Sonic Continuum

Steffani Jemison, Récitatif (What if we need new words), 2017. Research image. Courtesy the artist

Our research strand, Sonic Continuum, investigates practices of world-making through sound, both as a force that constitutes the world and a medium for producing knowledge about it. Thinking through sound, silence and speech, whose voices are heard, who listens, and by what means, Sonic Continuum, explores the sonic as the articulation of tempos and cycles of time.

This multi-platform, long-term research strand includes new issue of The Contemporary Journal, a rolling talks programme, symposia series and a writer in residence as well as new digital and movement-based commissions, study sessions and poetry that draw on sound to narrate historical and contemporary global processes. Imagining how listening might exceed existing frameworks of representation, Sonic Continuum brings together cross-disciplinary contributions towards another poetics of time.

The sonic offers a multidirectional form of social experience against the law-like authority of clock-time, set alongside the evolutionary tempos and rhythms of extinction as well as everyday metabolic processes and broader socio-political chronologies. By assembling multiple, overlapping timeframes, it proposes rhythm as a relational language, and conjoins our senses with the unsound, the not-yet audible, and the silenced for imagining new solidarities, aural alliances and forms of attunement. Playing with notions of voice and address, it attends to the grammars that shape our differential experiences of the world, and asks: can sound restitute failures to listen? How might we listen to time affectively? What auditory imaginaries and possible futures can listening unfold?

Sonic Continuum expands on the event series The Violence of Abstraction between March and July 2019, and questions how conjoining our hearing senses with the unsound, the not-yet audible, and the silent, projects imaginative modes of resistance, aural alliances and forms of attunement.

Sonic Continuum is curated by Sofia Lemos and assisted by Ryan Kearney.


Symposia series

Due to concerns around COVID-19, the Sonic Continuum symposia series, planned to develop in four instalments over the course of 2020, has been moved online, reshaping as digital commissions that include audio-essays, podcasts, live talks and narrated broadcasts as well as poetry and essay on view in The Contemporary Journal.

A first instalment ‘Histories of Listening’ on 28-29 March intended to listen our for the compositions of time at play in the interconnected biosocial rhythms of human, vegetal and mineral lives. Departing from global histories of labour, it investigates how the complex of time emerged out of colonial encounters and how the pulsing rhythms of colonial modernity are central to capitalist modes of production.

A second instalment on 25 April, ‘Acousmatic Paranoia,’ was an afternoon of talks and performances on the occasion of Sung Tieu’s exhibition In Cold Print. It explores the materiality of sound through historical and contemporary manifestations of sonic warfare, focusing on the psychoacoustic dimensions of fear. Expanding on the artist’s practice through the lens of geopolitics, sonic infrastructure and their factual ambiguity, the event seeks to reflect on the way resonant frequencies can redefine spaces of conflict by introducing political possibilities and auditory imaginaries.

A third instalment ‘Listening as Critique’ was meant to take place on 27-28 June and explore sonic modes of knowing and being that evade or refuse representation, transparency and legibility. Departing from the afterlives of slavery and enduring legacies of colonialism, to anticolonial liberation struggles and international solidarity networks, it listens to how musical forms, languages and sensibilities are transformed by transnational movements.

A final instalment ‘Expanded Listening’ on 23-24 October, proposed to tune to the haptic and sensorial dynamics of listening across auditory registers and a wide spectrum of frequencies. It energises modes of listening beyond the ear that are attentive to the sound of political climates and the languages of more-than-human worlds towards renewed kinships and a longer tempo of auditory awareness.

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