Presenter: Dr Laura Bissell

Title: Translating Seascapes


Abstract:  This paper demonstrates a practical application of Gaston Bachelard’s assertions about the relationship between the materiality, movement and liquidity of water as synonymous with language in his essay “Water’s Voice”. In this he claims “Liquidity is the very desire of language. Language needs to flow” and argues that there is a euphonic relationship between water and its human echo (language). Using “directives” from “Water’s Voice” this paper explores performative writing methods that reflect musical processes such as improvisation and composition to “converse” with the sea.

Collaborating with sound designer Tim Cooper I offer a “translation” of the sound of the more-than-human sea into human language. I ask: What might a “poetics of the sea” sound like? One of the definitions of poetics is “the practice of writing poetry, poetic composition” reminiscent of Gertrude Stein’s use of harmonies, patterns, relations and rhythms. By applying a similar process of composition to words generated by sea sounds, a linguistic seascape as translation of the physical matter occurs. Can processes of translation assist in understanding the sea as a sublime landscape more fully and in a more embodied way? Can this help us to consider our relationship with the sea in a time of ecological crisis?

I am a lecturer in Contemporary Performance Practice at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and my current book project is called Performing Seas. I undertook three practice- as-research collaborations to identify key connections between human bodies, bodies of text and bodies of water. This paper reflects on my ongoing collaboration with sound-designer Tim Cooper.


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