With your recordings for the Sound Diaries project, were there any that evoked a sense of place to you? Either through their representation of the moment in which you recorded them or from your own perspective, bringing back memories, reminding you of other sounds, having a sonic identity…
I find the recording taken on the bus held the most sense of place personally to me out of all of the others, despite it I guess actually being a part of a transition between two places. Perhaps as it is such a part of my routine – the same bus, the same route, 2hrs a day, many days a week, with little else to focus on – all those sounds become embedded and so familiar; the rattling, the wind + you know the spots on the route when the road gets more bumpy, etc… Adding the electromagnetic element to the recording gave it yet another layer of strange familiarity, as the whining of the wheels matched with the sound of the wheels physically on the road, varying in speed/pitch at the usual spots. It all seemed to fit together, holding ‘place’ and almost a strange comfort.
In your work you contrast the sounds of nature/wildlife and the sounds of mechanical/electronic technology, do you think these sound worlds live in conflict or a harmonious relationship?
They are definitely conflicting, at least to my interpretation of the two. Putting the two together has yet to bring a sense of harmony, very much the opposite, haha. However, they are so alike! With each sharing many characteristics + similarities. A fine example of this is with insects with their constant buzzing/hums; rumbles of thunder, rumbles on tarmac/engines; chirps and cheeps of birds, not too far from sporadic blips of circuit boards; gushing rapids, radio static. It’s all communication, transference of energy, transference of data… But still, they live well on their own, but the coming of the two together (at least to me) usually spells chaos.
Are there any sounds that you’ve missed during the last few months as our lives have moved more indoors or any sounds you’ve sought out as the lockdown has eased?
I’ve missed the sound of friends’ actual voices in the space, unfiltered or distorted by dodgy Zoom connections + tiny speakers…
Now that lockdown has eased, I find myself seeking out the sound – or rather silence – of lockdown again, haha. The absence of cars, etc… completely changed the soundscape as I’m sure we all have witnessed, making way for/amplifying the natural environment. But now that it’s returned, seemingly even louder than before. I guess as we readjust to living the ‘new normal’, our ears have to also.
[Accompanying: A field recording taken mid-lockdown whilst out on a walk… Despite this, of course a dreaded jet still manages to interrupt the recording – at the time being a nuisance. On reflection, this is a nice little example of the two worlds conflicting each other, yet coinciding. As I walked further along the path from the spot, a transformer loomed overhead. A funny oddity against the green of the countryside. I didn’t have the electromagnetic pickup to hand, but it instantly brought with it imagined sounds that are not too dissimilar to the various insects I’d been recording shortly before… It’s probably humming/singing/screaming its metal electric heart out.]
How do you think that the soundscapes, recorded as part of your Sound Diaries project, have changed during the intense weeks of the pandemic compared to the previous ones? Are you able to go back listen ‘in person’ these days?
Yes, I have been listening to the original ones a bit recently and they differ quite a lot! This is because I honestly haven’t taken many new recordings since the lockdown began. Instead for me, it has been a process of listening, reflecting on them and trying to figure out some ways to reimagine them instead of going out and making new recordings.
Another way they have differentiated is their sudden significance in the new context we have been put under. With the project, and my approach as a whole, I have concentrated on spaces and areas that hold meaning due to their social use or the way people shape that area, so listening back to crowds, buskers, religious singing and nightclubs they almost seem shocking and absurd that these many people were ever allowed to occupy the same space. Overall though I’ve enjoyed using sound as the material to create something new rather than seeing it as an elusive substance I’m always trying to capture.
