Lala’s Reader, written by Lala Raščić: A paradox of writing a monographic text about the artist who speaks (with Jelena Vesić)

Written July 13, 2014.

Published September 18. 2014 in LALA’S READER, a book by Lala Raščić; can be ordered from Zavod P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. or downloaded from Lala Raščić’s website.


A Story as “The Truth in Disguise”: On The Passion of The Speaker

Jelena Vesić & Vladimir Jerić Vlidi

LALA’S READER, WRITTEN BY LALA RAŠČIĆ

A paradox of writing a monographic text about the artist who speaks

To apply the approach of monograph to the reading of Lala Raščić’s artistic practice, which by itself already uses forms of narrative, essayistic, informative, visual and critical text, would mean applying strategies of description and categorization[1] to the content that already speaks of itself and of the world, outlining its own position of speech by other means.[2] The task of writing about the art of Lala Raščić thus receives an additional plot and twist – instead of a potential commentator, it is the artwork itself presented through the concept of a reader, which, on the very terrain of producing a monograph as the artists’ book, already poses the question of how this position could be outlined as the negation of the monographic form.

The history of art institutionalizes monographic practice as a kind of specific analysis that covers a dedicated field of knowledge, most frequently narrated in the form of biographical study or a study of the works of an individual artist. However, in a broader sense, the linguistic definition of the very word offers another interpretation, maybe even more fit for the purpose of negation of the monographic, brought forward by Lala’s Reader, and this is the meaning in which the monograph also presents “a uniform method for determining the strength and purity of a drug”. To apply the principle of “uniformity” to this reader with various heterogeneous materials – texts and scripts, scenes from various different performances and readings, details in the form of props and scenography, or seemingly absurd by-products of performative processes – might then mean that a “monographic method” could realize its goal by finding in Lala Raščić’s practice the “purity of the drug” of her individual authorship, her “purity of expression”.[3] But, if her book resembles anything like her videos or performances, then a discovery of a different cast of roles than expected does not come as a surprise.

While the nominal, administrative aspect of this artist’s book unambiguously registers its scripture to the artist, as outlined by the nomination of Written By Lala Raščić, a question of who exactly the title of Lala’s Reader is attributed to remains open for interpretation and speculation: who is the Lala who reads or speaks this text in various performative instances? Is she a “storytelling diva” from the first half of previous century and the “golden age” of radio? A queer gangster, constructed from the image of American mobsters of ’30s as-seen-on-film, with an estranged and mutated voice of Bosnia’s post-war criminals, as seen on recent local headlines? Who are all these Lalas? Stand-up comedians? Popular entertainers? Poets? Lecture performers? Researchers? Dadaists? Epic tellers? Skillful reciters? Or simply fans?

This multiplicity of roles and positions gathered under a single signifier of Lala’s does not only bear witness to theatrical costumes or of consuming and enacting different identities characteristic of the ideology of the podium and spotlights and its stars and divas, or of the neo-liberal context of producing and trading with identities – that in the “monographic sense” could be a pursuit of the original seal of authorship, a unique personality and “branded” body of work. Quite the contrary, such multiple roles and positions speak of collectivity and communitarianism of an artistic act that can only be brought into being through a certain historical dialogue and a kind of shared authorship. While Lala Raščić is certainly a singular author, Lalas are her multiplicity.[4] “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” goes the famous advice of Sigmund Freud, who Lala will meet later in one of her journeys in this book – but Lala is never “just Lala”.

Establishing the cuts and stitches between the individual attribution of Lala Raščić and the multiplicity of Lalas reveals the feedback loop between individual authorship and the collective, the communitarian, the historical and the social… Lala Raščić and Lalas cannot be explained based on the “purity and uniqueness of expression” of her individual position of an author, precisely because her body becomes a kind of container and a kind of transmitter for many other bodies, many histories and voices. For the same reason, Lala-as-artist never comfortably situates herself in the elitist gallery framework of the white cube. She always seems to be more curious about popular or “off” places found outside of galleries and away from the art crowd, places where less of the expected audience might be met – and Lala will not miss a chance to create a non-conventional atmosphere in any occasion.

Lala’s Reader, on one hand, does temporary close a certain artistic body of work by documenting the chronology of her artistic development and establishing the abstract, retrospective view on this development from the position of the artist who speaks. The outlook of such a position creates the main narration of this book. On the other hand, Lala’s Reader also rejects the canon of monograph that aims to encompass and encircle an individual oeuvre and enclose into first person speech that which in reality exists almost always as the collectively determined production of art. Readers of this book will then perhaps discover that they don’t have to be passive readers, keeping their distance from the magnificent object of observation, and may choose to become one of the Lalas by finding their own story and symbolically overtaking this book.

