Watch 2015 Symposium

KEYNOTE: Presented by Lawrence Abu Hamdan

Lawrence Abu Hamdan is a multi-media artist with a background in DIY music. In 2015, he was the Armory Show commissioned artist and participated in the New Museum Triennial. The artist’s forensic audio investigations are made as part of the Forensic Architecture research project at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where he is also a PhD candidate and associate lecturer. Recent exhibitions include solo shows at institutions such as The Showroom, London; Casco, Utrecht; Beirut, Cairo; and forthcoming at Kunsthalle St Gallen and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.


The Narma Tapes: Polyphony and Politics in the Postwar by ESTAR (SER)
“Listening to understand, listening to forget. An exercise.”


PRESENTATION by Dr. James Hudspeth: A Scientific Definition of Listening
James Hudspeth conducted undergraduate studies at Harvard College and received PhD and MD degrees from Harvard Medical School. Following postdoctoral work at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, he served on the faculties of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After joining Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Hudspeth moved to The Rockefeller University, where he is the F. M. Kirby Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Sensory Neuroscience. Dr. Hudspeth conducts research on hair cells, the sensory receptors of the inner ear. He and his colleagues are especially interested in the active process that sensitizes the ear, sharpens its frequency selectivity, and broadens its dynamic range. They also investigate the replacement of hair cells as a potential therapy for hearing loss. Hudspeth is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


SESSION ONE: An Analysis of Listening
This panel explores listening in terms of its relation to various contexts including space, media, ethics, communication, and networked culture. It considers the act of listening in terms of the orientation of the listener in relation to one that is listened to, and the process of listening as something that is “socially coded” rather than merely a physical act. How has our understanding of phenomenology, the idea of the un-learned, un-mediated, un-processed, and the related concept of “real-space” shifted with the rise of Internet based media and in particular social media? What other approaches or ways of understanding have emerged? Surveillance is an intentional form of listening, in many if not all instances, without consent. How can we explore mythologies and norms of surveillance culture today, as personal data is constantly being acquired from Internet users? When corporations such as Facebook and Google are capable of gathering, saving, and analyzing our conversations, listening becomes the site of a power struggle, scrambling the codes of subject and object.
Moderator: Shannon Mattern
Participants: Christoph Cox, Seeta Peña Gangadharan, Brian Larkin


SESSION TWO: Taking Listening Seriously
Taking its cue from James Baldwin, who was greatly influenced by sound and music, particularly the blues, this panel explores what it means to take listening seriously. How are those who are largely “un-listened to” being heard? How can one avoid polarizing discussions, paternalistic approaches, or reinforcing stereotypes in an attempt to open up channels of listening? What do different soundscapes say about class and inequality? In his important 1957 short story Sonny’s Blues, Baldwin argued that attending to the blues required the listener to confront and accept both literal noise (sounds beyond the listener’s understanding) and ideological noise (elements of the lives of those whose journeys have taken radically different paths.) How can tuning into literal noise help sensitize us to ideological noise? What is the contemporary role of the blues—a musical form inextricably linked to America’s history of racism and oppression—and what potentialities remain?
Moderator: Julie Beth Napolin
Participants: Rich Blint, Mendi Obadike


This panel addresses the slippages between truth and fiction in relation to interpretative listening, media communication, and acts of testimony, translation, or redaction. What is the place of language and translation in this evolving narrative space? Every translation sets into play distinct vocabularies and systems of listening and interpreting, and it is in these encounters that priorities and positions are negotiated. In forensic analysis, for example, how are ideas of truth, testimony, propaganda, translation (or “untranslatability”) played out? In terms of oral histories, why are narratives meant to be listened to rather than read alone, and what is the relative role and importance of accuracy, credibility, and the spinning of truth within this realm?
Moderator: Lauren van Haaften-Schick
Participants: Joshua Craze, Naeem Mohaiemen, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz


SESSION FOUR: Listening Across Disciplines – A Call to Action
In what situations has listening not just been the goal, but also the means to a tangible end? What kinds of attentive actions or collaborations can advance specific issues of urgency? This session focuses on initiatives that explore critical social issues through interdisciplinary lines of enquiry, research and projects over an extended period of time. Case studies include Council that works across the arts, scholarly and scientific research, and civil society in order to propose new representations of social issues. Postcommodity is an interdisciplinary arts collective that works to promote a constructive discourse that challenges the social, political, and economic processes that are destabilizing communities and geographies; and connect Indigenous narratives of cultural self-determination with the broader public sphere. Legislative artist Laurie Jo Reynolds is the organizer of Tamms Year Ten, a grassroots campaign to close the state supermax prison in Illinois that included intensive lobbying and cultural projects like Photo Requests from Solitary. The New Centre for Research & Practice is conceived upon the idea that the space of knowledge is a laboratory for navigating the links between thought and action; their pedagogical approach bootstraps the conventional role of the Arts and Sciences to construct new forms of research and practice alongside, within, and between the existing disciplines and technologies.
Moderator: Mohammad Salemy
Participants: Grégory Castéra, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Kade L. Twist

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this series of symposia and accompanying events, projects, publications, and webpages do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.