Everything has voice.

Interview met Ali Smith (Passa Portafestival 2019, 30-03-19)

Interviewer: “Spring is about how faceless, nameless, invisible people are made to be a person with a story. How can people talk, communicate, if story is such a loaded issue? How can you tell me about your life and how can that be an honest exchange, a basis for understanding? In the book there are a number of those exchanges and there is always something askew, something that makes it difficult, it is a power game, there is misunderstanding in others.

My question to you is: can we talk to each other?”

Ali Smith: “Of course we can. A few years ago I heard John Berger speak. Someone said to him: ‘John Berger, you wrote A Seventh Man, one of the most important books of this decade about the movements of people across the world for economic migrancy. What can you tell us right now about what’s happening now in the world and with these people decades later?’ John Berger, a great, great thinker, didn’t speak for a minute and a half and just sat on the stage, and then he said: ‘I have been thinking about the storyteller’s responsibility to hospitality.’ And that’s all he said. Then you think okay so what does that mean? It means that in the very act of the telling of anything, and the listening to anything, from anyone else, there is a question of welcome. There is a question of hospitality, a question of sitting with someone with an open ear, with an open mind and there being an exchange, even in the listening there is an exchange. That’s the most human thing that we can do. It’s how we survive. The human things happens, the connection happens, because language is connection. That’s what language is, it makes connection.

Right now the overwhelming narrative, the dominating narrative in my locality, the western world, is disconnect. How to make language not work. How do you use language against people, against self, against meaning, truth against meaning. The dominant narrative says: things disconnect, things are divided, you think this, I think that. Those divides, they are false. (…) The people who are not part of the story, that is the problem. The people who have been disallowed from the narrative, disallowed from the story, this is the thing we must always attend to. In a way that’s what art is, it looks at the thing that has never been given voice. One of the best books every written is Six Memos for the Next Millennium by Italo Calvino, at the end of which he says: so these are all these ways to write, the whole point is to give voice to the things and the people which do not have voice. Not just people, but things too, like concrete and trees. Everything has voice. The voice is not always something we hear, it is in things. It’s a matter of attention, a matter of reading the world, and understanding the different languages that are around us all the time.”


Het festivalthema komt ook terug in de inleiding van onderstaand fragment (0:40-4:00).