 

LECTURE PERFORMANCE AND “LALA’S WAY”

…and while the Lalas witness about how the individual artistic work is always the product of collaborations and friendships, Lala Raščić in the first person appears as a carrier of speech, of narrative performance, as someone who tells stories. Her entering the stage represents stepping out of the individual into the collective, an allusive transmission of individual histories and events to the political now. Lala Raščić in first person is the frontwoman of (elusive) collectivity.

Speech in first person, directly addressing the audience and essayistic fiction are precisely the characteristics of what Marrianne Wagner and Jenny Dirksen call the artistic form of Lecture Performance,[5] a form that thematizes the complex relationship between art (as a place of creative production) and academy and museum (as the place of interpretation and canonization).[6] While the apologetic moment of “awakening” of the artists who speaks through the intellectualization of artistic practices in the ’60s and ’70s loses its relevance today and becomes merged with the progressive practices of contemporary research-based art projects, Lecture Performance as genre remains as the condensate of the (revolutionary) heritage of that historical period.

Here it may be important to note that Wagner[7] also connects Lecture Performance with the concept of half-knowledge, where invention and fiction, irony and humour, play a fundamental role in addressing the truth, the information and the fact. Information, served with humour but also with a dose of seriousness, is among the key “ingredients” of the scripts presented by Lala Raščić, stories which are always research-based, reality-based and reference-based, with unavoidable elements of fiction and “storytelling”, which precisely makes them scripts. Perhaps we can even conceptualize it as essayistic scripts – Dirksen accentuates the role of the essay in Lecture Performance, where the traditional categorization of poetic writing to epic, lyrical and dramatic forms is not applicable. She calls the essay “a fourth genre”, or the principle of textualization that “overrides” the models of genre and discourse.[8] A second important aspect of essayistic writing, especially in the artistic act of its “spatialization” through cinematographic or performative practices, Thijs Witty finds in the elements of skeptical thinking or critical positioning, which follow the form of essay through its complex historical development.[9]

Precisely through this interplay between the different categories of “the real” on the terrain of skeptical or critical thinking, Lala Raščić establishes her social and artistic attitude, at the same time affirming and negating the position of artist-as-lecturer within the field of Lecture Performance and seeking for her own method or artistic expression – pursuing something that could be called “Lala’s Way”. Though this two-fold game, Raščić actually enters into dialogue with classic didactic art activism and its accompanying logic of transformation-through-information. Lala Raščić makes the truths “in camouflage” to hit the observer from an unexpected direction, by dressing them up in disguise and estranging them first.

 

STORYTELLING, OR RUN, LALA, RUN

In the case of Lala, the position of the artist who speaks does not come in the form of a “pure product” of Ars Academica (Lecture Performance), but rather in the form of something we could call Story Performance, where the accent is put not on the purely cognitive, but on the affective development. Delineated by this is Lala’s desire to tell, to yell her stories as loud as possible, whenever and wherever possible. Her seemingly obsessive investigation of whatever the current matter of interest is is not embodied only in the elaborate scripts, where her characters are the subjects of a series of dramatic emotional twists induced by sudden epic events. Her own appearance matters; whatever the script is, it can only start to unfold its stories not by the fact of writing, but by the act of telling, and Lala seems to be well aware that The Script “doesn’t exist” or “cannot exist” before her body starts to perform it.

Precisely in what we can call the affective aspect of her work, a difference between what Jonathan Culler recognizes as linguistic competence and narrative competence[10] resides; however much the affective in her work is also to be found in “particular choices of wording or syntax”.[11] Lala knows that if the story was not being performed or narrated properly, than it is as if nothing had happened, and even children couldn’t believe such story, find it plausible and place it in the domain of “truth”. Hence her affective, bodily and emotional investment in presenting her cases; relying not on the images, but on the language – objects, images and sounds are there not to create, but to corroborate in this approach – it is about how the story is being told, about persuasion, eloquence and passion. The narrative competence exercised in how her stories appear in front of the unsuspecting audience includes both what Quintilian advised in regard to the craft of exposition and how Eyal Weizman sees the connection between persuasion and investigation – as “something more than mere clearness”[12] and as “methods of theatricality, narrative and dramatization”.[13] To create her convincing persona Lala has, as Brian Holmes writes in his The Affectivist Manifesto,[14] to undergo through the process of publicly “splitting” from her private self in order to temporarily assume the character of an outgoing and affective Teller.

