We move the mouth to speak, yet do we speak when moving the mouth? FaceClamps physically extrude the face to magnify and measure the subtle gesticulations of our mouth along two axes, transforming these movements into rich textural soundscapes that offer an alternative to verbal communication. As the mouth moves, the sonic output starts and restarts, shifts register, falters, hesitates and starts again. Language breaks down, loops and becomes abstract textures interwoven with algorithmically controlled sounds. Seemingly unpredictable, the evolving soundscape prompts the performers to extend and exaggerate their mouth movements in an attempt to gain control. Frustration and determination are at times etched in their distorted faces as misunderstandings seem inevitable as interpretation of the sonic output is completely open to subjective response and there seems very little basis for common ground.
FaceClamps effectively act as a kind of translation-pantograph, translating and exaggerating from movement to sound in real-time. Mechanically magnifying the normally subtle movements of the mouth increases both visual and mechanical resolution, and the need for control leads to an exaggeration of the wearers’ use of their jaws and mouths.
FaceClamps were created in response to the conviction that language is an inadequate tool for communication. Many people struggle with language, and while it’s common knowledge that body language is a highly expressive component of communication, formalised understandings and interpretations of body language seem somehow stilted and sterile, lacking in emotive texture. Using the horizontal and vertical axes of the mouth to trigger and control sound in real-time is, arguably, arbitrary, yet the mouth is an intimate element of verbal communication. The rich sonic textures that result with the use of faceClamps reflect the underlying communicative struggle, and are suggestive of the rich complexity of the communication process. The sonic output of provides a stark contrast to traditional forms of body language. The faceClamps are difficult to wear, just as it is sometimes difficult to communicate succinctly. They thus embody the experience of verbal communication in both functionality and aesthetic.
photos: ©Alison Bradley