Maintenant: Seeing the Untouchable, Touching the Unseen

Eleanor Stubley

conference: DARE 2015: the dark precursor
date: ongoing
venue: Orpheus Institute, Auditorium
format: in absence
practice: music and sound
keywords: Cinema 1, Michel Serres, music performance, sculpture, voice

abstract about the author(s)

abstract

We can say . . . of time . . . that it is the whole of relations.
—Gilles Deleuze (1986, 10)

A cinematic screen is filled with the image of my hands conducting, caught from above and behind my left shoulder. The motion and the touch of my hands captivate as they reach out into the blackness of empty space to make visible the materiality of sound as I sculpt and shape the evolving music. The image of sculptor Joël Prévost’s hands appear deeply immersed in the sensuality of their touch as his fingers probe what lies hidden beneath the surface of his clay. It is an unexpected pairing—music and sculpture—yet, centre stage at a slightly forward angle, Prévost’s finished sculpture of my hands, suspended in motion, draws the images together. Its form as sculpture speaks to the fleetingness of the unfolding moment and its longevity as a present grasped. The play between the sculpture and the images, the fleetingness and the grasping, points to the image of the hand that holds time embodied in the roots of the French word for now, main-tenant. This exposition explores the transformational power of the moment in all its temporal complexity.

The project stems from the long-standing gap between knowledge about music and that garnered through its embodied experience in the moment. Driven by a definition of music as a temporal art, the gap has framed listening as a function of the ear alone. Deleuze (2004, 73), however, argues “even in the joining of sensations . . . there is resonance.” Hearing has a tactile dimension. Touch is also a movement, a gesture through which one situates or places oneself in relationship to an evolving whole; and, as both a touching and being touched by, it “necessarily constitute[s] couplings of sensation. . . . [that] produce resonance” (ibid., 66). Prévost’s sculpture of my hands, made while I conducted, allowed me to cultivate these relationships and marry my own touch and hearing to the tactility of the sculpting clay to make visible the thought—the grasping—that had been hitherto hidden in my gestures.

These couplings also make tangible the “invisible,” “insensible,” “dark precursor” that precipitates the paradigmatic transformations of sudden flashes of creative insight. As in a developing variation, the multi-sensory, temporal, and spatial possibilities of film are used in combination with the sculpture onstage continually to “look again,” each time from a different perspective. Enhanced through a kinaesthetic memory invoked by my (live) voice, the ensuing rub of sight, sound, motion, stillness, past and present, spawns the echoes from which Michel Serres (1995, 119) argues time itself is born. My hands are constantly “re-membered,” as echoes, many “unheard” and seemingly without a past, become an opening to the future. Time itself is set in motion and sound renews Deleuze’s concept of touch. The exposition unfolds around Pászti Miklòs’s Fekete Lány and is based on a poem by Federico García Lorca originally “found” through gestures of the hand.

Web: eleanorstubley.com; joelaprevost.com

References

Brunner, Christopher. 2013. “Affective Timing and Non-sensuous Perception in Differential Media,” Simondon and Digital Culture Conference, Leuphana University.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1986. Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 2004. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Serres, Michel. 1995. Genesis. Translated by Geneviève James and James Nielson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

about the author(s)

Eleanor Stubley

Eleanor Stubley (1960 – 2017) as a versatile conductor and an accomplished scholar, is constantly reaching beyond the given to renew and revitalise music as a performing art. She seeks not only to bridge the gap between theory and practice but also to erase the gap altogether through an unswerving focus on the transformative relationship between body and music. As a conductor, she has received awards for innovative inter-arts programming and appeared in the 2005 CBC film production The Pines of Emily Carr (Director, Donald Winkler). As a scholar, she interweaves the archival interests of a musicologist and the formal curiosity of a theorist with the memory of her conducting hands to renew our sense of time, space, and place in musical experience. She is Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University, and was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013.

info & contact

affiliation

McGill University, Montreal, CA