Sonic Continuum: Listening as Critique

Nisha Ramayya, The States of Body Produced by Love, at Arika, Glasgow, 2019. Photo: Nottingham Contemporary
Nisha Ramayya, The States of Body Produced by Love, at Arika, Glasgow, 2019. Photo: Nottingham Contemporary
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The third instalment of the symposia series Sonic Continuum, our long-term research strand investigating social architectures of time and practices of world-making through sound, features artists, thinkers, musicians, and sound researchers to ask how are individual’s listening practices shaped by their experiences and historical context? How do transits, transitions and intersecting positions articulate with power?

Alongside Western imperialism, colonisation, and enslavement, listening practices were used to construct and confirmed allegedly natural power relationships built on inequity. Across time and space, and in an attempt to oppose cultural erasure, acts of refusal, intimacy and care were used to strengthen kinships through sound, ritual and song as world-making strategies.

This two-day programme of performances, talks, poetry and live broadcast, explores 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, it listens to how musical forms, languages and sensibilities are transformed by transnational movements. From the Harlem Renaissance to international solidarity networks that helped to spread anticolonial sensibilities through music, resistance to standards of European notation across musical genres, and the rise of pop and global dance music as well as club cultures with its queer critique of political visibility, how do artists and musicians develop forms of critique that come through listening beyond existing frameworks of representation?

Participants include performance studies scholar Melissa Blanco Borelli, curator Paz Guevara, artist and filmmaker Louis Henderson, artist collective Radio Earth Hold (Rachel Dedman, Arjuna Neuman, and Lorde Selys), artist and musician Satch Hoyt, composer and radio host Hannah Catherine Jones, performance and visual artist Jota Mombaça, Black studies and queer theorist Tavia Nyong'o, curator and researcher Bhavisha Panchia, artist Ashkan Sepahvand, musician Max Sterling, poet Nisha Ramayya, art historian Elvan Zabunyan, and poet Belinda Zwahi (MA.MOYO).

Programme details will be added soon.

Curator: Sofia Lemos, assisted by Ryan Kearney

Free. Booking recommended.

Melissa Blanco Borelli is a dance and performance studies scholar whose research interests include identity and corporeality, blackness in Latin America, film studies, feminist historiography and performance/auto-ethnography, digital humanities, decolonial aesthetics, and thinking beyond “the human.” She is the author of She is Cuba: A Genealogy of the Mulata Body (2015) which won the Society of Dance History Scholars' 2016 de la Torre Bueno Prize for best book in Dance Studies. She has been faculty at MIT, University of Surrey and Royal Holloway, University of London, where she remains affiliated as a Reader in Dance Theory and Performance. She is the Principal Investigator on an AHRC project that co-creates digital performance archives with Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities affected by the armed conflict. Borelli is currently President of the Dance Studies Association.

Ama Josephine Budge is a speculative writer, artist, and pleasure activist whose work navigates intimate explorations of race, art, ecology, and feminism, working to activate movements that catalyse human rights, environmental evolutions, and troublesomely queered identities. Her fiction and non-fiction has been published internationally and she is working on her first book A Speculative Duology for Young Adults (forthcoming). She has been published by Aperture, Whitechapel Gallery & MIT Press (forthcoming), the Feminist Review (forthcoming), among others. Budge is a member of Queer Ecologies 2020, the Black Dreamers collective with Junauda Petrus, and Lead Artist on the MycoLective project with Chisenhale Studios and Feral Practice.

Paz Guevara is a curator, researcher, and author. She collaborates in the long-term project Kanon-Fragen at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin that questions dominant cultural narratives, and for which she curated Afro-Sonic Mapping (2019) and co-curated Parapolitics: Cultural Freedom and the Cold War (2017-18). In 2011 and 2013, she co-curated the Latin American Pavilion at the 54th and 55th Venice Biennale. She has written extensively on contemporary artistic practices, most recently, on the works of Beatriz González and Olaf Holzapfel for Documenta 14. Guevara lectures on exhibition histories and curatorial practice at the IED Instituto Europeo di Design in Venice.