If there are layers of attention and definition (or non-definition) in your sound experiences facing the landscape, how would you establish the relationships between them in terms of overlap, transparency, or murmur? Do you consider the possibility of some leading role in a specific sound source? If so, what character would it have in relation to its possible appearance of figure and background?
me, what tends to take my interest are areas of non-definition, many
particulate elements coming together to form a larger image of what that
landscape represents. However, that’s not to say that sometimes sounds take the
foreground. I think this is more to do with our conditioning towards those
sounds rather than the actual sonic characteristics. Things like cars, alarms,
announcements and unpredictable sonic agents (eg crashes and lary people) often
make it into the recordings I’ve made. Due to these usually being warnings in
our everyday lives they evoke a reaction and therefore bring themselves to the
foreground whilst listening back.
I really like your idea of transparency and overlap, when reimagining some of the soundscapes from the project I’ve been layering unedited recordings from different areas of Aberdeen which I think ties in with these ideas. The city in these experiments has been overlapping and merging with places too disparate to have ever come into direct contact before but still echo or contain murmurs of the region as a whole.
What do you consider is the estimate and necessary time for a track as a piece for the public? Is very different the length of your listening and the final selection?
has been dependent on what I’ve been making the track for but generally, I
listen back and edit at the same time. By edit, I only really mean finding the
length of recording I like or removing the low-end wind noise which always
makes it in! Most of the longer, hour-long tracks I have composed use 2 –
5 minute chunks of audio that are then brought together in a kind of generative
system I’ve been working on. The process of listening here is also an on the
job case, listening and running it through this system a couple of times and
hearing which I like better. These longer tracks are more meant for
installations and therefore the listener may only hear a couple of minutes but
can drop in and out at any point and still get a feel for the place that they
are listening to.
‘Muffled Sounds’, your work for Sound Diaries, feels relevant during the pandemic, where there has been a shift in the occupation of public and domestic space. During this time, have you observed any changes in the sounds of these spaces?
In a forced phase of public confinement there is a marked distinction and contrast between the aural spheres of the domestic versus the public. The natural soundscape is amplified and filled with details of an excellent cleanliness. It is also true that domesticity is individualised, because transit is drastically reduced, and also the drifts. Therefore, the home value is customized.
In my case, I live in a fairly rural environment, where the neighbours are disrespectful in relation to acoustic contamination. There are no changes in these types of household sounds that cross the wall, they are only radicalised in intensity and frequency. At these extremes we have beautiful spring walks with limits of legal transgression with regard to human activity, and inside an unbearable neighbourhood of anxious activity.
On the other hand, there have been some very curious sonorous incidents, such as the inexplicable habit of civil protection officers and police making noisy caravans of mermaids, apocalyptic pandemic warnings to advise respecting lockdowns, and police children’s birthday celebrations with public address of children’s music, choreography and Disney costumes.
In many of your video works, you are filmed interacting with dis-used spaces and found objects. Do the historical contexts of the locations you choose to perform within inform how you respond to the landscape?
Definitely not. It’s a plastic attitude about all things. The curious exploration of a sonic and percussive potential, the transgression of limits and risk. Everything else manifests itself as a continuity that necessarily bears no intention. But the historical question is as the critical extension of a theoretical phenomenon that focuses on a willingness to reactivate heritage, especially on the fragility of the elements of identity value of a moment and a place.
I am interested in your combinations of sound and performance to create comical artworks. Do you think comedy has a significant role to play in the context of contemporary art?
Nothing is centred in contemporary art, but my performances do not have a comic-will. Along with the ex-as-destructive local political value of artifice identity phenomena, my work is based in a surreal (and consequently fluxus) local tradition in Canary Islands that require the most serious and inexpressible attitude possible. That people laugh is still a confusion or ignorance, because we live in an excessive society and habit of entertainment that has invaded every artistic discourse.
In your piece for Sound Diaries, I very much appreciated your appreciation of lessons from canine companions and furthermore creating a piece I felt was heavily informed by Donna Haraway. Since then have you developed any works framed by her theories?
Currently, I am working on a community sound walking project in the West End of Morecambe focusing on the ecology of the area. I cannot say that my work since has been framed by Haraway’s theories as such, but they perhaps share a similar sense for the philosophy of her theories. They do, therefore, inform how I approach the process of thinking and making work.