As a consequence, her stories are certainly not “left hanging in the air” – Lala is somebody who is literally able to pull stories out of thin air. This drive and this skill are exercised to the point of literalness in Whatever the Object, as is the name of her recent work, where she uses a found object and contingent occurrences as the basis for constructing a story, as if, as she herself states, “something out of nothing” is created merely as the consequence of research, investigation and finally, presentation in the form of a story (more about the work on page XX). With her “pseudo forensic” approach, Lala assumes a rather powerful position of an advocate or expert witness, which enables her to use her finds to tell stories that could not be told otherwise. Such full-fledged authority of a CSI-style expert, always with a certain agenda, provides her stories with a chance of greater impact, with higher probability to disseminate the potential of meaning. “It remains a narrative, it remains a story, and this is something I wish to convey to my audience. I want to tell them a story”, she would say.[15]

This drive of becoming The Teller would haunt Lala from the very start, from the moment of discovering an interest in the radio drama of the “golden age of radio” and various different forms and formats of the time, heralded by her encounter with The War of the Worlds, a radio drama by Orson Welles broadcasted in 1938. Both the skill and competence of a convincing performance of the Martians attacking the Earth narrative and the moment of heightened tension among the public, bombarded previously with “real” news from Europe announcing the arrival of a new World War, produced, what was described as “mass hysteria” in the United States at that time. The power of the story managed to break loose all the accumulated fears in regard to the economic hardships of the post-Great Depression and the anxiety of German Nazis advancing towards an inevitable global conflict, but not before it was told as precisely the fantastic story of an entirely fictional enemy of Martians. As many others, Lala took notice.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEuGfXKEfec&w=1280&h=720]

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djjgWZh4Exc&w=1280&h=720]

A story as “the truth in disguise” is also the means of what Darko Suvin call the cognitive estrangement. According to Suvin,[16] the function of a science fiction narrative (and here we may say, “of the narrative itself”) is to enable us to perceive the everyday reality from a reflexive distance. Otherwise, it would be hardly possible to tell about the “erased” Bosnians in Slovenia, about the sophisticated, harmful and useless modern surveillance technology and about the social structures of the First and of the Third world in a single story, as presented in The Invisibles, the first in the series of Lala’s early works. It was followed by Sorry, Wrong Number and Everything is Connected (more about the works on pages XX and XX), works that even in their very titles mark an intriguing invisibility, but also a certain omnipresence of the body of The Teller. And it is precisely the figure of The Teller that acts as the instance that addresses, communicates and channels all the understandings and misunderstandings in a system of communicating vessels between the story and reality where, indeed, everything may be connected.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfE6vyKRCHc&w=1280&h=720]

The place of this ultimate connecting, or of meta-connecting, is also the place where the story of The Damned Dam – her ongoing epic story project that tells of the world in the year 2027 – arrives. It is a place of connecting the lives of her heroes Tarik and Merima with post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina and the space of former Yugoslavia (SFRY) marked by its post-transitional woes of privatization of all that was once public, within the atmosphere of ethnic division and the global collapse of both the human social structures and natural resources, as a consequence of the advancing capitalist economy (more about the work on page XX). Based on a story rather similar to the War of The Worlds about the “fake” local radio broadcast of the radio drama entitled Catastrophe in 2000, which announced that the dam near the Bosnian city of Lukavac broke, producing expected hysteria among the population, Raščić manages also to connect with oral traditions of epic stories and urban legends of the region. Lala’s grand and epic narratives of Flood or of Exodus that can be found as the main narrative line, or as the “story within a story”, are the product of a lived experience of war and of the unstoppable advance of capitalism; of the eternal dilemma of whether to try to confront with or to escape, and of the discovery of “impossibility” but also the “inevitability” of such a position… This seemingly never ending chain of Damned, Damned Dams keeps on breaking, not because they are not built well, and not because of all that water, that will keep on flowing as it ever did – it is The Firm that decides, each and every time, to induce the “controlled demolition” and to keep on flooding and flooding. It is The Firm’s operations of extracting energy in the most efficient manner possible that makes a Bosnia of today to resemble a giant “human battery” as in Wachowski’s Matrix, and wherever Lala takes her characters, it seems that they will find no rest. However disparate in place or time Lala’s various characters seems to be, whatever their background or current position in the story, if they have anything in common, it is their relentless quest to find a better place, and the repeated sense, no matter what happens in the meantime, of not yet getting there. No less obvious is the cause of their fate, and what exactly is the dark force that keeps on chasing behind them; but in order to get to know everything, the story needs to be told to the end.[17]

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As noted before, these stories are certainly not “left hanging” – rather, the feeling resembles “to be continued” messages expected at the end of each (but one) TV or movie episode, well-placed cliff-hangers that do not end a certain narrative but, on the contrary, bear the potential of resurrecting the story.[18]

As in Lala’s terms, it is The Story that needs to be maintained alive, to keep being told; not only the methods, objects, sounds or images are subjugated to this goal, but it is also not important if it is The Teller, the characters or perhaps the audience[19] who will speak next –everything and everybody become “tools” joined in the task of breaking the silence and “chasing the story” over and over again.

