Voicing Abstraction / Wave #9 ESSAY October 2023

Editor's note #9

The publication of our 9th Wave also marks the end of Voicing Abstraction, our third Current. Voicing Abstraction aimed to confront and explore the potentialities inherent in the poetics of spoken language: is it possible to name a shapeless thing? How can we address something beyond communication? Can we breathe life into that which has no concreteness? In doing so, do we risk birthing a monster, a golem; that Talmudic being formed of clay who, due to its voicelessness, has nefarious intentions assigned to it?

In many versions of tales of the golem, the creature received its ruach, its pneuma, its vitality, with the carving of the word emét, or truth, into its forehead. The way to kill it, then, was to remove the first letter, leaving the inscription as mét, changing the meaning from truth to death. But is that carving, even of the word death, not a way of safeguarding memory? Wouldn’t it be true then that the chiseling sound, the sound of erasure, is an act of utterance, the emitting of a sound resistant to that which is trying to silence it? Even if that being already lived a silent existence?

Every act of translation is either an act of creation or of suppression, and as the golem seems to remind us, even a silent existence makes utterances in the liminal space between truth and death. With Voicing Abstraction, we aimed to explore other possible meanings beyond literal representations of the self, which tend to be absorbed with more efficiency by the politics of representation. Voicing Abstraction invited artists working with their voice, music, and poetry in ways that complicate liberal semiotics of cultural identity and that introduce us to worlds that are loaded with polyvalent meaning, fugitive languages, and desire.

In conversation with Infrasonica’s Editor-in-Chief Pablo José Ramírez, the Sámi sound artist Elina Waage says, “...we don’t joik about something, but rather joiking something” referring to the vocal-sonic practice grounded in the traditions of Sámi culture. In the conversation, the pair discuss the ethics of sound in Sámi culture, the relationship of indigenous artists with art institutions, and the intricacies of music and sonic sensibilities in her practice.

Gabriel Pareyon uses an essay excerpted from a talk given at MUAC titled Teponazcuauhtla to take us through an intellectual journey around the possibilities of an epistemology rooted in indigenous Nahua semantics while examining the longstanding legacy of Western universalism as the panoptic from which indigenous cultures have been interpreted. Payeron, faced with the difficult question around the limits of rationalism, leans in favor of the poetics of knowledge.

In a multi-media collaboration, Danae Io and Stathis Gourgouris turn to poetry, still images, and sound pieces to address the city of Thebes in their native Greece. In Greek mythology, Thebes is central to such figures as Hercules, Dionysus, and Oedipus but today it is a small city marked by de-industrialization and extraction. Io and Gourgouris ask what it means for a territory to be marked by history and mythology. And what happens when that mythology, that creation of a national identity acts as a hindrance to contemporary progress?

Lines taken from El pez de oro (The Golden Fish)–considered to be the avant-garde Andean bible–by the indigenous Peruvian writer Gamaliel Churata form the poetic foundation for Alan Poma’s video work Museo de la Resurrección. The monochromatic imagery, which was shot via drone over the Nazca Lines in southern Peru, shows an otherworldly landscape marked by the precision of the ancient geoglyphs. The futuristic, electronic music layered with the voice of the traditional Andean singer Edith Ramos hints at alternative temporalities that necessitate a re-examination of pre-Columbian technology.

Poma also contributed the Wave Track for the 9th Wave. Purisqa is a humming, soulful introduction to the musical side of Poma’s multi-disciplinary practice, which includes video, performance, and installation. Together with his academic pursuits, these expressions contribute to formulating his Andean Futurist Manifesto, which combines elements of Russian Futurism with Andean cosmology.

Rindon Johnson presents We can leave anytime, day or night (let us begin we have much further to go). In it, he intertwines artificial intelligence and the composite organisms lichens to confront climate change, addressing them not as opposites to be engaged with on separate horizons but as potential tools to inform one another. The piece blends organic, mechanical, and ambiental sonic elements to construct a chilling soundscape of poetic ruminations on lichens and their role in the life of beings and the planet.

Ella Finer’s I want to know you by touch (mars quakes) | A voice over for Fireflies proposes poetics for footage shot by eco-critic and environmental filmmaker Amy Cutler, portraying fireflies in an old uranium mine. In her collaborative tradition of sonic work inspired by the visual, Finer allows sound and image to inform one another, as they “did not belong together before this moment.”

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