Louis Henderson is a filmmaker who experiments with different ways of working with people to address and question our current global condition defined by racial capitalism and ever-present histories of the European colonial project. Developing an archaeological method in cinema, his films explore the sonic space of images, listening to the echoes and spirals of the stratigraphic. Since 2017, Henderson has been working within the artist group The Living and the Dead Ensemble. Based between Haiti and France, they focus on theatre, song, slam, poetry, and cinema. His work is distributed by LUX, Video Data Bank and Phantom, and produced by Spectre.

Radio Earth Hold is an interdisciplinary research collective founded by Rachel Dedman, Lorde Selys, and Arjuna Neuman. The collaborative research focuses on transnational solidarity, drawing connections between histories of radio in Palestine and indigenous midwifery practices in North America through the medium of radio, producing, and commissioning broadcasts from artists. Recently, this research work has been channelled into a reading and listening group, Weather or Not—exploring relationships between music, technology, the body, and climate—with a network of interlocutors. The collective has collaborated with Navel, LA; Gasworks, London; the Serpentine, London; Mansion, Beirut; Warsaw Biennial; and Qalandiya International, Jerusalem. Radio Earth Hold has worked with artists such as Adam Feldmeth, Heather O’Brien, Inas Halabi, Louis Henderson, and Ultra-red.

Satch Hoyt is a visual artist and musician. His practice is related to the Transnational African Diaspora, and it is centred in the cultural and political role of sonicity. Recent exhibitions include HKW, Berlin (2019); Somerset House, London (2019); Oakland Museum of California (2018); Biennale de Dakar (2018); and Documenta 14 (2017). Recent performances include It’s After the End of the World in collaboration with Annika Larsson (2019); Porgy & Bess: The AstroBlack Trapfish Row Variations with Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber (2018); and Hair Combing Cycle (2017). Hoyt is currently working on three albums: Afro-Sonic Mapping; Cleopatra’s Chariot with Earl Harvin; and LATITUDE.

Bhavisha Panchia’s curatorial work and research engage with artistic and cultural practices in shifting global conditions, focusing on anti/postcolonial discourses, imperial histories, and networks of production and circulation of (digital) media. A significant part of her practice centres on auditory media’s relationship to geopolitical paradigms, particularly with respect to the social and ideological signification of sound and music in contemporary culture. She is the founder of Nothing to Commit Records, a label and publishing platform committed to the production and expansion of knowledge related to the intersection of contemporary art, literature, and music within and across the global South. 

Nisha Ramayya is a poet whose debut collection States of the Body Produced by Love (2019) is published by Ignota Books. Other publications include Notes on a Means without End (2020) in Poetry Review; In Me the Juncture (2019) published by Sad Press; Threads (2018), a critical-creative pamphlet co-authored with Sandeep Parmar and Bhanu Kapil, published by clinic. She is a member of the Race & Poetry & Poetics in the UK research group and a lecturer in Creative Writing at Queen Mary University of London. In Spring 2020, Ramayya is Poet in Residence at John Hansard Gallery, Southampton.

Ashkan Sepahvand is a writer and artistic researcher. His practice is text-based and highly collaborative, taking form as publications, performances, situations, and study. Recent talks and presentations include the 58th Venice Biennale; dOCUMENTA (13); Sharjah Biennials 10 and 13; Gwangju Biennale 11; Ashkal Alwan, Beirut; Sursock Museum, Beirut; and ICA, London; among others. In 2010, he co-founded the Institute for Incongruous Translation with Natascha Sadr Haghighian, a framework for collective research. Sepahvand is currently pursuing a PhD in Fine Art at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford.

Maxwell Sterling is a composer and artist whose music is an ongoing investigation of time, repetition, geography, and the human condition. Following the success of his debut record Hollywood Medieval (2017), Sterling was signed to Warp Publishing and will be releasing his second LP, a collection of sonic works titled Laced With Rumour: Loud-Speaker Of Truth on Ecstatic Recordings. Sterling has worked as a film composer on over 30 films, and collaborated with visual artists such as Tai Shani, Friedrich Kunath, and Linder. He has also created music for fashion houses, such as Christopher Shannon, Louise Gray, Helmut Lang, and Longchamp. As a producer and performer, Maxwell has worked with Neneh Cherry, Leslie Winer, IVVVO, Kenichi Iwasa, and Rabit.

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