Stefa Govaart

A'actual F'feelings

1 Gather your breath, 2 position your tongue, 3 tense your vocal chords and 4 make a sound. The moment you sound, go back, begin again. Situated in the conflict that you sing, be yourself part of the actual that you recognize as conflictual. You ought to want to go back. Being on the edge of falling apart, re-vocalize ad infinitum. Take on the excess that is you.[1] Declare your inauthenticity, be in need, lean into a life full of mistakes. Without achieving self-knowledge, work on the real artifice of “a’actual f’feelings”.

With the seven sound scores Actual Feelings, PRICE continues an interest in approaching feelings as materials for construction, edifice and hyperbole, as opposed to (pre)given neutrality. Aurally praising the condition of the voice as messed up with other voices, Actual Feelings produces the charge of “voice”, oftentimes eclipsing “a” voice. The seven ten-minute cycles––overdubbed vocals of the two-word title of the work––are based on material provided by seven performers who recorded their voices on their own terms in their private settings during pandemic times. Working with an emotional chart––a round image with categorically organized emotions prompting feelings of rejection, joy, safety, anxiety, etc.––PRICE expressly induces the perlocutionary force of being hailed as sentient beings. 

Feelings do not lodge in authentic souls, but are being produced while coming at you from all sides in disorganized fashion. Unfounded projections of another’s fantasy, dietary intake, screens, bureaucracy, warfare: feelings are actual to the extent that they are incessantly being actualized by way of (im)proper names, violent looks, psychologized traumas, material conditions and brutal histories. We, in other words, are susceptible to economies of exchange and abstraction. Actual Feelings is a seven-part repetitive headline-invocation of voices variously speaking to, with and as one another in an address to power without respite.

The scores derive from PRICE’s performance work The Interesting (sequences)[2], the title of which is reminiscent of one of Sianne Ngai’s “equivocal aesthetic categories” which, Ngai maintains, index the historical present.[3] PRICE’s interest in the interesting is its unpredictable mood. Feelings are in motion, always in the process of readjustment. At the core of judging something “interesting” is indefiniteness, non-closure.[4] Temporally, this is cool. Judging something interesting leaves indeterminate the evidence leading up to the judgement, as well as what is going to come after. The interesting is an unpredictable zone that demands inquiry into the prefatory. “Interesting” is not a verdict, but incites elaboration. The speaker has not yet made up their mind, and will have to return. You ought to want to go back. 

Performers are absorbed in the self (the alpha and omega of our times) to the point of obsession. PRICE edits these selves together in suggestively lyrical (dis)harmonies. The result foregrounds sound as capable of tracking the aftermath of what’s prior. Like grace notes in music or anacrusis in poetry, the near mechanical, preludial mood of Actual Feelings undermines the promise of sovereignty. How do we even feel if we break before we be? Listen to Actual Feelings during a 10-minute run or 70-minute yoga-class, and be reminded of how we all come apart, in need of support, trial and error. Asks––that is, exclaims––King Richard II by way of Shakespeare:

Throw away respect,
Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while.
I live with bread like you, feel want, 
Taste grief, need friends. Subjected thus,
How can you say to me I am a king?[5]

Go back: “Subjected thus, how can you say to me, I am a king?” May Actual Feelings support us in our being on the edge of falling apart. 

[1] “You are not you, you are the people in you.” Fred Moten, New York City, November 4, 2022.
[2] Performed by PRICE, Ivan Cheng, Thibault Lac, Camille Cléadon Decraux, Tamara Alegre, Cecile Believe and Bonnie Banane at Gessnerallee, Zürich (CH), Oct 8, 2022, with music composition and production by MODULAW and Tobias Koch. The work is a a set of seven successive soli (each performed by one of the cast members) that resemble one another. Displaying a constant reshaping of the self, The Interesting (sequences) is an in-time unfolding installation of choreographed drama in which the performers amplify emotion/feeling over a set of rhythmic phrases. 
[3] Sianne Ngai, Our Aesthetic Categories: Cute, Zany, Interesting, Harvard University Press, 2015. See also, Sianne Ngai and Adam Jasper, “Our Aesthetic Categories: An Interview with Sianne Ngai,” 2011, 
[4] “…the interesting doesn’t seem tethered to any features at all…[there are] no nonaesthetic features ever specifically responsible for anything being interesting. In fact, it seems as if virtually any nonaesthetic feature, including ones that may not be immediately perceivable (such as aspects related to an object’s history), can be singled out as evidence in support of this judgment” (780). Sianne Ngai, “Merely Interesting,” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 34, No. 4, 2008, pp. 777-817. 
[5] William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Richard II, Act 3. Sc. 2, 177-82, Folger Shakespeare Library, eds. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, 2015.