 

BLACK AND WHITE WORLD OF LALA RAŠČIĆ – ON VOICELESS BODY AND BODILESS VOICE

The world of characters and stories as outlined by Lala Raščić can also be viewed through the metaphor of a “black and white world”, where the expression certainly would not stand for some world of clarity, but rather for the environment marked by ambivalence and complex intertwining. Here, if we speak about a black and white world, it would not be about the aesthetics of “black and white film”, but rather about something to be located in the complementary period of ’20s and ’30s to which Lala may nod to as a kind of a parallel or reference. This will appear as a certain “dialectics of absence” as the space-in-between, a kind of rift between the silent picture (early cinema and the fascination by “moving images” as new documents of Life and its stories) and the invisible voice (the introduction of radio and the discovery of the technological possibilities of manipulating the Voice, which has ever since been able to quite “naturally” come from “nowhere”). The black and white world of Lala Raščić is thus an intrigue with absence, in order to accentuate presence on another plane – this is something we could call “black and whiteness”, an element of “silencing”, of toning down the visual in order to open additional space for the Voice as the bearer of the omnipresent and omniscient Story.

True, some of Lala’s performances documented in the form of video are not in color (Sorry, Wrong Number, Everything is Connected, A Load from the Inside – Reviewed), but references to black and white film to be recognized in such stories are not “overdone”, so to say; the process of filming does not include the painstaking recreation of jittery pictures of early cinema,[20] and she does not aim to be either in a virtuosic frenzy of Charlie Chaplin or in the dense noir atmosphere of the seductive Marlene Dietrich. Rather, a certain “black and whiteness”, instead of putting the accent on some “romantic” technology or evoking a spirit of a certain era, here serves to manifest a kind of “disinterestedness” for color. A similar approach could be found in other video performances by Raščić that in the technical sense were presented in color, but the effect was “as-if-they’re-not”[21] black and whiteness appears here as operating in the register which is always at least one notch below the degree of being in full color or full light, that always slips the visual under the Voice, below the register of the Story, so that the visual stays just a tiny bit “louder” than the mysterious presence (of the performer’s body) placed in a “radio box”.

Back in the space of in between the silent picture and the invisible voice, the absence of one of these elements will certainly prevail. Lala’s movies are certainly not silent – all but one. If we focus on A Load from the Inside – Reviewed, the only “silent video” by Lala Raščić, at first glance it would be tempting to use the term “slapstick” to describe her approach, although it is immediately clear that here, as is the case with the rest of her works, the Story will not be subjected to or exhausted through a particular genre. If slapstick is being defined as “comedy based on deliberately clumsy actions and humorously embarrassing events”, then Lala here appears in a certain impossible situation – she is more something like Bette Davis or Judy Garland suddenly walking into a Brechtian piece, an appearance worthy of the principles of the estrangement effect itself. In A Load from the Inside – Reviewed Lala seems to have decided to consult with the ultimate expert of psychoanalysis in regard to what might be hidden “behind the Story”, what is stirring in that vast, powerful and opaque current that the Damned Dam might have halted for a while, just to unleash it all together at once. On their “dialogue”, we don’t know the details; what we could have seen is Lala walking through the photographs of his house in Vienna at the time, investigating the place that cannot be visited nor seen today but with some help of digital technologies – the actual ’30s apartment of Sigmund Freud, hastily abandoned under the threat by Nazis. This visit seems to be a significant event in her work, and perhaps her life, as this is the only work where Lala does not speak, at least not using her voice. By now, it should be obvious: it is not common to witness Lala silent! Her investigation of this particular case proved to be important, and perhaps of influence to the future development of her work.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqKzZr_KhFA&w=1280&h=720]

Regarding this particular aspect, as the story goes further, what threatens her heroes Tarik and Merima in their post-apocalyptic odyssey of The Damned Dam is, actually, not the horrible – and damned! – series of dams that keep on breaking. The dams were, apparently, what proved their previous life possible, and while the dams stood their ground, some kind of future, wherever they were, seemed to be possible. It is also not, as we can seemingly “discover” at first glance, a metaphor of the depth of the water or of the force of the current of the accumulation held back by the dam that will spill like a tsunami, washing away the entire known world and erasing their past and their futures in one mighty stoke. Such a metaphor would be only too convenient for a thought-provoking “impossible” discussion with Dr. Freud over a cup of coffee, probably about the realm of the unconscious. We all know that it is The Firm that decides about the flood.

Thus, Lala’s visit to the good doctor’s house is not on behalf of any of her characters, but for herself; and accordingly, it is her only work, which lacks one crucial thing: her voice, and in general, sound. This lack of sound does not mean her withdrawal into privacy – quite the contrary. Lala Raščić-as-persona here appears to be “footnoting” the absence of the Speaker, sending a significant wink from the set that itself begins to fall apart in the moment when Lala Raščić-as-stage-persona leaves the space, that is, when the voices of Lala and Lalas go silent for a moment. A Load from the Inside – Reviewed is perhaps the only of her works to utilize the elements of slapstick literally. In her own unconscious, the Lala we know seems like a misfit. In a slapstick manner she bumps into doors that won’t open and desks that should not be there, and it seems that there is no chair she will not slip out of; however, none of it is there to relive the tension of the audience with a well-chosen moment of laughter. Her surreal, sometimes estranging and sometimes mischievous acting does not attempt to hide a certain awkwardness of the moment, which is broken down further by the shots from “behind the scenes”, revealing Lala and simple props in an empty studio and outside of the constructed cinematic reality of Freud’s ancient apartment. In Lala’s non-scenic, in the off-field of her work, it is as if we hear the echo of Freud’s famous conclusion: “Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me”.

