A Million Miles from Home? Traces of a Migratory Self in Accents and Incidents in Liliane Lijn’s Her Mother’s Voice. An Intermedial/Translingual Project
Liliane Lijn is one of the most prominent protagonists of contemporary art. Born in 1939 in New York to a family of Jewish European migrants, she was raised in a rich sonic environment, in which six different languages were spoken. Her linguistic context was further broadened during her extensive travels back to Europe in the 1950s in the company of her mother. An introduction to André Breton and the Surrealists during her teenage years may have triggered a latent awareness of the magic power of the ephemeral and of the spoken word. Lijn’s visionary cycle of poems Crossing Map (1967-1974), self-printed at Hansjörg Mayer’s legendary Stuttgart print shop, was performed by Lijn herself in art spaces before being adapted for radio in 2015 in her translation. Lijn’s later and as-yet-unpublished book Her Mother’s Voice is based the artist’s interviews with her mother. Her mother’s strongly accented voice carries the traces of her flight from Eastern Europe to the U.S. and back to Europe just as much as the incidents she references. Gaby Hartel’s translation and bilingual radio adaptation of this polyvocal text constitute applied research: how much can a voice contain of a life lived a million miles from home? And did the accent itself eventually become home, as it did for many other migrants?
Gaby Hartel is a curator, translator, writer, and award-winning broadcaster based in Berlin and London. She received her doctorate from the Free University Berlin in 2003 for a dissertation on Samuel Beckett as a visual artist. Her interests center on the intersections of media, literature, and contemporary art, with a special focus on sound art. Hartel has published widely in these fields. As a curator and teacher she has worked with the Centre Pompidou, Kunsthalle Wien, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (nbk), Akademie der Künste Berlin, and ZKM Karlsruhe. The shows and projects Hartel has (co)curated and/or (co)conceived include Art / Nature, soundart interventions at Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (2014–18); Radiophonics(2018, HKW, Berlin); Choreography of Sound (ZKM); SOUNDS. radio – art – new music (nbk, 2010); Samuel Beckett/Bruce Nauman (Kunsthalle Wien, 2000). Hartel has taught and lectured at the Art Academy Oslo, Free University Berlin, Bauhaus University Weimar, University of the Arts Bremen, and Reading and Oxford Universities.
Gaby Hartel (übers.), Samuel Beckett, Die Deutschen Tagebücher, Berlin 2020; gem. mit Ekkehard Skoruppa, Marie-Luise Goerke, Hans Sarkowicz (Hg.), Choreographie des Klangs. Zwischen Abstraktion und Narration, Göttingen 2015; gem. mit Michael Glasmeier (Hg.), The Eye of Prey. Becketts Film-, Fernseh- und Videoarbeiten, Berlin 2011.
What if our social, emotional and creative capabilities were established by humankind’s oldest medium, the human voice? What happens when a voice transmitting more than the mere informational is addresses you in a real space, in real time? What energies does it carry, transmit or construct? Gaby Hartel is not speaking of booming populists’ voices but of subtle and fragile voices offered to us in friendship – voices which might open spaces to listeners for constructive things to happen.