Pneuma is conceived as the original creative act by Classical Greek philosophy; the vitality of breathing transformed into expression. Breathing as sound at the service of linguistic public interaction. Voicing as a form of being in the world, that when merged into the collectiveness of society, resonates as a powerful political tool.
Liberal politics are, to an extent, organized through the regime of identity and citizenship in which voicing acts as representation; as the foundation of representative democracy. The articulation of a sonic utterance as one's self-identification becomes the shtick of citizenship. What cannot be voiced is ostracized as politically null.
Certainly, not every ontological enunciation is to be expressed by voicing oneself's identification (whatever this might be). One example of this is the abstraction of voice found in Inuit throat singing, where voice serves as a rhythmic bias that works more as an invocation. The expressiveness of sounds through the pneuma has a multiplicity of channels, the voicing of identity is only one of them, hegemonized by liberal politics.
By Voicing Abstraction we take aim at the inherent contradiction of placing these two words together. Learning from the legacy of indigenous art, abstraction is much more than the refusal of representation, as opposed to Western modernity; it's the articulation of meaning at the service of a specific community, used as a strategy to safeguard non-colonial memory. Abstraction, in this case, is not unintelligible but enigmatically literal. With this Current, we are examining practices of voicing that take distance from the politics of representation, articulating spaces where indigenous silences, the poetics of sound and the ritualistic dimension of language open the space for a different kind of the self, one not mediated by the state or by the taxonomy of liberal politics.
Voicing Abstraction’s first entry, Wave #7, presents a diverse collection of artists, practitioners, and thinkers. Their work takes the form of hybrid essays, sound pieces, jam sessions, images and intimate conversations.
In 2021, the Ecuadorian artist Esteban Pérez collaborated with the Squamish artist Aaron Moody aka Splash to create Liquid Beings. The sound and drawing exhibition was shown at Polygon Gallery in Vancouver, Canada. Presented here digitally, Liquid Beings includes a manipulated field recording of Earth and a series of drawings done using a cedar pigment provided by Splash. The drawings ground the work in the physical realm and when combined with the sound piece, provide the audience with an alternative way of Knowing the World informed by indigenous thinking, offering a worldview that prioritizes the natural over the human.
Los Angeles-based visual and sound artist David Schafer presents Binary Complex, a multifaceted piece originally conceived of and presented between 2017 and 2021. Taking inspiration from the work of Russian composer, Alexander Scriabin’s Color Music, Binary Complex utilizes sculpture, sound, and print to update Scriabin’s theories for the contemporary world. Taking the association of a musical note with a color, Schafer presents two sound pieces with two very different scores. The presentation here of both pieces, one using a three-piece stringed orchestra playing sheet music, the other a binary digital print played by a computer, Schafer deepens the exploration of data in the binary and the aural.
Wave Track #7 comes to us from St. Celfer, a Korean-American sound artist and musician who splits his time between Sao Paulo and Seattle. His track, Fifty One, wastes no time announcing itself, beginning with a sequence of machine-like, harsh sounds that rise in volume before slowly giving way to a melancholic rhythm, interspersed with soft tones that combine to create a nostalgic, almost cinematic quality. In just under three minutes, St. Celfer manages to elicit a strong yearning for elsewhere, a sensibility that encapsulates–and communicates with–the other works presented in Infrasonica’s Wave #7. We hope you enjoy listening.
A loose constellation of six text fragments accompanies Rouzbeh Shadpey’s Toward the Shore of Listening: An Underscore, a sound piece first presented at Centre Clark in Tiohtiá:ke/Mooniyang/Montreal in April 2022. Shadpey’s lyrical and journalistic discourse poses one fundamental question: how is acousmatic listening weaponized within the medical-industrial complex and the policing of borders, and how is its weaponization normalized by the discourses and practices of sonic studies and sound art? The answer unfolds through a definition of white acousmatic listening, touching upon sharp images from familiar news stories, analytical readings and poetic strands.
Germination State #4: Continue on jamming, on pajamas is both a conversation and an invitation. A trusted group of practitioners join Julian Abraham “Togar” in the formation of Tropical Tap Water, a recurring collaboration, which gives itself the space and time to cultivate a practice indistinguishable from everyday life. Jamming, then, is not only an act, but it offers a metaphorical standpoint to ruminate on listening, privacy, freedom, togetherness, representation, paradigms of creativity and sonic research. In its fourth reiteration, JamOnJamOnJamOnJam remains an ongoing sequence of composite exchanges of continuous renewal. It is accompanied by a conversation between all ten members of Tropical Tap Water and creates space for a joint sensation.
Yu’an Huang’s contribution to Wave #7 takes the editorial project KUA as a starting point. Founded by the curator, the publication looks at the trajectories and cultural production of the Asian diaspora in the Western hemisphere from the point of view of its protagonists: artists, writers and curators, who have found a home from within displacement. In its first issue, KUA proposed to reflect on the notion of Transnationality. In anticipation of the series, Huang commissioned the sound artist and musician Perera Elsewhere to reflect on the concept of Transnationality. The resulting sound piece is a concise exercise of synthesis and abstraction, which aims at condensing a collective ethos into a singular sonic work.
As always, thank you for listening.