La voz humana is a video performance that took place in 1997. It is a work about the violence of language, about its public use and about the functioning of discourses built around imposed, rather than agreed upon, premises. The performance’s starting point is a fragment of Miguel Cereceda’s book “El origen de la mujer sujeto” (1996) [The origins of the woman subject], in which the author assesses different linguistic fields and their gender related links. The piece reflects on the voice of women (which is not always their own, but rather a mere reflection of stereotypes), and proposes a fusion between the body and language –a rematerialization of discourse- to generate an extended hybrid territory beyond the uncritical assimilation of hegemonic paradigms, but also far from the ahistorical position of empty silence.
The writing that frames this performance, published in 1999 in the catalogue for the exhibition Futuropresente (Futurepresent), began with the following words by Ingeborg Bachmann in Malina: The Sphinx: “I am going to reveal a terrible secret to you: language is punishment. Into it all things must enter, and within it must they all perish according to their guilt and the measure of their guilt.” Oedipus, my dear Oedipus..., nothing has changed.
Now, as back then, I still think that language is one of the most effective tools of domination, the privileged mechanism that introduces us real-ly to the rules of the game, the principal tool to (re)situate persistent subalternities and hierarchies.
Because what the Sphinx is actually proposing is not a trivial exercise of rhetoric brilliancy, but the impossibility of understanding what lies under a set of relations that have been dialectically structured by latecapitalism and its global division of labour, by the heteronormative order, by sexism, by racism..., the struggle for the fundamental tool, inexistence even, of a common language for all after the inscription within one sole symbolic régime.
Language illuminates us, conforms us, and makes possible not only our relations and discourses, but also our bodies, their representation: to own language is to own the capacity of (re)signification.
To say that women speak/write publicly does not yet mean that they do it with their own words, but rather, that, in many cases, they mimic strategies and prosodies in order to gain access to a quota of the exercise of power. On the other hand, to change language, to rematerialize it, is a political practice that goes beyond the adoption of an essentialist register.
A critical discursive praxis must necessarily evidence the norms of the linguistic framework, which are those of the social game. Because, as the African American poet Audre Lorde already said, “The master’s tools will never take down the master’s house.”