A survey is a process of listening

02–06 May 2012
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

A performative survey of listening, as we managed to find it being used as a tool in different practices, disciplines and communities in North America (music, poetry, film, philosophy, activism…). A set of performances that demonstrate how listening can be used to consider history, language, space, liberty, politics… A week long program of events at the 2012 Whitney Biennial. 

Often today, listening is reduced to our experience of what we hear: we might call this an aesthetic experience.  We would like to focus on other equally important but often less considered aspects of listening – how we hear, with whom, and how this causes us to think: what you might call the social, political, philosophical or cognitive experience of listening.

And so we’ve undertaken a brief survey of some of the different registers of listening evident to us in North America, as practiced by musicians, artists, filmmakers, activists and philosophers. Each of the performances, talks, investigations, installations or publications you will find in our program concern many things: but each also exemplifies a different mode of listening, made evident by a key informant in our survey - someone from a specific community, illuminating a way of listening in a particular context. You are hereby invited to consider these modes of listening, how they cause us to think, and how they might engage with our own lives, experiences and situations.

A Survey is a Process of Listening

Basis on which we have undertaken our survey...

1. Identify multiple different modes of listening as present in North American (artistic) practices. 

2. Collective, political, philosophical positions which are then embodied aesthetically, and with which we have sympathy should be given prominence.  I.e.: the criteria for selection should not in the first instance be aesthetic.

3. Identify a key informant within the community that practices that mode of listening: someone who can conceptualise, demonstrate and reflect upon that practice.

4. Work with that informant to present a durational, collective experience of that mode of listening (either with them or with others they introduce us to).

5. Try not to engage: instead, try to be involved with people in the durational experience of, and where appropriate reflection upon, different modes of listening.  The ways in which this is done and the demands on the audience should vary over the week:

a. From simply sharing a collective listening experience, to;

b. More in-depth reflection upon or codifying of responses to that experience.

6. Pay artists for their labor.  In addition to travel, accommodation and production costs; a day rate should be paid, calculated as follows:

a. US National Average [annual] Wage Indexing Series -  $41,673  

b. Work Days / Year - 252 

c. Day Rate = (a) / (b) = $165/ day

d. Pay for preparation and performance days.  (Due to limited budget, programme may need to incl. existing work that requires minimal preparation)


Some modes of listening present over the week include:

Allegorical - to embody an idea in/ of listening

Anarchism - to listen as a practice of liberty, (first individual and then social)

Blackout - to create a momentary gap, in which to listen: clear of consciousness and decision-making

Collective - to be together (listening)

Cosmic Pessimism - to hear the disharmony of the world

Cultural Memory - to hear the echo of history within ourselves

De-control - to hear an abandonment of order

Ekphrasis - to hear something described

Freedom - to ask: what is the sound of freedom?

Imaginary - to hear a sound, imagine its context and relate it to our own, or indeed to imagine a sound in a new context

Labor and Endurance - to hear the body, at work

Organized - the practice of listening as a form of (political) organizing

Quotidian - to listen to the sonic figures of everyday life

Sociological - to listen through urbanism, popular cultures and histories

Spatial - to spend time and embody space, with sound

Speech Act - to address someone, (and to imagine how they hear you)

Spontaneity Vs. Determination - to listen at the border between lived (improvised) time and planned (composed) time

Textual - a catalogue of techniques for literary listening: Affinity, Dialect, Deposition, Ecouterism, Phatics….

Typical - to listen to typical characters in a typical situation



Presented by Arika

Supported by Creative Scotland, Year of Creative Scotland 2012 and Boldworks

Arika at the Whitney Biennial 2012 was Barry Esson, Bryony McIntyre, Jon Clarke, Nick Miller and Ben Manley