Would you consider your work as being in dialogue with eco-feminism? Why or why not?
My work is in dialogue with threads of ecofeminism, though it is rarely a conscious association for me. The focus is mostly a curiosity with the movement of animals. In a previous work, I performed as a fictional sea creature informed by my own movements as a woman adapting to a damaged landscape. It was a futile attempt of anthropomorphism for me, to encourage critique of its own projection and to instead, embody wildness from within and to empathise with species. Growing up on the North East coast, I was personally drawn to the ecology of coastal landscapes. The sound of Kittiwakes, the shape of the caves carved by the ghosts of miners and the waves, the ship building that has now fallen silent, have all manifested into a visual present. Just as the pebbles are tinted red by the mines where my great grandfather worked. I also began to explore concepts of ‘making kin’ through human and canine relationships. It is in this process of mutual aid and participation as co-creation, that I feel connects with ecofeminism’s embrace of open diversity and care.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we often heard a narrative about the earth or nature fighting back during quarantine. In these heightened times, how do you think humanity/civilization could be, or is currently, able to learn from the environment?
I think that the public perception of these narratives has
been influential, allowing more time for thinking, learning, and caring for one
another (human and non-human). It seems the time offered a reconnection with
nature, that hopefully can inspire communities to incorporate alternative ways
of living. The stories we have heard of animals returning to areas otherwise
occupied by humans, give the impression that nature is fighting back. This may,
however, not be the case – but it is a projection of hope that animal and plant
species can quickly return if given the chance.
Every day new footage arrives depicting another colonial statue being dismantled, broken into pieces or dragged along the streets to be eventually drowned in the water. Highly dramaturgic ways in which these acts of dismantling colonial landmarks happen proves that performativity and radical interventionism do not need to emerge as forms of artistic responsiveness. As an artist who has worked extensively with the issues of representation, identity, racial injustice and postcolonialism, where do you see the place of an artist and how do you perceive the role of arts in this current moment?
In the most traditional sense, I believe the artist holds an incredible capacity and potency for defamiliarization. As discussed by Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky, this ‘making strange’ is central, particularly within social art practices and public art. While the artist is not the only empowered or positioned to make ways to intervene or question a status quo, actions often can be momentary and the dissenting protesters make their mark through documentation and witness. Deeply moving works often are indeed seen as such, not by over directing the viewer with its vision, but rather by giving pause to automated and normalized responses. The desensitization to lived realities is often times ruptured merely by reframing sensory cues. What has become acceptable such as institutional racism or supremacist and misogynist public policy is transposed to hopefully something questionable, once something becomes framed as a work of art. Again, this can be complicated by an artist intention but I personally take the position that there is room outside the originating frame, an afterlife, that can be just as powerful.
In your artistic and scholarly practice you’ve often been relying on autobiographical material.
In ‘Spaces of Making’ you revisit your childhood memories and personal journals to give them new meaning. I wonder what functions and impact might artistically and more specifically sonically approached autobiography have today, in the context of the struggle for decolonization of not only our institutions, public spaces, archives but also public life and the way it gets expressed through/in sounds and soundscapes?
In that piece, I capitalized on what is often perceived as a denarrativized
sensory field, the aural. Sound is just sound. The stories and judgements we
put upon sound are created by those who manipulate or stage it in order to do
so. I reviewed my personal story and amplified its presence in order to see if
indeed childhood story can both simultaneously be distracted and enhanced by
sounding. In this moment of rebellion and revolution, I think we are all
acutely aware of enforced silence in our home habitats caused by
stay-in-shelter orders as well as the swell in Black voices that previously
were disregarded or made to disappear. It is the extremities between the
silence of empty motorways and the inescapability of the chants of “Defund the
Police” with cars honking horns in solidarity. In these ways, sound-based storytelling
has become the going rate, if you look at post-production choices of
audiovisual essays and the decentering of diegetic elements within narrative
works of previously invisibilised folx. In short, right now everyone is turning
up the volume. Because gatekeepers of those controls are being questioned. So,
the public sphere and the norms of injustice are well served by the focalizing
what is heard in and around living in this moment.