Indeed, poetry and the affect of reading the text out loud, a characteristic of poetic performances, is to be found at the core of that what always eludes attempts of categorization, and what presents a significant aspect of what we defined as “Lala’s way” earlier in this text. By resorting to the poetic, Lala Raščić and Lalas are able to capture the audience with equal success even if appearing only as the elusive Voice, as voices with no apparent bodies to be attached to. “Reading poetry corresponds with verbal presentation of the text, and that connects with my artistic practice (…) I frequently do verbal performances and read texts, scripts for audio-dramas, and to me it seemed completely natural to continue further with reading of some poetry (…) When we read poetry, often we read that particular poem to ourselves aloud.” – says Lala Raščić in her interview for the festival City of Women where in 2009 she participated with the work Travel in the Box II.[22]

As Lala already told and showed herself in a way, speaking out the words aloud is not a mere reading of the text – as noted by psychoanalyst Thomas H. Ogden in his analysis of the writings of the colleague Donald Winnicott, besides what the words say, it is at least equally important to understand what words “do”.[23] In his later work, he added: “Creating a voice with which to speak or to write might be thought of as a way, perhaps the principal way, in which an individual brings himself into being, comes to life, through his use of language”.[24]

Precisely in between the body and the language stands the Voice, as Mladen Dolar writes in A Voice and Nothing More, which despite being “in between”,[25] actually comprises of the two, and represents a kind of guarantee of inseparability between “the body and the soul”. But what happens if, in spite of such a guarantee, the Voice gets to be represented as “autonomous”, as separated from the body? In her 2009 work Travel in the Box II, Lala enclosed her body in a wooden box from which only her reading of the poetry by young writers from Bosnia and Herzegovina could be heard, and where she appears in the form that is completely the opposite to the previous work discussed – here, she is “a voice without a body”. In this performance we can witness one of the principles mentioned before, of Lala making her body the “transmitter” and “container” for many other voices, applied to the extreme. Almost in a physical sense, she turned herself into the “little people living in a radio”.

As is the case with the dams that constantly break, her Travel in the Box series outlines the story of a forced journey, of exodus of a kind, marked by fears, hopes and the never ending quest to find a better place. The decision to put the Speaker in a box is a part of the Story itself, which was based on a political evocation of the famous case of slave Henry “Box” Brown, who at the time “sent himself” to a free territory in a similar wooden box (more about the work on page XX). In this manner, the power of the acousmatic effect[26] achieved, in which a listener is presented with a Voice that is not clearly associated with any visual source, lets Lala’s voice supersede by far the fact that it was merely given more space by “silencing” the other elements down. Here, the Voice does not gain in its quantity alone, in the sense that it simply occupies a larger field of attention; it is transformed in its very character and becomes “larger than space” in which it operates, and by disassociating itself with its possible source or carrier it becomes an omnipresence with which it is not possible to talk to, but which must be listened to.[27]

But, as was the case with most of the examples of examining the ways in which different various histories, aesthetics and expressions were being utilised in the framework of the method outlined as “Lala’s way”, her way of using the acousmatic effect here is part of the overarching approach probably best described through the principle of “it is, but it isn’t”. As, for example, Lala will immediately translate and transform the history of something recognized as lecture-performance into the practice of story-performance, similarly as her use of epics does not produce an epic, and as some of her video works aren’t, but are in black and white, as behind her forensic approach there will not be “real” experts – or similarly to the way we can never be sure which of Lalas is on the stage and which one is to come – so in the Travel in the Box II, her body is not entirely removed, nor absolutely invisible. Actually, we do see Lala on the small screen in a manner of reduced and contrasted surveillance camera image that represents a “live broadcast” from the box, while the acousmatic effect is here rather “marked” then meticulously and obsessively applied in its purest form, joining the rest of her palette of methods, objects and information that Lala may or may not use, in their full extent or not. All of these aspects will always be determined and applied solely by the needs – and intentions – of the Story itself.

 

P.S. ON THE VOICES OF THE SPEAKER, OR WELCOME TO LALA’S READER

To get back to the stories – it is not only the stories Lala aims to share in her works and performances that offer narratives and histories; often it is the adventures that the works themselves undergo, being transformed over the years, that also create similar epic constructions by itself and about itself. With Lala, we always encounter both the story within the work and the story about the work, or the story about the Story that becomes its own history. Consider The Damned Dam again; in its successive interpretations the story dramatically changes, the characters drop in and out of the narrative, and it seems that, as in some “proper epic”, there is no end to the story. Finally, our story, as well as Lala’s, will not be left without a resolution – perhaps it only needs a bit of waiting, until the very end is told, and thus made known; but surely, the source of the relentlessness of her characters and what drives them over and over again to exile, to further pursue this elusive “better place” – which is, important to note, nothing other than life itself, not an ambitious plan, but the quest for true freedom – is not mysterious, nor elusive, nor left unnamed.

