I have performed vocal portraits in various contexts since 1998. Basic situation has remained almost the same; a person sits on the chair and says his/her/their name, I cover his/her/their eyes and voice the portrait, using the phonemes of his/her/their name. The concept ‘portrait’ is a bit mis-leading. I don’t describe the person on my chair, with my voice, but play with the phonemes of his/her/their name instead. I haven’t invented better title though. (The photo above © Julius Töyrylä, LAPSody 2019.)
The first portraits I voiced at Tero Nauha & Tina Ward’s exhibition at Rajatila gallery in Tampere, 1998. In Namedays (Helsinki, 1999) I used the same technique, that is, played with the phonemes of people’s names, only that there was no chair nor anybody sitting on it. At Anti festival (Kuopio, 2003) and Signal & Noise festival (Vancouver, 2004) I used phonemes but also small objects – tubes, cans, music box, bells, scissors, apples, brush – of which the person chose one. In my exhibition, What Did You See?, at Muu gallery, 2006, I asked the person who just heard his/her/their portrait, what he/she/they saw. Using the answers, I composed a 14-minute-long radio piece. At Etoiles Polaires festival in Ghent, 2007, I recorded all the 66 portraits. Back home, I listened to them, chose the most interesting parts, and voiced them again. I wrote a few partitures, based on these newly voiced portraits, too, and performed them at Art Contact, Helsinki, and Turku Book Fair, 2008. Once I voiced a portrait of two people; portrait of a wedding couple.
Listen to Alda from Ghent, and then the others.
Barber’s chair in Ghent (Photo: Christoph Verplancke)
In the autumn 2011 I returned to the Anti Festival & Barbershop Pirkko for the festival’s 10 year anniversary. This time without extra instruments.
Voicing Tumi’s portrait (Photo: Pekka Mäkinen)
The previous spring I voiced some people in Pori Art Museum, Sándor Vály made a video clip of that:
And here you can watch Alisa at Annikki Poetry Festival, June, 2015:
In June, 2017, I voiced the portrait of a rowan tree at Veranda by Sorbus gallery. You can listen to it here. Two years later, at Poets for Future in the front of the Finnish Parliament, I voiced Climate.