In this second installment of Voicing Abstraction, we delve into the sonic waves that entwine human skin, communal emancipatory utterances, and the intricacies of abstract sounds and shades of silence. Together with our brilliant contributors, we seek to further our understanding of the limits between voice, song, language, and abstraction, while examining how voice as representation has been distorted in liberal democracies to flatten cultural differences and polyphonies.
In December 2022, the South Korean artist Nadoe performed a live sound piece for the closing of Come Hell or High Water by Rosario Aninat and Simon Shim Sutcliffe, housed at Mutter, Amsterdam. The performance rearranged field recordings the artist had taken of cityscapes in the Netherlands, transmuting urban noises they had captured into a gallery setting. The polyphonic soundtrack reminds of science fiction though intentional listening reveals an eerie familiarity that raises questions about our sonic relationships to the places we call home.
In 2000, in the Colombian city of Boyacá, armed men stormed into a private residence and placed an explosive collar around the owner’s neck, demanding a ransom to deactivate the bomb. Eleven years later, the Colombian artist María José Arjona performed Right at the Center, There is Silence in a gallery in Croatia where the artist stood still for six hours on consecutive days with four razor blades positioned three millimeters from her throat. For the 8th Wave, Cuban writer and curator Marivi Véliz dissected the act of terror, Arjona’s performance, and the correlation between silence and violence from the state level to the individual, raising and addressing questions about what it means for a body to be silent and how silence can be performed as a stance against state violence.
For our 8th Wave Track, we worked with Los Angeles-based Pacoima Techno whose work exists at the intersection of performance and music production. Their practice is rooted in the construction of public personas that embody and animate raving states of being informed by diasporic cultures in Los Angeles, particularly those from the San Fernando Valley, ingrained in non-normative identities. Strobe lights (in a pool painted black) is a bass-heavy and hypnotic invitation.
The Phonogramm-Archiv at the Humboldt Forum is explored, contested, and resignified through the practice of filmmaker and sound artist Miguel Buenrostro. Through his interdisciplinary approach to sound, his practice transits with mitigation between music production, documentation, and archival inquiry, dealing with notions of music archaeology, acoustemology, and sonic diasporas. For El tiempo ritmo, Buenrostro invited an assemblage of musicians to respond to the Phonogramm-Archiv, articulating a sense of becoming-music in a frenzied performance delivered by those diasporic bodies.
In a collaboration with Xenia Benivolski for e-flux's You Can’t Trust Music, Lawrence Lek spoke with Infrasonica editors Reem Shadid and Rachael Rakes about the sonic imagination, the creation of uncanny worlds, and speculative presence within Black Cloud (2021), part of Lek’s Sinofuturist series exploring the promises and paradoxes of technological development. For this Wave, Lek presents the audio and script of Black Cloud which examines a scenario in which a world devoid of humans continues to exercise scenarios of memory, trauma, self-help, and affirmation as it struggles to maintain defunct standards of civility and surveillance.
In November of 2022, InnerSwell, composed of Laima Leyton and Lexy Morvaridi, debuted the ambisonic live performance pLayPlAyplAY at IKLECTIK, Lambeth, London, to a group of young people from a local playground. pLayPlAyplAY is InnerSwell’s restitution to the community who had not only informed the piece but recorded it together with them. In a series of workshops, young locals were invited to explore the playground sonically, generating sounds in response to objects, the environment, and their peers. InnerSwell's practice is informed by the capability of sonic experiences to allow people to expand in time and within the space they inhabit, recontextualizing memory and sharing the present through a newly articulated language, welcomed in its rawness and playfulness.
As always, thank you for listening.