Amanda Rice: The Flesh of Language
The artist Amanda Rice examines humanity’s impact on Earth’s ecosystems through the lenses of two interrelated mechanics of capitalism: extraction and overproduction. Rice’s films use storytelling and abstraction to create narratives that oscillate between historical accounts, personal impressions, and speculative fiction. In past works, she has addressed questions of matter, industry, and energy.
Rice’s film The Flesh of Language (2023) is informed by three research strands. The first is the parapsychologist Konstantin Raudive’s 1960s investigation of anomalous voice-like sounds found on tape recordings, thought to be spirit messages and also known as electronic voice phenomena. The second is a 1985 experiment by zoologist Andrew Kitchener aimed at providing an anatomical explanation as to whether the extinct Irish elk, Megaloceros giganteus, used its antlers in battle, a critical question in evolutionary biology. The third involves inputs on the practicalities of media conservation.
The first part of the film is composed of elements of Raudive’s sound archive borrowed from collections held at the British Library and fragments of illustrations from his research. This section covers lesser-known experiments conducted by Raudive, including a radio séance where he attempted to speak with the dead and sessions involving a budgerigar who was believed to transmit information from a deceased fourteen-year-old girl. The intermittent decipherability of images and audible patterns refers to the complexities in interacting with the unliving and beyond language.
In the second part of the film, Rice evokes Kitchener’s experiment by showing the National Museum of Ireland storage facility, which accommodates numerous skull specimen fragments, including antlered skeletons, followed by diagrams taken from papers by Kitchener and the paleontologist Stephen J. Gould. Dancers reenact what could have been the Irish elk’s movements when fighting, citing a “performance” that Kitchener orchestrated to demonstrate that their antlers interlock in that circumstance. This sequence also features intertitles that contextualize Kitchener’s idea, and a dance to an obscure Italo disco track from 1985 as a ritualistic attempt to “revive” the Irish elk.
The Flesh of Language pieces together visual and audible representations, both imaginative and empirical, to establish a parallel between interspecies and paranormal communication and to engage with the barrier separating science and esotericism in addressing the life spans and resurrection of subjects and technologies. The film uses alternative forms of knowledge, such as the choreographic, to establish crossovers between human and nonhuman bodies. It investigates an expanded notion of the archive focused on material (de)composition through themes of extinction and preservation.
Amanda Rice in conversation with Michele Horrigan
Saturday, 27 May, 3–5pm
Free; no booking required
Amanda Rice and Michele Horrigan discuss Rice’s style of filmmaking, the role of story-telling in her work, how she blends historical accounts with fiction and her approach to research, her engagement with an embodied notion of the archive, and her interest in questions of extractivism and overproduction.
Michelle Horrigan is an artist, curator, and co-Director of Askeaton Contemporary Arts.
Cobh, Co. Cork