souffle monté des caveaux d’une humanité abolie” (this music of old times that still persists today [...] .] blows up the vaults of a humanity that was abolished”) 

Antonin Artaud

 

 

TUTUGURI's solo is one of the first pieces by Flora Détraz, followed by “MUYTE MAKER", premiered at the Alkantara festival in May 2018. In both works, Flora Détraz emphasises the physiological limitations of breathing that shape the act of singing. The voice is used as a musical and rhythmic tool that is "extracted" from the body, which produces a certain abstraction of bodies on stage because they are, in a way, dispossessed from their symbolic processes, or taken hostage of that process. 

In the case of TUTUGURI, it is inspired on the classical radiophonic piece of Antonin Artaud “To have done with the judgment of God” (1947). The piece of Artaud elaborates an experience that the author had in Mexico, after watching the indigenous Sun ritual performed by the Tarahumaras, which marked him profoundly. Artaud’s audio piece places a radical critique to a certain theatricality of voice, while it experiments a displacement of human referentiality to expression and meaning. In a way, Artaud aimed to produce a chant to an abolished humanity, while his expression attempted to strip common sense from human-centrism and dramatical expression. 

While the TUTUGURI of Flora Detraz is not directly linked to the imaginary of the Black Sun ritual of Tutuguri sang by Artaud, we are perpetually in a state of dismantlement that is shared with the radical approach of Artaud to the procedural ritual of embracing the Tutuguri: “they were words / invented to define things /that existed /or did not exist/ in the face of / the pressing urgency / of a need: / the need to abolish the idea, / the idea and its myth, / and to enthrone in its place /the thundering manifestation / of this explosive necessity: /to dilate the body of my internal night,

In Détraz’s solo, differently from Artaud, voice is used besides the mouth, as in a ventriloquist practice. Voice is also used despite the body that is offered to us in immobility or semi-immobility. It reinforces solitude of this absent minded body on stage but engaged with singing faraway sounds that rarely are illustrated by gestual meaning. It also reinforces our abandonment as viewers in a dilated time, as Détraz struggles to produce ventriloquy looped sounds despite her limited aerobic structure. While the voice produces whispers, animal growls, children’s noises, the body is a producer of spectrality because it tries to remain still and independent despite vocal excess. Tutuguri is thus a practice of extending recognisable soundscapes to a limit of the unshaped, albeit the figure of the lyrical singer and its formal codes (facial expressions, tonus, arm positions) are also invoked and commented, specially in the beginning of the piece. 

©Arthur Gueydan

 The ambiguity of certain  decisions, between representation and a more Artaudian anti-representation mode, are part of the process that Flora passed in the last years and took us to her second work MUYTE MAKER, recently premiered. MUYTE MAKER is a group piece that proposes an exploration of medieval and Renaissance songs with 4 women performers, leading further her research about the dyssynchrony between movement and voice to a realm of “hearing dance”.  MUYTE MAKER celebrates disobedient and abnormal natures of femininity, while the formal and independent use of “voicing” (producing a certain voice for a certain state) and “facial masking” (creating a certain facial expression for a certain state) convokes a kind of pre-morphic universe of dance where nothing fits our common sense. We are left with the impossibility to grasp the historical meaning of these songs, because we are introduced to bodies that are never reconciled with the images and the symbols they produce. A certain history of magic and secrets is put in place, a pre-modern tale of women singing their skinny flat tits, their despicable and shameful tits (XVI century music from Jabob Clamens non Papa called “Blason of the ugly tit” that is sang in the beginning of the piece). These 4 women are sit with their hairs attached to sickles and axes, and once again, immobility is the key to produce outer soundscapes intensively inhabited by other figures, entities, and situations. In the end, we could breathe with relief to see women with breaths and voices so conditioned to her own oddness.  Although the trend of parody and mimicry threatens the work momentarily, one could say that Flora Détraz, near a sphinx, is aware of the danger of her own research: to maintain the place of the abolition of certain representations (of the ventriloquist, the lyrical singer, the grotesque woman of the thirteenth century, etc) requires her insistence on dyssynchrony and anti-theatricality. Identifiable images are never enough to a voice that aims to turn the throat upside down.

@Bruno Simão