Hearing (our) History – Writing the Future
Hearing (our) History – Writing the Future by Sharon Stewart for Park at Mediamatic (2013)
was a sound installation inviting listeners/audience to reflect on how we turn our lived and heard experience into documentation: writing, sharing, translating into language. Includes more documentary-style recordings as well as the sound work Phonemic Resistance.
This sound piece contains audio from two different (field) recording moments:
One occurred on the morning of the 9th of june, 2013, at the Dutch Support for Taksim Occupy demonstration in Amsterdam. I interviewed individuals, asking them to answer, more with their heart than their ratio, the question of why they were demonstrating in Amsterdam, including how they experienced the distance between the two cities, Amsterdam and Istanbul. I also made recordings of the chanting and singing of myself and the demonstrators. I modified one short response, in Turkish, and excerpts of the singing and chanting with the Monolake Granulator in Ableton Live before incorporating them into the work.
A couple of days later I recorded myself early one morning, writing my dreams in pencil in my journal, an intimate moment of reflection. I close-miked myself stroking the pillow I was using to support my writing and spoke insights and short particles of language into the microphone.
Bits and scraps of sounds were generated with four different MIDI instruments created with Sculpture, Logic’s physical modelling synthesiser.
The final mix, with time stretching and effects, was made in Logic 9. I hand-crafted the panning to make the writing move around the person quickly in space. The voices were also channelled to individual speakers in the quadraphonic setup so that each voice came from an individual speaker.
A quadraphonic sound installation system was set up within a glass house in Mediamatic and played the sound piece Phonemic Resistance as well as excerpts from interviews made at the Dutch Support for Taksim Occupy on the 9th of June.
Open-ended bits of text from the original recordings were written on pieces of paper. These pieces of paper with this open-ended text, along with coloured pens, were available to stimulate a written response to the work, reflection on the Gezi events, or writing down a bit of personal history. The floor was also completely covered with paper on which drawings could be made.
Visual artist, Alexandra Arshanskaya, provided advice and supported the visual aspects of the installation.
During listening, people were able to write responses, a short statement of their vision for the society they would like to live in. The installation also attracted children, who drew prolifically.
About the sound work Phonemic Resistance: The tongue is the vessel, both in the sense of container as well as ship, by which we simultaneously shape and navigate the seascape of language. Its physical form, with its extreme flexibility and controllability, nestled in the largest orifice of the face, gives shape to phonemes, tiny units of sound by which we construct audible language.
These sound particles have generated a two-dimensional representational code: the dips and swells of written language. (De)coding forms a multidirectional vehicle, moving inward (or backwards) – into the interior of our thought-world – and outward (or forwards) – projecting into the thought-worlds of others, those able to decode our writing. A vehicle that submerges and reemerges in timespace and which reveals its polysemic nature upon contact. This pheno-text can also function as a score, triggering a sound imaginary in the decoder.
In an attempt to come close to language, we might chop it up, fragmentise it, expose its tiniest units, quantify, qualify and categorise them. But will this bring us closer to “knowing” language or fixating meaning? Or do these particles, these phonemes, resist (semantic) fixation? Every new microsonic level offers new experiences of distance on a nanoscale: thousands of milliseconds of sound particles shatter and string out in time into an eternal hiss or coalesce into a single explosion of noise. Fracturing, interruption, pulverisation, and hiatus give birth to sonic potentialities: potential forms, potential codes, potential languages.
Writing (history) is a performative act: actively constructing reality and ‘doing’ (political) identity. Propelled onto the instantly-consumed feast of social media, writings about the just-happened or happening-now have the power to rapidly shape opinions, create polarisations and groupings, and generate multiple macro gut-responses (among those who have access to such media).
But what about the traveller, the nomad, outside of the geography of birth and outside the topography of her mother tongue, manoeuvring in unknown geographical and phonemic terrain? These particles of language enter the body to generate rapidly-shifting internal geographies of distance and closeness, flashes of intimacy and estrangement. The break with an attachment to meaning becomes a fissure through which the perception of timbre, vibrations, dynamics, inflection, articulation, energy and force of phonemic sound erupts. Singing becomes waves, chanting an earthquake. Writing reverts into shapes and forms, and the sound of writing can become the symbol for the recording of the most intimate of dreams or the construction of (a) history itself.