Mikhail Karikis's four-year-long doctoral research is a methodological experiment, which employs academic writing, music composition and art practice to explore notions of the ‘self’ through the study of voice and sound. This project, entitled 'The Acoustics of the Self: Discovering the Voices of the I' is presented in two formats: a 400-minute-long audio-book and a fully illustrated text-book accompanied by two audio cds and a dvd with four short films.
For this project Mikhail Karikis creates a single character (a male author) but presents him through four different voices: a thinking voice, a singing voice, a voice of reverie and an empirical voice. The entire project explores male subjectivity through the study of the male voice and its relationship to the female voice. It investigates the sexual dynamics of male vocal transgression and discovers a fragile male subjectivity that erupts when it is confronted by the feminine within.
In the journey through an enchanted forest, presented in Chapter One, the thesis discovers a representation of an inner quest for ‘self-knowledge’ and discusses the series of disruptive encounters that take place between the ‘self’ and its vocal and visual reflections, its echo and mirror image. Further, this chapter focuses on the mythical anthropomorphisation of voice and examines its foundational role for the emergence of the ‘self’.
Chapter Two narrates a physical and a sonic journey through the city, which unfolds through a series of acoustic events: the creaking of the door, a bang in the street, the crackle of the telephone and an incomprehensible word shouted by a passer-by. These initiate a discussion on the relationship between sound, the ‘self’, its surrounding and modern technology. Here, the project understands sound as an intellectual compass and meditates on our ontological connection with it. The project defines this as oto-biographic writing – a word whose sound refers to ‘the writing of the self’ (autobiography) but whose written form refers to a kind of writing that is inspired and guided by the oto, the ancient word for the ear. Further, it explores the interconnection between image and sound through the use of vivid visual language to describe sonic phenomena and make conceptual observations. The second chapter elaborates on the sonic understanding of being, and concludes with the realisation that sound can trigger an inner journey through which the ‘self’ transforms. Chapter Two discovers the humming voice as a kind of ‘self-reflection’, an echo wherein the ‘self’ metamorphoses, vanishes and emerges at the same time.
Through his compositions, Mikhail Karikis discovers points of vocal rupture and places voice under forces that expose its physical limits. He explores the materiality of voice and reveals its power to transform and evoke the presence of a complex, metamorphosing, changing ‘self’. In 'The Acoustics of the Self', Mikhail Karikis interrogates anew the complexity of the emergence of the self, discusses the inextricable connection between sound, voice and subjectivity, and examines the problems that arise in self-reflection and the figural representation of the self through sound and image. He demonstrates that these fracture and dislocate the self in the very movements that give it shape.
This project has been developed at University College London with an AHRC scholarship. It has been supervised by renowned art theorist Norman Bryson, filmmaker Lis Rhodes and author Penny Florence. The performers on the audiobook are live artist Joshua Sofaer, poet/curator Cherry Smyth, video artist Uriel Orlow, editor of the Public Catalogue Foundation Sonia Roe and Mikhail Karikis.
Mikhail Karikis's other recent academic work includes lecturing at The Slade School of Fine Art, where he set up the first sound art course for the undergraduate art programme, as well as lecturing at St Martin's College of Art and Design, the Sonic Arts department at Middlesex University and Brighton University.