Only sometimes, for a blink and with the corner of the eye we might catch the intimate moment when the real Lala, a woman we, really, cannot know anything about, stands besides and observes along what unfolds under the spotlight where Lala Raščić and her Lalas are; but whatever our evaluation of her appearance might be, of the weight or elegance of all the words that are about to start flowing around, it cannot carry the weight of Lala’s artistic introspection, whose conclusion will be inscribed in the next Lala Raščić that we will see up on stage. Eventually, even Lala Raščić-as-stage-persona has to take her place at either at the beginning or at an end of a long line of anything and everything that shall be subjected to the Story – as much as the opposite might appear to be true, up there on stage it is not Lala who is telling the Story, but the Story telling Lala.

The book is about to unfold – welcome to Lala’s Reader!

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[1] Such approach in the recent history of artists’ books established itself as the institution of an individual retrospective in a written form, connected with the traditional modernist conception of great (male) author, romanticized by the ideology of enlightenment and bourgeois concept of individual genius.

[2] To speak about oneself and the world using other means and to outline own position of speech outside of “monographic” alludes on the elements of essayism, scepticism and research that a book like this, based on such a premise, brings to fore by putting in focus the texts (scripts) by Lala Raščić and presenting the book as the reader – Lala’s Reader. More on this approach in the chapter “Lecture Performance and Lala’s Way”.

[3] A motif of “healing by the means of art” indeed appears in Raščić’s critically and polemically oriented script for Individual Utopias, her work presented in 2008 (more on page XX), where she mocks and parodies the case of investment in art-as-medical-therapy. It is the comment by the artist, who took part in the project of “healing by the means of art” of mentally and emotionally exhausted patients from both sides of the city of Mostar divided by recent civil war. The project was done on the initiative of Italian humanitarian organization, which ended up – as to be expected – as one complete and epic failure. In this paradigmatic case for the “peripheral art” of post-war and transitional regions (on the territory of former Yugoslavia, perhaps especially so in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the art in cultural and political sense frequently appeared in the function of the agency of friendship and reconciliation between the sides at war, what often turned out to be nothing more than a “smoke screen” for different quasi-social processes and manipulations, as thematized by Raščić in Individual Utopias), the artist unfolds and ideologically de-masks in her performance the context and the means of such artistic production.

[4] “Lala’s” part of the title of Lala’s Reader will, further in this text, be taken in the symbolical meaning of “Lalas”, as it is pronounced the same, and written with only a tiny apostrophe of difference, in order to point out a formation of a symbolical community around Lala’s work, the multiplicity of characters she appears as and to underline the potential of creating or overtaking a certain rogue collectivity of her co-conspirators, co-workers or simply friends of Lala Raščić’s work.

[5] Marianne Wagner, Doing Lectures: Performative Lectures as a Framework for artistic Action and Jenny Dirksen, Ars academica – the lecture between artistic and academic discourse, in Lecture Performance (exhibition catalogue, ed. Kathrin Jentjens and Jelena Vesić), Koelnischer Kunsverein and Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, 2009.

[6] A Shakespearean question of “what’s in the name”, that is, of the importance of names and naming, in this case of connecting the scientific and lecturing with aesthetical and performative, becomes important in the context of political history of the art of ’60s, when artists for the first time overtook the territory of interpretation, gaining the possibility of steering the academic discourse by the means of own speech. By using the performative mode of public addressing, by writing artist statements or by re-categorizing of lecture as performance through the aspect of rhetoric’s and choreography, artists were able to reclaim the “own voice”, pointing to the alienation and exploitation of the artistic work in practices where their “right to speech” was institutionally delegated to other professional instances.

[7] Marianne Wagner, ibid, pp. 21.

[8] Jenny Dirksen, ibid, pp. 9-10.

[9] Thijs Witty, Spatialized Essays. Learning how to live without speculation, Reader: Moving Images of Speculation (publication TBA) in Moving Images of Speculation (InLab Reader), curators and editors: Marcel Dickhage, Sonja Lau, Rachel O’Reilly, Cathleen Schuster, Jelena Vesić, Jan Van Eyck, Maastricht, 2014

[10] “But narrative is not just an academic subject. There is a basic human drive to hear and tell stories. Children very early develop what one might call a basic narrative competence: demanding stories, they know when you are trying to cheat by stopping before reaching the end. So the first question for the theory of narrative might be, what do we implicitly know about the basic shape of stories that enables us to distinguish between a story that ends ‘properly’ and one that doesn’t, where things are left hanging? The theory of narrative might, then, be conceived as an attempt to spell out, to make explicit, this narrative competence, just as linguistics is an attempt to make explicit linguistic competence: what speakers of a language unconsciously know in knowing a language.” – Jonathan D. Culler, The Literary in Theory, Stanford University Press, 2007, pp. 83-84.

