Ninon Duhamel

Hybird, performance, 30 min, 2017© Valérie Sonnier

Violaine Lochu by Ninon Duhamel in the art critic review Portaits, april 2018

Violaine Lochu uses her own voice as a material, that she sculpts and contorsionne to take on a multitude of identities: sometimes human, sometimes animal, woman or man, French, Romanian, Italian, Chinese … she is a kind of « vocal transformist » « . Videos, sound pieces, radio broadcasts, editions, performances, his work is expressed in several forms, often complementary, where fables and popular rhymes meet, traditional songs, experimental music, sound effects and words from various sources.

Visual artist, but also singer and musician, Violaine Lochu is a graduate of the University of Rennes and the National School of Arts Paris-Cergy. His works have been presented in several group exhibitions including the Center for Art and Research Bétonsalon (2013), the Salon de Montrouge (2016) and the Museum of Contemporary Art Val de Marne (2017). She has recently performed at the Palais de Tokyo, at the Salon Jeune Création or at the Palais de la Découverte, as part of the FIAC 2017. Winner of the Aware 2018 Award, Violaine Lochu is currently presenting her recent works in the exhibition Hypnorama at the Chanot Contemporary Art Center (January 27 to March 25, 2018).

For each of her projects, Violaine Lochu conducts an investigative work and feeds on research, meetings, collaborations, from which she collects sound materials (stories, songs, animal cries …). During her travels, she learns vocal techniques, musical traditions, foreign languages, and creates a kind of oral library, in which she plunges to give material to her works. Her sound pieces and her performances are born from a formal and methodical work during which she notes, decomposes, transcribes and learns by heart each fragment harvested. Going through the languages ​​and words of others is a way for her to question herself on her position as an artist, and to look for her own voice: « When I sing, I am much closer to what I mean, only when I use the language. « 

As she likes to say, Violaine Lochu is interested in the language « in the broad sense ». Beyond the words and their meanings, his attention is more focused on accents and musicalities. By means of assemblages, phonetic slips and vocal arrangements, she creates compositions whose form lies between the Arab telephone, the exquisite corpse and the anadiplose (figure of speech which consists of the resumption of the end of a proposal to start the next one: three little cats, straw hat …) A « sound thought » that we find at work in his Abécédaire Vocal (2016), a kind of repertoire in which each letter is related to the world of voice and language: A for aphonia, B for babbling, J for jargon, S for breath, T for tone … Each theme gives rise to a sound track composed of words and sounds collected by the artist, and that she reinterprets by deploying a whole panel of « vocal gestures ». As if to look for where the voice comes from inside the body, she blows, shouts, sings, taps her chest, stammers, whispers, ululates… Both organic and musical, the voice is an instrument that Violaine Lochu seizes to reveal all the plasticity, like a sculptor with clay. A capella, accompanied by her accordion or an electric guitar, Violaine Lochu explores the transformative potential of her voice to create uncompromising sound pieces, where the sounds sometimes raw, sometimes lyrical, are destabilizing.

For Hybird (2017) she is inspired by a corpus of songs of wild birds, which she has recorded and learned the cries: chaffinch of the north, jackdaw, great owl … she imitates these « languages ​​of birds » by mixing them with various vocal techniques through which all his musical influences stand out. Thanks to a panel of accessories (feathers, beard, wig, costume …), she indulges in a series of vocal metamorphoses, imitations, disguises. In Aoïde (2014) she tries to recreate the song of the sirens, these mythological creatures half-woman half-fish whose song is at the same time seductive and dangerous, even inaudible. Inspired by techniques of traditional Greek songs, the whistled language of the inhabitants of the island of Gomera, and the singing of whales, she brings her voice to hybrid tones, unusual, at the limit of the human and the animal. Siren, psychic, humanoid robot, animal, strange creature…  to Violaine Lochu: « With the voice, you can all become, » she summarizes.

Linked to the body, the gesture, the language, « the vocal imprint » is both the reflection of an individual expression and the marker of belonging to a society. The stamp, the accent, the vocabulary, the intonation … « Claire Gillie, psychoanalyst and anthropologist, specialist of the voice » (Cahiers d’ethnomusicologie n ° 14, 2001) ). Filigree of her works, Violaine Lochu addresses issues of cultural identity, language and language, transmission and memory.

His video work entitled Chinese Whispers is an exploration of the processes of transmission, translation and alteration of the language through the word of mouth asked for a French folk to rhyme (« One, two, three, we will go to the wood … »), the artist repeats in turn all the versions heard, from Neutral way and face camera. In condensed form, it then gives to hear the transformations of the words, the alteration of the sentences, the non-just phonetic translations that take place, until only the melody remains of the nursery rhyme.

A subject that she also discusses with Lingua Madre (2012), a video dyptic in which Violaine Lochu performs an oral metamorphosis of her own first and last name, which she recites twenty or so times, varying the accentuation and the pronunciation. The artist « exotises » her name, thus blurring the tracks of identity: « Violaine Lochu » is multiplied and takes turns Slavonic, Mediterranean, Germanic … In parallel, she writes the word « mother » by hand in a dozen different languages; the exfoliation and the rewriting of some letters sufficient to operate the passage from one language to another. Violaine Lochu gives us to see and hear the porosity of languages, their friction and their influences on each other.

The voice of Violaine Lochu upsets genres, categories, definitions. She introduces otherness and otherness into our cultural habits of listening and speaks to us about identity, language and culture as living things, transformable, in perpetual change: « The important thing, is to sing true. «