[-empyre-] More on audio borders, sound walks, prisons, and structures of learning

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Thu Sep 24 06:31:09 EST 2009

Dear all, dear John

your last posting is moving.  

i now have a better sense of the implications of your 'filming your way across border", and the image of the outstretched hand -- when the migrant workers approaches you to sell something --  resonates. 

I tend to like buying music or finding it in the border regions of markets and arcades, passages.   also, as you suggest strongly, contra Gabriel Menotti, sound could  interest us more now than the image, precisely  because it has been so often relegated.   
I find the image poorly anchored in many productions i see, 
In dance the music is rather crucial, as it its absence. 

I tried to learn more about sound and its relationship to the visual, and am currently reading Michel Chion, and like the way i am re-learning more now about sonic arts, sound art/acousmatiics.   (Chion, Michel [1990],  Audio-Vision. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994). It appears that not much has been said about movement and sound, but I felt immediately, John, when you started writing, that hearing has something to do with breathing, and moving listening  (we are not static, we are not still, and as you rightly say, the term soundscape is problematic as it seems modeled on the visual studies terminologies of the visual / landscape, the representational).    

You have now extended the notion (circuits) of sound and the metaphor of the border far beyond the visual geographies, maps and vision.   do we hear the point  ("reconstructing the field through sound",  writes anthropolgist Tim Ingold, who wrote a fierce critique of soundscape)  you make about movement and mediation, power, capital weapons, securities,  affirmation and disavowal?

Which might be what I might - maybe - could - possibly have meant by
"filming your way across"? The 'second life' of theoretical language (thanks
Johannes, I like that) is pretty useless if it does not provoke suggestions
that might lead us to actions more effective, more capable, more able to win
(against Capital, which has tanks and theory. there is so much more to do
here. but I must run elsewhere).

the elsewhere interests me now that you mention the dog in (outer) space.  i heard someone say that you wouldn't be hearing sound in space, it would be completely silent?  is that true?    floating, listening, in silence? 
The BBC chose last weekend to show "The Right Stuff" (dir.Philip Kaufman) again, strange timing, as you mention the russian space program, I presume, you are refering to the cold war. the cold war mediated the space race and the tremendous investments into those technologies,  NASA, etc., but borders now also were crossed, afterwards   (MIR was up there when the soviet union vanished, as film will vanish --  i gather that is postulated in "The Virtual Life of Film" by D. N. Rodowick, and now we have the Russian and US astronauts work nicely together in the current "space programs".  what changed the mediation here, and the political realities, what opened the hungarian and czech borders in 1989, and i don't mean geographically but conceptually?

i want to distract you with you a few reflections on movement and vertebrae. how do feel your bones and cartilages?  
this is what came to me, after reading your comments on borders as "a process, an order, an iteration, uneven, performative and aural".

I attended a dance workshop in Austria (CHOREOLAB, at Krems Donau Universität) in mid-September, and learnt a lot again about my inner structure and about listening; many of the physical or somatic workshops took place both indoors and outdoors, and some of the outdoor work was called "Cartography bodymemento", and i think cartography was here meant as an internal kind of mapping, not necessarily "visual" and projective.  "memento" offers rich associations for you, i hope  (not with trinkets). 

so, we had been working indoors and outdoors, on body mind and structural imagining of our body and senses,  there was a group of 28 or 29 people from diverse places and backgrounds;  It's called Choreolab as it addresses choreographers, but the workshop also crosses over,  wants to explore interdisciplinarity; seminars stretch from dance to architecture to neuroscience, music, and so on. the campus in Krems is a mix of old baroque and hypermodern architectures, with strange faux mosaics on the campus lawns....i learnt much about how others move and reflect on movement. 

On occasion it's strange for me to be "somaticized" , to lie still and have someone go through your anatomy with you, bone by bone .......

then did the blind exercises,  sounding, singing, then touching and haptic feedback exercises.  then leading someone around the room (on trust),

 then shift to outdoors,  leading someone through the town, into the vineyards,  up the hills, along the river, for 2 hours,
 then we had to draw the experience on paper, then recompose it = dance it.

always with a partner  (s)he leads,  then you lead. 

my partner was Manuel, a male dancer from Vienna. I took him far out into the hiils, past large farms and then crumbling shacks, fences half covered with moss. One turns romantic, undoubtedly, even without seeing.  One learns to appreciate such climates where a deeper understanding of body and mind also perhaps leads to a deeper respect for humanness and one another, caring, for the vulnerability.  after all, Manuel led me home (after I had led him "astray" into the thickets) , back to the campus, across the whole urbs,  and we ended up, i could sense, in some glass elevator going up and up,   before i was allowed to open eyes.  i had them closed at all times, and trusted and allowed being led through what sounded in my ears like wind, branches, bells, water, then traffic, cars, train,  bikes, strange sounds not definable, cracklings, textures that i also sensed with feet.,  I heard screeching tires, someone yelling, and horns honking, and so I'd wave at them, the honkers unbeknownst to me.  perhaps they found it odd that an older man was led around by a younger man, as if we were a couple exploring the brave new world, say, after a hurricane.

Later Manuel danced my wave, in front of the water basin and a strange beautiful curved sculpture that sits provocatively in front of the old baroque façade of Krems Donau-University, which used to be a wealthy imperial tobacco factory,  and was then converted into this future looking place of ("live long") learning, surrounded in all parts of the campus by artworks and sculptures., and the local high security prison right on the opposite side of the baroque facade of the academy.  Beyond, neighbors  had hoisted a large banner  complaining that the new structure has taken away their vista to the Donau.  They phrased it ironically: "Thank you, Donau Universitiät, for enhancing our sights. Your neighbors". 

Johannes Birringer
dap lab / dans sans joux

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