[11] “There are linguists who recognize the problem of tone of voice, but they tend to separate it from the ‘cognitive’ realm of language proper and exile it to the ‘affective’ realm of the individual speaker’s psyche, overlooking the hidden affective implications of particular choices of wording or syntax, on the one hand, and the obvious fact that a performer may deliberately simulate an emotional tone, on the other.” – Dennis Tedlock wrote in The Spoken Word and the Work of Interpretation, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, p. 10.

[12] As Quintilian outlined long ago in his Institutio Oratoria (IV, ii, ViII, iii, 62-63) the situation where, in the court of law, however much the facts one presents are known to be true, the “truth” lies in the way of presenting them: “…because vivid illustration, or, as some prefer to call it, representation, is something more than mere clearness, since the latter merely lets itself be seen, whereas the former thrusts itself upon our notice. It is a great gift to be able to set forth the facts on which we are speaking clearly and vividly. For oratory fails of its full effect, and does not assert itself as it should, if its appeal is merely to the hearing, and if the judge merely feels that the facts on which he has to give his decision are being narrated to him, and not displayed in their living truth to the eyes of the mind”.

[13] Eyal Weizman wrote on Forensic Aesthetics: “Forensics includes both field-work and forum-work. It is not only about science as a tool of investigation the field, but about science as a means of persuasion the forum. It is crucially about conviction – not that of other scientists (as in a regulated process of peer review) but that of judges, juries, or publics. Forensic Aesthetics is the mode of appearance of things in forums – the gestures, techniques and technologies of demonstration, methods of theatricality, narrative and dramatization, image enhancement and technologies of projection, the creation and demolition of reputation, credibility, and competence.” (from http://www.forensic-architecture.org/lexicon/forensic-aesthetics-eyal-weizman , currently offline, archived at http://www.mara-stream.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Weizman_FA_documenta13book.pdf)

[14] Brian Holmes in The Affectivist Manifesto Artistic Critique in the 21st Century writes: “An artistic event does not need an objective judge. You know it has happened when you can bring something else into existence in its wake. Artistic activism is affectivism, it opens up expanding territories. These territories are occupied by the sharing of a double difference: a split from the private self in which each person was formerly enclosed, and from the social order which imposed that particular type of privacy or privation”. (http://brianholmes.wordpress.com/2008/11/16/the-affectivist-manifesto)

[15] Festival City of Women, an interview with artist Lala Raščić. (http://www.s12.si/kultura-umetnost/izven-okvirja/753-festival-city-of-women-an-interview-with-artist-lala-rascic.html)

[16] Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, Yale University Press, 1979.

[17] Brian Holmes in his The Affectivist Manifesto– Artistic Critique in the 21st Century accentuates the role of affective, but also elaborate performance of such story: “When a territory of possibility emerges it changes the social map, like a landslide, a flood or a volcano do in nature. (…). An affective territory disappears if it isn’t elaborated, constructed, modulated, differentiated, prolonged by new breakthroughs and conjunctions”.

[18] Here, perhaps important to note, lies also a certain two-fold twist of Lala’s pieces – as in epic, they will often still lack what is expected of a “proper film”, a distinct resolution at the end. Perhaps the story of The Dam will end with Tarik and Merima getting really stuck on that barge full of extreme sportsmen at the top of the very last hill of otherwise entirely flooded world, or perhaps the story continues (would be interesting to hear further, whatever the case); and in Everything is Connected the gang mob might disband, flee the city, maybe they will eventually find the kidnapped child or do something entirely unexpected – it is all “off camera”, to say, and we cannot know, so have to wait and see if there is more, or not.

[19] Sometimes, Raščić’s works could be found to include the audience as participants, as in order to listen to her Sorry, Wrong Number one needs to pick up the phone, in order for Lala to read “the riddle” of Whatever the Object (as it was presented on the closing of last year’s October Salon in Belgrade) one needs to get around and find and assemble the text from the sheets of paper thrown all over the space. Those pieces could not be realised without active and bodily participation of the audience.

