Adrian Williams

The Horse’s Mouth: Unmasking the Vocal Surrogate

School of Art

“Don’t punish the messenger!” is a call to consider that the bearer of bad tidings and its author need not be one and the same person. The messenger is effectively a vocal surrogate. Using a relationship analysis of content and source of a piece of language information my research will provide a definition of the vocal surrogate and its characteristics and functions in contemporary artworks. 

From Sharon Hayes’ hour-long performances of all the speeches of Ronald Reagan “Addresses to the Nation” (vocal repossession) through to Mark Wallinger’s racehorse “A Real Work of Art” (vocal squatting) my aim is explore the difference between what is said and what is ultimately perceived. In the same way that voice is an expression of our human will the vocal surrogate enables us to discover who or possibly what is behind the message transferred by the voice.

This research does not represent a complete catalogue of contemporary artists whose work focuses on the human voice, nor do I attempt to develop an encyclopaedia that unites all ideas and theories on vocal surrogacy. Rather my intention is for “the tooling of the tool itself” be perceived as an independent research topic.


  • Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch
  • Prof. Maria Fusco