Defining yourself as at once an activist, artist, and academic, how do you perceive relations between these roles today and do you believe that each of these activities should have a space on their own, or rather blend and cross-feed with one another?
I think there is an intellectual and creative violence in
categorization that binds one only to recognizable social functions. We are all
holistic beings and yet when we speak, we often require external qualifiers to
hear a message. If I comment on a current event, often it is those signifiers
of ‘activist’ and ‘academic’ that give my words traction. But in reality, often
I am just articulating as a human moving through space who is feeling and
thinking in real time. That alone should be valid enough. But it does not even
register unless I say my qualifiers. As Hannah Arrendt once responded in an
interview about her own identification: ‘if
one is attacked as a Jew, one must defend oneself as a Jew.’ Identity is
assumed in relation to the political activity, ‘not as one’s personal identity,
or a generic identification, but as a mode of struggle.’
Within your practice there’s an element of self-tracking, an impulse to gather the dialectics of invisible traces and how they might outline the interrelation with other presences. I am curious if you feel that there’s a dichotomy or a collision within this desire, because on one hand you’re trying to produce an archive by recording these personal, impermanent drifts, but at the same time there’s also a desire to fuse yourself, your individuality, with the landscape or cityscape you’re exploring, like a fantasy of disappearance. How do you perceive this dual, almost opposed, desire or action through your soundwalks and their resulting archives?
I believe that there is no archive without a subject (or subjects) that commenced it. Similarly, there is an element of dichotomy and a certain paradox in any practice that is based on documenting, gathering traces and archiving. Any collection, any archive and any inventory is biased. Consequently, in telling us what its architects and historians wanted us to hear, if carefully scrutinized, every archive would also point out that which they intended to conceal. In other words, the more objective, concrete, and clear the archive’s aspiration is to reflect the reality, the more suspicious its content and the wider the territory it neglects. In every archive that strives towards permanence and truth there is a vast potential of a counter-archival force and action.
It is interesting
to look at how archives were perceived in the 19th century, for
example. They were believed to be repositories of time itself where the
sedimentation of history happens somehow naturally, without any curating force.
This vision of the archive as a site that generates an
record of time was heavily contested upon the arrival of other than textual
technologies of record, especially those concerned with moving image and sound.
With the increasing access to such technologies and thanks to their decreasing
size and portability, it became possible to destabilize, complicate and diffuse
dominant narratives by generating a multiplicity of records of the everyday,
mundane, and generic. Events that would not normally make it to the archive,
could all of a sudden gain status of documents. The concept of the value of
documents and their historical weight was greatly transformed.
I have been
interested in those moments when technologies enable diverse subjectivities to
contest the archive and thus write themselves into history in there own terms,
whether through those very archives, or even better by composing alternative
ones, in parallel to those official, institutional and colonial. I
find special interest in the
role of various art practitioners in this context, including activists,
amateurs, partisans, dissidents, and various other clandestine, insubordinate
and tactically operating individuals. By deploying recording technologies on
the ground level – at the margins and peripheries of attention – they create
accounts of alternative significance and value precisely because of their
explicitly subjective charge. This recognition, radical incorporation and
reflective acknowledgment of the role of one’s subjectivity in the act of
archiving is, I believe, an important way to make archiving significant and,
perhaps, the only way to save it
as a meaningful cultural practice, despite its often dark origins and
histories. We need a plurality of archival subjects, aesthetics,
epistemologies, poetics and techniques as opposed to, or aside from heavy,
monumental, centralized and artificially unifying memory institutions and their
professionally trained agents and bureaucrats.
in my PhD project I ventured into the current
techno-cultural moment asking about such para-archival potentialities of
contemporary technologies of capture. The inspiration was the abundance of
numerous self-tracking technologies, gadgets, wearable and smartphones
continuously micro-archiving our everyday lives whether we want it or not.
