In ancient myth the nymph Echo is a talented story-teller, who as so many others is befallen by a cruel fate. Her own talent makes her undoing and – by mythical logic – becomes her eternal destiny. Because her torrent of words distracts Juno/Hera from her husband Jupiter’s/Zeus’ amours, Echo is punished with the withdrawal of her own ability to speak. Only able to repeat the last words of her counterpart she is doomed to replicate other persons’ views impotently. So she immediately becomes the role model of a being in deficit that is dependent on others. In this, as Winfried Schäfer states, Echo under no circumstances is suitable as a recognition myth of the Occident, on which, like on her opponent Narcissus, it would be easy to fall back upon for self-explanations. Therefore, she lacks the supposedly original.
But the figure of echo contains more than a pure repetitional bias. To use Derrida’s words, it refers to a moment of postponement and dismemberment of the original expression, to resistance in iteration. While Echo is driven into petrification by her unrequited love to Narcissus, her increasingly bodiless voice uncovers, what repetition as a replication cannot cover any more: the loss of sense, the speaker’s position, the mediality of communication, the voice’s roughness, the ambivalences of acquisition, the limitations of communicability and the risk of finiteness. Therefore, an echo cannot only be understood as an unwilling and immediate reaction, but also strikes as an independent praxis because of the practices of repetition it includes.
In contemporary artistic productions and in scientific reflection Echo’s echo is clearly audible, as for instance in practices of re-enactment the arrival of the past in the present is probed, or a narrator demands to get a place in the (hi-)story, when the mediality of the material becomes the center of attention, if diverse movements of return penetrate and challenge production and reception processes, or when the mediacy declares itself as an ambivalent communicability. For a scientific and artistic examination of this kind of irritations and relocations the keywords sounder, echogram, and echolalia, which contain explicit references to (medical) disturbance, can be a reference and starting point:
Echo/Sounder – The Echo of History contains topics as repetition and traumatic return, immediate presence of the past and/or non-simultaneity of the simultaneous, forms of artistic historiography and the art of history writing;
Echo/Gram – Medial Practices focuses on the material conditions of media as well as medial conditions for storytelling and narrating, intermedial constellations and figurations of appealing and repetition, of speaking, writing, showing and evoking;
Echo/Lalia – Me and the Other turns its attention to questions of communicability, of desire and refusal, of society/communitas and the challenges of living finitely;
Echo/Logue – Strategies of Invocation designates Echo on stage and in public as a figure of doubling, potentiation and not least as a challenge for artistical practice.
At our symposium we want to pursue an active exchange of theory and practice, to dedicate ourselves to interdisciplinary work or, rather, to interdependent reflections of science and art to lend a present voice to the manifold practices of Echo. Even though Echo by that will not become a ›natural‹ recognition myth, but at best – and in harmony with her alternative mythological ending, in which the scorned Pan agitates panic-stricken shepherds in order to tear the nymph to pieces – the ambivalent potential of her diremption will be fanned out and made experienceable.