[20] As Charlie Brooker writes in one of his columns in The Guardian, “Quick, close your eyes for a second and picture the 1920s. What did you see? If you’re anything like me, the projectionist in your head put on a newsreel consisting of black-and-white footage of flappers doing the Charleston, or a queue of men in flat caps patiently waiting for the great depression to kick off in earnest. And chances are the footage was jittery and slightly speeded-up.” Brooker adds that “If the ’20s had actually unfolded at the speed they appear to in archive footage, the decade would’ve ended early, somewhere in the middle of 1925, thereby causing a five-year ‘time gap’ during which everyone would have to stand perfectly still for fear of creating an ‘event’ that might burst the bubble, sucking in all the neighbouring matter in the universe. (…).” (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/apr/29/difference-hobbit-news-not-much)

[21] Here, it is rather about a certain “visual impression” left by other video works by Lala Raščić which, in technical sense, are not in black and white as Everything Is Connected, A Load from the Inside – Reviewed or Sorry, Wrong Number are, but it is easy to remember the works as such (for example, Invisibles or Derviš i smrt and others). But despite Lala’s using of video as first of all a tool to tell a story and not as an nostalgic hommage, it is important to note that even her live performances could be sometimes described as cinematic, as analogous to “one take” shots of silent movie stars like Keaton or Chaplin, whose extreme use of body and time, in order to overcome the limitations of technology and to tell the story in the most convincing manner possible, did demand a certain suffering and sacrifice, just as Lala surely discovered herself almost a century later.

[22] The performance of the work and the interview with the artist could be found here: http://vimeo.com/7096635.

[23] “Style and content are inseparable in writing. The better the writing, the more this interdependence is utilised in the service of creating meaning. In recent years, I have found that the only way I can do justice to studying and teaching Winnicott is to read his papers aloud, line by line, as I would a poem, exploring what the language is doing in addition to what it is saying”. – Thomas H Ogden, Reading Winnicott, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 70, no. 2 (2001), pp. 299-323.

[24] “There is a vast difference between thinking, on the one hand, and speaking or writing, on the other. In speech and in writing, one listens to oneself on a way that is different from the way one experiences one’s own thinking. Wallace Stevens (recounted by Vendler in 1984) has said that one thinks in one’s own language: one writes in foreign language. I believe that Stevens is referring to the way writing (and I would add speech) entails a quality of otherness that affords us an opportunity to hear how we come into being in the way we use language”. – Thomas H Ogden, Conversations at the frontier of dreaming, Ch. 3, A Question of Voice, Karnac Books, 2002, pp. 49-50.

[25] “The voice is the flesh of the soul, its ineradicable materiality, by which the soul can never be rid of the body; it depends on this inner object which is but the ineffaceable trace of externality and heterogeneity, but by virtue of which the body can also never quite simply be the body, it is a truncated body, a body cloven by the impossible rift between an interior and an exterior. The voice embodies the very impossibility of this division, and acts as its operator.” – Mladen Dolar, A voice and nothing more, Ch 4 Physics of the Voice, MIT Press, 2006, p. 71.

[26] Regarding the acousmatic effect, it is known that Pythagoras used the principle of having part of his disciples, usually the beginners, carefully listening to his speeches behind the curtain, he himself remaining hidden, what was at first formally understood as the consequence of the need for students to focus on what was being said, that is, to the mere physical space given to this voice without a source and in the environment scarce of other visuals. The other, more advanced disciples (usually, it took them five years ‘behind the curtain’ to reach the status), had the opportunity to see him, and to ask questions; soon it became clear that applying the method is not the matter of exercising the attention and focus alone, and that it dramatically changed the positions between the Voice and those who could hear it. The first group, the one behind the curtain, had no choice but to take his voice as the “voice of God” – the source of this voice declamating “truths” could not be located, and there was no possibility for asking questions, negotiating or asking for clarification or for any sort of discussion with this mystical entity. The second group had the opportunity to witness themselves about the origin and materiality of that same voice, and, by asking questions, could enter into the dialogue with Pythagoras.

[27] Research on the phenomena of the acousmatic effect and the power of “bodiless voice” in contemporary culture mostly comes from the fields of psychoanalysis (Freud, Lacan, Chion, Dolar) or film theory (Altman, Gibson, Levi, Davison). Miran Božović explains about the phenomena in the reader Lacan (ed. Slavoj Žižek, Verso, 2006, Ch 2: The Omniscient Body, pp 22-23) through the observations of Diderot and interpretations of Michel Chion (The Voice in Cinema, New York, Columbia University Press, 1999): “(…) the moment they do not only hear him speak from behind the curtain – that is, the moment they are ‘admitted into the sanctuary’ where they see him ‘face to face’ – Pythagoras himself loses his divine status, and his voice loses its magical power. As long as the disciples ‘only heard him’, they were dearly willing to believe his cryptic utterances: it was as though every word heard from behind the curtain, ‘from the sanctuary’, was a word coming directly from God and had, for the acousmatics, the status of a divine revelation: a sufficient guarantee of the truth of the revealed propositions, unintelligible in themselves, was provided by the mere fact that ‘Pythagoras has said so’.” – or, as Diderot explains the situation in his Encyclopédie (1751), anything that was being said for the first group had to stay “as is” because “Pythagoras has said so”, while in the case of the second group, their questions and demands for clarification were answered by “Pythagoras himself”.