Echolalia, 1980

PAL, sound, colour

The silhouettes of two women appear and disappear on a black background without any depth to it; united on the surface of the screen, then face to face in numerous ceremonial-type gestures. Grouping together and division of the shapes alternate. The bodies are sometimes suggested by a line or by a sparkling effect but always give the impression of approaching unity. We are watching a sort of choreography where the exchange and the echo are made by simple gestures, where each movement is extended, where each person seems to be interchangeable. The first gestures in this choreography are ones of genesis, a simple circular movement. Sometimes the symmetry of the two women is not completely accurate; it is adorned with Jean-Yves Bosseur's slightly off-centre isomorphic music Ë which is exceptional in Thierry Kuntzel's videos which are always silent. The sound should be barely perceptible when listened to, as if it is dying out.
Echolalia is a psychiatric term for the unconscious repetition of words which have been heard. Echoalia is also the way in which a small child learns to speak. It is a language before language a "language corpus" (Raymond Bellour). This language is one of modifications of pitch, variations in intonation, rhythm and intensity of sound. Comparatively-speaking, video is a visual language made up of multiple instances of intensity and variations (colour, light,...). And Echolalia demonstrates, in particular, that the body in the video is a body of light subjected to rhythms and intensity. It is a picture that functions according to videographic writing methods, which is only the diffusion of light. As they emerge, the silhouettes make use of symmetry / dissymetry and the subtle manipulation of a mirror. The mirror 1 has a special importance in the genesis of the body inasmuch as the identification generated by the image it reflects is the moment where the "I" is metamorphosed into a vital form, before any objectification in its relationship to the other and before language appears to bestow on him the function of a subject in the universe. The personified action of the ego is determined before its social determination, in pure fiction. The first unifying image of the body is formed from reverse symmetry. There is a sort of split in the work which fosters the search for unity. The minute variations in the movement of Echolalia call on the viewer to put right the divisions in representation. It is by his anticipation of the coming gesture that he can complete the process. He, himself, becomes the echolalia of Echolalia. Occasionally, the substance on the screen is nothing but a distant echo which has difficulty in surging onto the surface of the screen, which only draws something faintly reminiscent of the representation. In these moments, the spectator's memory and mental process function, they are the passers, the mirror of the video, its echo. Echolalia is one of Thierry Kuntzel's first videos from the period 1979-1980, which tackle temporal and msnesic notions with a concern for the actual substance of video.

Dominique Garrigues

1 In the sense developed by Lacan in Le stade du miroir (The mirror phase).