Artists have long used their voice or others to tell a narrative. More recently there seems a greater consideration of the position of the ear or listener often in an intimate way though podcasts or audio through earphones, more like a confessional..
Laure Prouvost It, Hit, Heart 2010 is suggestive of a story. She constructs and compels the story through editing. She is playing with what can be put into the head of the listener. Winner of the Turner prize in 2013 she will represent France in the 2019 French Biennale. Her practice is strongly around story and playfully engaging the viewer/audience/listener.
We are in an age where we no longer trust the story teller but we also mistrust the unreliable story teller. In the essay by Chris Fite-Wass Keep talking: the death of the unreliable narrator” he considered the death of the author comparing his reliability to that of the wizard in The Wizard of Oz. Action and meaning are not prescribe by the author. In looking at the work of artist Ed Atkins there is a sense he suggests of the bogging culture but it is a monologue, you are being told what to think, what to feel.
Within the culture of the Internet there is a distance between the artist and the listener. It may or may not be read or heard.
When we hear fairy tails we know the structure we know from our cultural background how it will go. We have a knowledge and a belief. The unreliable story teller critiques the reliable story teller. Questions can be asked, who has the right to tell the story? Can we tell a story that is not our own? For a while artists strive to have no story and no monologue, kicking against the author active story teller but now even their unreliable story telling is not needed. We have moved from this to a stream of verifiable knowledge and story telling. We expect most things to be unreliable.
Artists like Provost chose a more playful, authoritative and at times bossy from of storytelling. Within literature there is an advent of auto fiction, novelist like Rachel Cusk who travels and tells others stories and gives them voice as the travel writings unfold. She is perhaps developing a fictional version of her self as author.
There is a return to the authorial. The resuscitated narrator with a trusted voice. The audience becomes interpolated. But if everyone is unreliable we become less passive as listeners. As we have so many reliable narrators telling their story form their perspective, with all, these voices we can become sometimes the critics.
Walter Benjamin’s essay the Story teller 1939 looks at the history of story telling. The first story tellers were also travellers who told the tale of their journey. Their lived experience being embodied in others through story retold by others and retold again become other tales.
Once strories could be written down and then printed we have the birth of the novel and the story telling became the “proof and perplexity of the living” Walter Benjamin
Storytelling or information has become sending information and Benjamin feels that it is no longer compatible with true story telling. Information has become a commodity. It was at this point we have time based works and performance which can not be owned or held but must be experienced.
Story telling in painting has a long tradition manifest in artist like Paula Rego. A long tradition of myth, tableau, fairytale.
Something shifted in the Twentieth Century, a doubt of all stories. Benjamin writes “boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience” is this what Happened?
Today we struggle to have a world view. every stand point is challenged. It is impossible to stick to an idea unchanged, unless we shut our ears to all around. Benjamin seems to mourn the loss of the passive listener who once opened up to the magic of the storyteller.
We have assimilation of the story verses information. Information which is distant and unrealtional.
Ursula K Le Guin uses story to introduce polictical ideas. Her essays and diagrams encourage a different view of telling and listening. Her book The Wave in the Mind develops ideas of listening as an action, not passive. Talking and listening are the same. The diagram of Ameba procreating is a perfect diagram of how talking and listening might be.
Laure Prouvosts film Swallow harks back to the intimacy of story telling it encourages the embodiment of touch, taste, sound, whisper. There is a sense of seduction. Virginia Wolf played with these ideas in her book Waves. The reader has to be active to build the story. Listen from a distance is not relational. There is a strange vulnerability to just casting your story out into the internet.