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Videographic Star Studies and the "Late Voice": Carrie Fisher, John Hurt and Jeanne Moreau by Catherine Grant

by Ethan Tussey

In my contribution to Cinema Journal’s “Videographic Criticism” dossier, I argued that scholars might learn a lot from the forms of audiovisual portrait-homage to film stars made by artists and vidders. [1] I have discovered this for myself, in the last six years, primarily through the process of making tribute videos for online circulation.

What often happens with my tributary works is that, when news reaches me of the death of a beloved actor, I am driven to browse clips of their performances. I begin to poach these and play with them in an editing timeline. I then share the resulting video online so that it takes up its place in a flow of tributes.

I make my homages as a fan and a media scholar. But, given how quickly I produce these videos and their urgent context of online “parasocial” grieving, [2] I usually only engage in forms of material thinking while creating them. [3] Verbalized reflections customarily come later.

In the case of the videos embedded here—all produced since last December within hours of hearing of each star’s death—I am now curious that I was intuitively drawn to working with the voices of the performers. I have begun to consider this unwitting similarity using Richard Elliott’s 2015 book on time, memory, and experience in modern popular song and the use by certain singers of a “late voice.” [4] Elliott discusses the latter in relation to (inter alia) chronology (the stage in an artist's career); the vocal act (the ability to portray experience); retrospection (how voices “look back” or anticipate looking back); and the writing of age, experience, lateness and loss into songs.

Like Elliott, I am interested in the idea that recorded voices are always “dead voices, temporarily reanimated in playback.” I am beginning to wonder, therefore, whether my making of these videos particularly turned on an auditory, rather than visual, punctum - a cognitive/affective processing of the moment of experiencing that each star's alive "late voice” had just become their posthumous “late” one.

SIMULACRUM (For Carrie Fisher)

Made in memory of Carrie Fisher (1956-2016) on the day after she died.

from SIMULACRUM (For Carrie Fisher) (2016)
Creator: Catherine Grant
Distributor: Vimeo
Posted by Ethan Tussey