Statement #18 | Marie-Andrée Pellerin — Speculative Keys

Performance, June 21, 2022, 7 pm
Open Space, from 5 pm

My favorite key is…
(Finger pushes the letter A.)
You will suddenly understand a completely alien language,
spoken by a foreign species.
Vor langer Zeit machte diese Spezies auf ihrer Reise durch den Weltraum eine Picknickpause auf eurem Planeten.
In ihrer Sprache gab es kein Wort für ‘Müll’, also ließen sie ihren zurück und gingen.
I’ve heard somewhere that language would be a virus from outer space.

Inspired by science fiction stories written by women, the video Une oreille gigantesque capable d’absorber tous les bruits du monde (A Gigantic Ear Capable of Absorbing All the Noises of the World, 2020) encapsulates Marie-Andrée Pellerin’s artistic practice. She often develops her moving images, sound installations, and performances on the basis of language related topics and the hypothesis of linguistic determinism, whereby the language we speak formats our thinking and our relation to reality. The video presents Pellerin in a fictional clinical experiment in which a scientist attempts to radically transform her patient’s usage of language with a “praxis of language disturbance”. In this montage of video footage, 3D animations, spoken and written word, and sound experiments, the artist investigates the functionalities of language, but not just on the level of content; it also explores the formal potentials of the video format. Additionally, non-verbal information is given priority over spoken script, and the soundscape and moving images are allowed to affect the way the subtitle captions appear or melt in the picture.

The performance Speculative Keys in Kunstraum Lakeside is part of a long-term research project. With the title, Marie-Andrée Pellerin refers, on the one hand, to science fiction literature that speculatively attempts to generate new social relationships as well as practicing communication acts between other-than-human living beings, and on the other, to the instrument of the performance, a computer keyboard and its misappropriated and repurposed keys. The artist’s body of research consists of a collection of science fiction stories, which describe various ways of dealing with “linguistic deficits”. Some texts propose abandoning language as we know it in favor of new forms of communication, ranging from an advanced feminist language to telepathy and even chemically embodied signals. Pellerin selects segments from these science fiction stories, some of which were commissioned to science fiction authors for this specific project (Élisabeth Vonarburg, Monika Rinck), and translates them into new narratives and abstract soundscapes. The sound quality of the words plays a key role in these compositions.

In collaboration with a programmer, Pellerin developed and built a synthesizer out of an old computer keyboard, which serves as the main tool in the performance Speculative Keys. She plays back recorded voice fragments with the instrument and composes sequences and abstract loops, which emulate the materiality of the voices. She asks: “What else could have been if language was a more fluid entity? Would have it enabled us to name what still has to be named, to give a voice to the silent ones? In an alternative utopian reality,” says the artist about her own speculations, “the concept of language fluidity would offer the possibility of radically different ‘social blueprints’ and unexpected constellations of living beings.”

Marie-Andrée Pellerin (b. in Canada) lives and works in Linz.

In collaboration with Pascale Tétrault (programming)
Funded by Art Council of Canada


Marie-Andrée Pellerin, Une oreille gigantesque capable d’absorber tous les bruits du monde, 2020