[-empyre-] Thursday, 19th: Hearing and Listening

Christoph Cox ccox at hampshire.edu
Fri Jun 20 13:11:17 EST 2014

Rule and Levine's analysis of "International Art English 
was brilliant and hilarious (AND, it should be mentioned, a project of 
Triple Canopy, one of the key purveyors of contemporary art discourse, 
or IAE, I suppose). It's also certainly worth doing 
anthropological/cultural anthropological analyses of cultural discourses.

But roundly condemning any conceptual or technical discourse about art 
is, I think, simply anti-intellectual. There are certainly bad and 
obfuscating writers of art discourse but also brilliantly illuminating 
ones. Of course, that's true in any field. Why should we expect (or 
want) art (or humanistic) discourse to be more "jargon-free" than any 
other discourse? Should we equally condemn hepatologists or quantum 
physicists or epistemologists for having peculiar insider discourses? 
That would be dumb, I think.

Salome remarks: "I do not think sound is necessarily political, and a 
vista is not per se political either, but listening and looking are. 
Sound is sound and a chair is a chair, but how I look at it or listen to 
it is political." I understand what she means, of course. But I think we 
need to be wary of that sort of distinction, as though the world is 
inert and meaningless until we impose meaning and value on it. Again, 
this sort of world/human, fact/value distinction easily slides into 
idealism and a theological inflation of the human. The world is vast 
array of forces, human and non-human, that impose themselves on us and 
vice versa, and that, each in their own way, are selective, evaluative, 
etc. It's not some dumb thing waiting for me to make (or not make) 
meaning and politics out of it.

On 6/19/14, 12:06 PM, Semitransgenic wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hi Seth,
> not sure I can agree with this : ) "The fatigue with the language of 
> conceptual art expressed by Semitransgenic strikes me as a response to 
> the very difficult and neverending work of resisting the dominant 
> vocabularies of our times and places" and actually, the very sentence 
> /"//a response to the very difficult and neverending work of resisting 
> the dominant vocabularies of our times and places"/ is artspeak ; )
> Unfortunately, like it or not, within the "art-world" IAE is a 
> dominant vocabulary, it really has gone beyond a joke at this point.
> So: 
> <http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/jan/27/users-guide-international-art-english>/ "//Will 
> the hegemony of IAE, to use a very IAE term, ever end? Rule and Levine 
> think it soon might. Now that competence in IAE is almost a given for 
> art professionals, its allure as an exclusive private language is 
> fading. When IAE goes out of fashion, they write, 'We probably 
> shouldn't expect that the globalised art world's language will become 
> ... inclusive. More likely, the elite of that world will opt for 
> something like conventional highbrow English.'"/
> On 19 June 2014 15:27, Seth Kim-Cohen <seth at kim-cohen.com 
> <mailto:seth at kim-cohen.com>> wrote:
>     ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>     Hello All
>     Nice to be with you and thanks, Jim, for the invitation to
>     participate.
>     Art that engages sound is not a special case. The same obligations
>     obtain, and the same privileges too. The fetishization of audio
>     technology hearkens back to half-century-old discussions of the
>     "material support" of visual artworks. Why should we care if the
>     painting is on canvas or linen? Likewise, should we know or want
>     to know if it's Supercollider or Max or a CD? Similarly, why is
>     listening isolated, idealized, and idolized? Ultimately, the
>     interactions that sustain interest and importance are not those
>     between sound waves and eardrums, but between ideologies and
>     economies, between societies and subjects, between history and
>     concentrations of power.
>     The fatigue with the language of conceptual art expressed by
>     Semitransgenic strikes me as a response to the very difficult and
>     neverending work of resisting the dominant vocabularies of our
>     times and places. Such vocabularies are so pervasive as to operate
>     transparently and to be adopted unproblematically as natural. The
>     best "international art-speak" of the past fifty years has taken
>     it upon itself to sprinkle sand in the gears of the
>     cultural-industrial machinery. Of course, the machinery constantly
>     recoups this sand as raw material for further manufacture. This
>     recuperation produces both our collective fatigue and the demand
>     for further "innovation" (I use the term cautiously) in the
>     strategies and modes of alternative meaning-making.
>     I fear - genuinely, I do - that our collective recourse to
>     technology, to listening, to mute materiality, is a signal of
>     retreat from the ubiquity of cultural-ecnomic hegemony. Sound
>     schmound. Let's think about the relationships artworks create
>     between audiences, institutions, conventions, ideas, and
>     philosophies. Then we're on to something.
>     Kindest regards to you all
>     Seth
>     ________________
>     www.kim-cohen.com <http://www.kim-cohen.com>
>     On Jun 19, 2014, at 9:09 AM, Jim Drobnick wrote:
>     ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>     For today, Thursday, 19th, our focus will be on "Hearing and
>     Listening." While these topics may have been addressed in the past
>     through perceptual or phenomenological  methods, the questions by
>     Jennifer Fisher, Eldritch Priest and Salomé Voegelin hint at the
>     affective, bodily and political forces implicitly at work during
>     this activity. Too often it is assumed that hearing or listening
>     merely involves a passive transfer of sensory data, as if the ear
>     were merely a conduit for information. But it's clear that the ear
>     is subject to socialization and bias, training and discipline,
>     personal idiosyncracies, and influence by the surrounding
>     environment. The 3 questions today, then, seek to reflect upon the
>     effects of such influences when attending to audio art:
>     1) Jennifer Fisher: What is the significance of spatial resonance
>     and affect when listening to sound art? How do hearing and
>     proprioception combine in formations of resonance?  How might the
>     resonances of ambient space -- whether a museum, concert hall or
>     other venue -- operate contextually in curating sound art? My
>     sense is that resonance operates somewhat differently from
>     vibration: if vibration stems from the tactile sensing of a
>     discrete object (or its emission from a particular point in
>     space), might resonance afford more delocalized, contextual,
>     intensification of hearing and proprioception?
>     2) Eldritch Priest: Through tropes such as the often cited “the
>     ears are never closed,” artists and theorists alike routinely
>     posit audition as form of “exposure,” a veritable faculty that
>     lays us open and vulnerable to the world. But as Steven Connor
>     notes, the ear is not submissive; it "actively connives to make
>     what it takes to be sense out of what it hears.” This means that
>     the ear not only refuses to entertain an outside -- “noise” -- but
>     its operations seem to entail "a kind of deterrence of sound” such
>     that to hear is always to mishear. But if all hearing is
>     mishearing, audition can only be a fundamental hallucination that
>     works for the powers of the false. From this premise we might ask
>     whether hearing is (in both its ordinary and Peircean sense of the
>     term) an abduction of the “outside.” What would it mean or do,
>     then, for sound studies—specifically sound studies in its
>     humanistic phase -- that its organ of concern (l’oreille) is
>     steeped primarily in “guesswork”? Does studying sound mean
>     studying what is effectively a connivance? And if so, if audition
>     is always making sense up, then with what, or as Neitzsche would
>     say, with “whom” is it complicit?
>     3) Salomé Voegelin: What is the relationship between listening and
>     sound art?
>     Jennifer, Eldritch and Salomé, please feel free to further
>     elaborate or extend your initial thoughts!
>     Best,
>     Jim
>     _______________________________________________
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