Kunsthall Stavanger is proud to present Mouthpiece, a digital commission by the Stavanger-based artist Stine Janvin. The project coincides with the launch of our new website and digital platform, where it will exist exclusively, as an extension of the body and the self, morphing two of our main modes of expression; the mouth and the voice. The commission will take over our website between 29 September–30 November, 2022

Mouthpiece is a participatory work, which takes the form of talking mouths spread across the digital platform. Prompted by the question “What is important to you?”, anyone, anywhere can record and contribute their voice, which will go on to inhabit one of the mouths. When clicked, the mouth will say the recording out loud. Joined together, the recordings contribute to a growing choir.

By asking this simple, open question – “what is important to you” – participants might look to their basic needs, their hopes and cravings, or to the way they choose to identify. The question might make us think of the fundamentals in life, such as ensuring we are safe and warm, the importance of love, friendship and family, the need for success and power, or the wish to be respected and understood. Each voice might perform a desire, a need or a basal demand. As a listener, you can choose which voice to listen to and silence others by clicking on them. Joined together, the voices will speak, mumble, and whisper as one indistinguishable mass.

In the work, a mouthpiece refers to several things; a piece of music made with the mouth, the part of a woodwind or brass instrument put on the player’s lips to make sound, and a mouthpiece in the form of someone speaking on behalf of others.

The world wide web’s accessibility as a mouthpiece for opinions, where anyone can partake, voice their opinion and be seen and heard – either as their true self or with an alternative identity – has been essential inspiration for the work. When developing Mouthpiece, Janvin looked to the commentators’ field, where the voicing of opinions in anonymous form is taken to an extreme. Without a real name or physical voice, trolls crawl out from the underbelly, spitting out bile and frustration in the form of text. In Mouthpiece, contributors must use their own physical voice, removing the layer of cover that text provides.

As is the case in commentators’ fields, contributors are free to partake in Mouthpiece.The editor is present in the audience, who gets to choose which voices to listen to, and which to silence. It is a goal that the work is inclusive, but contributions promoting hate speech will be removed by the artist and Kunsthall Stavanger.

In Mouthpiece, it is not only what the voice utters, but also the tonality of the voice that becomes important, as it moves from an individual carrier to a participant in a choir of several voices. When the voices sound together we start to acknowledge the textures, vibrations and movements of the voices as much as the words themselves, bringing to mind the constant and endless humming of the voices found online.

When lending your voice to the choir, it will separate from your body and take on a digital manifestation. The avatar in the form of a mouth acts as an elongation of the voice or the self. The disembodied experience of seeing the impression of a mouth moving with your voice, separated from your physical self, can be uncanny, confrontational, painful or perhaps poetic. With Mouthpiece, we are granted a temporary relief or a moment of reflection as our desires are performed and taken on by this foreign form.

Janvin further sees the Mouthpiece choir as an abstraction of the Norwegian welfare state, where each body must be included in the collective society, and where everyone is expected to be cared for and be listened to. The work does not seek to celebrate nor criticise this societal structure, but to point to the duality of its failure and beauty.

Curator: Kristina Ketola Bore
Developer: Bryant Wells, Animation: Erik Ferguson

The project is generously funded by Arts Council Norway.

The artist would like to thank Sacha Nadal, Ofer Smilansky, Michelle Cheung, Annalise, Morten Joh, Rufus og Pia, Ula Sickle, Isof, Nathalie Muster, Anette Gellein, Cory Arcangel, Ingrid Rusten, Nora, Roman, Matilde, Özlem Anli, Cara Tolmie.

Stine Janvin
b. 1985

Vocalist, performer and sound artist Stine Janvin (Stavanger, Norway) works with the extensive flexibility of her voice in relation to visual elements. Specifically, Janvin focuses on elements such as costume and lighting, as well as audio spatialization and the ways in which this can be used to channel physicality of sound, tangibility and trigger sensory response. Often inspired by electronic music genres, folk music and pop culture, Janvin creates audio visual works and live performances for a variety of spaces such as theaters, clubs and art galleries, and more recently websites and digital platforms.

Since spring 2021 she has been touring with her latest live project Echoic Choir, co-created with choreographer Ula Sickle, which premiered at Wiener Festwochen and was recently presented at MACBA Barcelona, Mattatoio in Rome, Venice Biennial opening week and MUNCH in Oslo.

Janvin has recently presented works at Performa Telethon, New York; Issue Project Room, NYC; Rokolectiv, Bucharest; Kunsthall Stavanger and MUNCH, Oslo; and Chords for Calling presented by Deutschlandradio Kultur and Berliner Künstlerprogramm. In autumn 2022 she will release a new book in collaboration with artist Cory Arcangel on the Brooklyn based publisher Primary Information.