... on intimacy

In line with elements of the project ‘Polyphonic Essay on Intimacy and Distance whereby the artworks shall be revealed at the Transart Triennale on the 6th of August triggering an unrehearsed sonic conversation, this text has been written in two parts and with no consultation between the two curators. Despite this, on joining them together, it is clear there are interlacing concerns and fascinations, although with one curator taking a distinctly haptic approach and one focusing on the voice. Both curators have practices which have aligned for almost a decade and as such have developed a great bond of professional trust and associated friendship. The following text is the first in a two-part collation of ideas. This entry sets forth thoughts on intimacy, the subsequent one in July will explore the concept of distance. 


By Gayle Meikle

When I think of intimacy the first thing that comes to the fore is the proximity of touch. For example skin on skin contact between a parent and their new born, two beings resting against one another, so close it is difficult to distinguish where one ends and the other begins.   This image of caring and to be cared for is a pleasant one, but it doesn’t denote the complexities of the term intimacy and how I see it relating to our project. Instead let’s think through intimacy (I am borrowing the phrase from Timothy Morton here). To think through intimacy is to think between boundaries inside and outside.  This collapsing of hierarchies suggests a porosity a slippage of self, an interdependence and an acknowledgement of the differences between. ‘A Polyphonic Essay on Intimacy and Distance’ is wholly interconnected, its ‘success’ relies on a multitude of parts; the artists who have accepted our invitation, Alexandra and my friendship, our knowledge of each other’s interests and the willingness of the audience to engage in our conversation. It plays with the conventions of curating and the expectations of making things public. It is a queer thing. However, this queer thing is not without care, in fact I think this term has to be acknowledged here. Of course ‘curator’ is derived from curare, meaning ‘to take care’ but for this project the curator goes beyond caring for the artwork and the artist (this is implicit), instead the role extends to taking care of a collective epistemic understanding. An understanding that depends on a multitude of parts. If we were to replay the event we would arrive at a different conclusion. The liveness of the event and the uncertainty of the outcome is what excites me about the project. I have no idea what Alexandra has prepared, what our selected artists will present, or how these works will sit beside each another. I have partly relinquished control of making things public, placing my trust in others to find a common understanding, in the moment. 


To borrow from Timothy again “This intimacy is a polymorphously per- verse belonging (and longing) that doesn’t fit in a straight box—“. (Morton, T, 2010)


(Morton, T, 2010) - Morton, T. (2010) Queer Ecology in PMLA, [online] 125(2), pp. 272 -282 Available at: https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=pmlamorton2010.pdf&site=58 [Accessed 6 June. 2016].



By Alexandra Ross - ˈin(t)əməsē’ noun 

A few thoughts on intimacy; a brief reflection of the intimate qualities of the voice.  


In ‘Doing things with Voices: Performativity and Voice’, by Neumark, H., Gibson, R. 2010, there is consideration of the ‘aesthetics of intimacy and intensity’. 


‘A performative voice can (instead) call the other into an intimate relationship – it can performatively effect intimacy. This happens not by speaking about intimacy, but through vocal qualities and vocal performance – through the performativity of the voice… the uncanny quality of performative voices, as they are haunted by the media from which they emerge – and as they haunt that media’. (Neumark, N., 2010:94-95).


The etymology of the word ‘conversation’ has its roots in Middle English and Old French. There are several definitions of the word and in the Oxford English Dictionary, conversation is defined as 


‘an interchange of thoughts and words; familiar discourse or talk’, and as ‘occupation or engagement with things, in the way of business or study; the resulting condition of acquaintance or intimacy with a matter’.  


It is this notion of intimacy (both between individuals and within the content of the exchange) and the necessity of interchange that lie at the heart of this project. What intimacy represents for me within the conversational process is the sharing/willingness to divulge knowledge/ideas. The moment of encounter is infused with aesthetic connectivity. An aspiration of the encounter is to engender or activate moments of intimacy and intensity. Intimacy can be evidenced by the drawing close, the sotto vocedelivery, or even the space for comfortable silence. There are subtleties in the timbre of one’s voice which reveal rapport (or lack thereof), and unlock many facets of the speaker other than simply the words uttered.


In the unfolding exchange, the voice of the artists, the curators, and the audience will all be brought in to create an unfolding polyphony, which by definition consists of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody which can stand alone and also together. What we hope will unfold is a conversation which is stimulated by and centers on the artworks we commissioned individually. Although it is a project focusing on the sonic realm, the subtleties of accent, cadence of delivery and staging will, it is hoped, create a sensorium where the sonic unlocks other senses, memories and lines of conversation and exchange.  

About the contributors: Gayle Meikle (UK) and Alexandra Ross (ZA) have been working collaboratively for almost ten years. This project is the first instalment in a new sonic exploration called "A Polyphonic Essay on Intimacy and Distance" and is being performed at the Transart Triennale in August in Berlin.

Transart Institute