NOT I: Throwing Voices (1500 BCE–2020 CE)
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents NOT I: Throwing Voice (1500 BCE–2020 CE), an exhibition using ventriloquism, literally and liberally, to explore the representations of sounds and voices and their disquieting capacity of refraction, synchronicity, and misdirection. Ventriloquism relies on the confusion between sight and hearing, performer and puppet, silence and speech; and confronts issues of identity, embodiment, agency, performance, and objecthood. Even the most conventional ventriloquist sketch is defined by the continuous recasting of questions on the imbricated relationship between voice, speech, identity, and authority: Where is the voice coming from? How is that voice split into many bodies? Whose voice is this? Who is speaking on behalf of whom?
Drawn primarily from LACMA’s encyclopedic collection, NOT I considers ventriloquism as both a theme and a methodology integral to the logic of institutions devoted to the dissemination of knowledge, such as museums and libraries. The exhibition features over 200 objects spanning more than 3,500 years to offer various degrees of ventriloquized voices ranging from the literal to the liberal. Arranged in 10 non-sequential sections, the show allows for cross-collection representations of sound, silence, voice, and text, and the entanglement and misalignment between voices and bodies. The exhibition includes a special project by Meriç Algün in collaboration with the Los Angeles Public Library, not only to honor Alexandre Vattemare (1796–1864), a ventriloquist instrumental in the creation of inter-library loans, but also to point at the interrelation of museums, libraries, and disembodied voices.