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Title: Vox ex machina : towards a digital poetics of the disembodied voice
Author: O'Donnell-Smith, Daniel
ISNI:       0000 0004 6499 2045
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis explores the notion of ‘voice’ in relation to contemporary poetics and the digital arts. It is a practice-based project that produces a theoretical and creative space in which a theory of the ‘voice of the machine’ is discovered and tested. Through a series of research chapters and critical reflections this thesis tests ideas of dictation, translation, inscription and embodiment using the poetic device of the disembodied — or acousmatic — voice as a fundamental theoretical framework, which in turn informs my practice. I begin with a study of Jack Spicer’s book After Lorca, a collection of translated poems that are dictated to Spicer by the ghost of Federico García Lorca. Using the work of Mladen Dolar, I explore the idea of the acousmatic voice and the processes of translation that emerge from this when one is in communion with the dead. From this I identify a ‘network of tradition’: Spicer’s matrix of historical, poetic associations to which belongs W.B. Yeats, another poet who used spirit dictation in composition. I focus on the practice of Yeats’s wife, George, who, acting as a medium, produced hundreds of manuscripts of automatic writing and drawing. Through a study of Johanna Drucker’s notion of graphesis, via discussions on choreography, I establish George Yeats as a spiritual writing machine whose practice works as an acoustic register of ghostly dictation and audition. I consider the idea of katabasis — an Orphic descent to retrieve a voice — that underpins Spicer’s poetics in After Lorca and I use this as a catalyst to enact gestures of archival katabasis — in pursuit of George Yeats — and what I term as the kata_BASIC, which is a descent into the machine to retrieve its voice. Using the random-chance poetics of Jackson Mac Low as a practice methodology I understand the voice of the machine to be an expression of its agency and computational processes, which are materialised in machine-mediated interventions such as the glitch. The practice I produce in this project — poetry, objects, video and sound — tests ideas of translation, acoustic imagery, hybridity and transcreation in light of the idea of a shared voice of collaboration that exists between the machine and the archived or disembodied voices that it (re)mediates.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available