Utter by Anne La Berge

Utter is a story about us. It tells us about the first utterances we ever made and what the consequences of those can be. It is about language, about dialogue and about mothers and children. It unravels as a story of our own personal experiences as it touches on universal cycles of love and loss. Many hours were spent on scientific and artistic research looking for the answers to how, why and where we use our voices. This story is one version of many.

Syd got up.
She walked around.
She had to run to catch her prey and escape her predators.
She bore Baby Joe.
Syd could not carry Baby Joe while she worked.
She put the baby down on the ground.
Baby Joe felt abandoned and was not happy lying there all alone.
Syd sang to Baby Joe.
They sang to one another.
They kept each other company during those long days of work.
Then Baby Joe stood up.
Joe liked to run around.
The songs of Syd and Joe turned into conversations.
Hmmmmm. Hmmm. Hmmmmmmmm. Hmmmmm.
They talked about now and later and before.
Syd kept talking more and more and more and more.
She filled up space.
She filled up time.
Syd’s voice took up all the air.
Joe didn’t want to hear Syd talk like that all the time.
Joe wanted to hear herself too.
Joe’s ears got tired.
There were no rests.
Syd had lost the on and off switch way down inside of her.
Joe took it upon herself to find that switch and fix it.
She put the first two fingers of her right hand into Syd’s mouth.
Pushed past Syd’s tongue down to her vocal chords.
She felt Syd vibrate Hmmmm.
Joe dug for something deeper in Syd.
That thing beyond Syd’s voice.
That Joe had felt when conversations were young.
Joe slowly pulled Syd’s vocal chords apart.
She stretched them so far that they snapped and fell to pieces.
Joe reached her fingers further down into Syd’s throat.
She pushed and shoved her hand at Syd’s guts.
Then Joe heard that Syd was silent.
Still.
No conversation.
No Hmmm..
Joe drew her fingers out of Syd.
She wiped the bloody guts off her hand.
Hmmmm. Joe sang. Hmmmmmmm.
Conversation.

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Utter was created in 2015/2016 as an interactive piece that creates a dialogue between performer and media. As part of the artistic project, Anne La Berge, Isabelle Vigier and Marcel Wierckx developed a digital tool that controls six (or any number of) iPads in a live setting. The piece has been performed in Holland and Mexico, and will be touring Europe, Canada, New Zealand and the US in 2017.

The website version of Utter focuses on La Berge’s text and uses selected images from the installation version as illustration. Short soundtracks were also designed specially for this medium.

Utter, as a total project, was made possible by grants from the Fund for the Performing Arts, NL, and the Stimulerings Fonds Creative Industry, NL. The project couldn’t have taken place without the support of Splendor, Amsterdam, and Unsounds, Amsterdam.

Anne La Berge; text, composition, voice, flute and electronics,
Isabelle Vigier; images, installation
Marcel Wierckx; interactive tool, installation