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

Jim Drobnick jim at displaycult.com
Sat Jun 21 07:33:50 EST 2014


Hi everyone, I've just been on the road for the past 6 hours, and have just now had a chance to catch up on the posts. As the organizer for this week, I'd like to respond to a couple of things that have come up. 

First, I'd like to confirm the thoughts of Christoph, and will clarify that the purpose of bringing together the group of sound artists, curators and theorists that I invited as core participants this week was to facilitate a discussion across the various types of agencies and practices informed by and relating to sound/art. The goal was to energize the substantial braintrust of the empyre listserv along a series of participant-generated topics, and continue empyre's longstanding interest in sound, new media, and theory. 

That said, I recognize that there are different expectations among the various groups and subject positions engaging with empyre. While the disparagement of so-called elitist discourse is a common refrain in some art circles, persons espousing such an opinion nevertheless have certain responsibilities. One is to recognize that such an opinion has a long tradition in the history of art criticism/theory, a tradition that has generally tried to quash or dismiss developing paradigms of analysis. Another responsibility is to recognize the professionalism of the critic/theorist -- for a critical vocabulary does not develop to create an elite clique, it develops in order to formulate and discuss increasingly nuanced and complex issues. So if someone finds terms or phrases mentioned in a post opaque, there is a civil manner in which to engage in a dialogue that can bring about greater comprehension to all involved. Dismissiveness negates the possibility of dialogue, which I think would have been one of the prerequisites for enrolling in the empyre listserv to begin with.

Secondly, responding to Johannes’ post about the daily shift in topics, this week is an experiment, to be sure. While there are a lot of questions presented, they are in groups that relate to one another. I was given a week to use the empyre listserv, and I tried to involve a diverse group of core participants and be the most productive within that short time. Sunday will be an open day, ready for discussions of any type, and perhaps this could be the day to revisit and reflect upon the week’s worth of topics and questions.

Best,

Jim

 


On 2014-06-20, at 1:09 PM, Christoph Cox wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Semitransgenic: If you disagree, then explain yourself and offer an alternative position, instead of taking cheap, short potshots at anyone whose thought and writing has any philosophical content. Your quick dismissal of such views is not conducive to genuine intellectual discussion. Present some content of your own, change the topic of discussion to something you prefer to discuss, or back off.
> 
> 
> On 6/20/14, 11:18 AM, Semitransgenic wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> 
>> 
>> "...And human processes of perceiving and knowing are simply variants of the processes of selection, incorporation, assimilation, etc. through which the entire world (inorganic, organic, animal, human . . .) operates..."
>> 
>> sorry, I just can't help myself, but this kind of vague reductive assessment is itself an "epistemological bubble."    
>> 
>> 
>> On 20 June 2014 14:03, Christoph Cox <ccox at hampshire.edu> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> One last comment on this general epistemological and metaphysical issue which, while not about sound per se, bears on methodologies of sonic inquiry:
>> 
>> The (non-human) world is not an "other" from which we are somehow cut off. Human beings are OF the world, not ABOVE it or BESIDE it. And human processes of perceiving and knowing are simply variants of the processes of selection, incorporation, assimilation, etc. through which the entire world (inorganic, organic, animal, human . . .) operates. Pace Salome, it is precisely "exoticist" to think otherwise: to think that the non-human world is a mysterious and ineffable something that, despite our efforts, forever eludes us. And it is precisely "anthropocentric" and "narcissistic" to endorse a species solipsism that locks us in our own epistemological bubble. We can know the world because we are not other than it, because we are continuous with it.
>> 
>> Nietzsche proposed a middle position between Salome's and mine. He agrees with Salome that knowledge is a "will to power," a will to capture the not-human and transform it into the human. But he strongly qualified this claim with a metaphysical monism that utterly rejected species solipsism. Knowing may be a will to power; but so is the entire inorganic and organic world. As he famously put it: "The world is will to power and nothing besides; and you yourselves are also this will to power and nothing besides."
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> On 6/20/14, 5:32 AM, Salomé Voegelin wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Chris, in relation to the dumb world: absolutely of course I would never suggest that the world is a dumb vessel we sit within. However, the answer to humanism and idealism that sets itself above this world and its things, is not to pretend we can know what the "other" in this case nature, the chair, the bird, etc. is thinking and know its agency, that would be just another exoticism and thus just as colonial and humanist as the 19th Century admiration and collecting of plants and butterflies. In fact to deny the factors and consequences of human agency, and the quite unique blame and responsibility that at least ecologically speaking we have to level at ourselves, through the slight of hand of a theoretical equivalence with nature and things, seems an enormously anthropocentric and idealist move if not down right narcissistic.
>> 
>> Therefor, to get back to listening, what interests me is the philosophical, musical, artistic as well as theological biases that are involved in this mode of engagement with the world and in what why sound art negotiates, critiques, augments and challenges, reaffirms or indeed ignores such biases and legacies. Not to pretend that I listen to the inanimate, dumb sound work, sound world, but because I am humbly aware of the fact that I am me and not that chair, and I will never become that chair, but understanding my modes of engagement with it I can come to appreciate its autonomy and complexity without subsuming it into an equivalence that is powered by my agency: creating an über-human post-humanism.
>> 
>> On Jun 20, 2014, at 4:11 AM, Christoph Cox <ccox at hampshire.edu> wrote:
>> 
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> 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:  "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> 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
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 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
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> 
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> 
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> 
>> 
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> 
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20140620/404f1363/attachment.htm>


More information about the empyre mailing list