Today we know all too well that the digital
traces we construct and leave behind via our at once friendly and insidious
technologies amass to vast digital archives which primarily benefit tech
corporations and their private
and state allies. The premise (and
promise) of self-expression
and empowerment that producers of dominant personal technologies (especially
those fully reliant on connectivity) repetitively convey, is
a dark reality of quantifying and calculating mechanisms.
I like to speculate
that the imperial or colonial archive of the past has today transformed into an
ubiquitously distributed corporate archiving apparatus. Our continuously active
devices constitute its units. But instead of losing energy on tactically crippling
this ongoing archivization of digital data through various spontaneous acts of
subversion (as was the case of early tactical media practitioners), I prefer to
critically embrace the state of inescapibility from digital culture, its
technologies, and all that this state entails.
This allows me to rectify that saved energy towards questioning and
reconceptualizing the ways I incorporate and use these micro-archival
technologies in my everyday life, including GPS devices and audio recorders
that I use during my soundwalks. To put it as a question: how can the state of
permanent surveillance, tracking and archiving be used towards other goals,
orientations and visions?
I believe this is
primarily a question of an existential nature, and art has much to offer in
terms of addressing it. There has been disproportionately too little attention
given to durational and existential aspects and consequences of our everyday
uses and abuses of technologies. In that sense, my para-archival activities
(which I call simply the On-Going Project) in which I have for more than a
decade selectively attended to the ever growing excess of
capturing and tracking technologies to generate an account of everyday life in the post
digital context (as experienced by someone implicated in it), should be most of
all seen as an existential project, an attempt to
configure (or reconfigure) a subjective position not against but in relation to
the techno-cultural situation we live in. Although I produce and reflect on
these traces systematically, their archival aspect (the ‘unknown weight’ as
Paula Amad would say) is nevertheless something yet to be verified and assessed
by the future. The para-archiving, as the very term suggests, happens parallel
to something else, namely, the currents of everyday life woven with inventively
and critically negotiated companionship of capturing
As Bernard Stiegler once noted: ”negotiation does not mean renouncing or
adapting. It is neither a matter of adapting nor resisting: it is a matter of
I feel that time is used as a medium in your work. There’s an interest of projecting into the past through an emotional archival resonance, present in Memory Folds and other projects, but there’s also a commitment to listening that’s embedded in your routine, like in your ongoing piece where you record a sound for one minute every day. I perceive this little exercise as a reminder of being in the present. Do you think it is possible to—through listening as a medium of attention and perceptual expansion—empty oneself in certain moments of deep awareness, in order to be immanent with the intricacies of the space you’re in, almost like becoming part of the space’s conditions, becoming this other which is not just your own body?
This daily exercise of recording one minute of sound, which i call Minuting, is part of the On-Going Project, the para-archival initiative I talked about while answering your previous question. It’s a good example of that two-fold approach to the use of recording technologies where the existential (or personal) aspect meets the archival (public if you will). On the one hand this simple commitment to the daily recording practice, which I have maintained for the last 10 years, keeps me motivated to pay attention to soundscapes at large. The awareness that at some point during the day I am compelled to pull out my recorder and press the red button for at least 60 seconds helps me maintain my attention. Less now, but certainly some years ago, I perceived this ritual as an act of stubbornly defying the dominance of visual approach to our environments in the way we experience and document them.
When it comes to
achieving some state of immanence or a feeling of becoming one with the place,
I am not sure if I would see this as something that motivates my practice.
There has been much written and done about the immersiveness of listening and
soundwalking and how these acts can anchor one’s perception in the very moment.
What I like about this kind of approach is that there is not any
outcome that one would anticipate to emerge. It seems that increasingly
and aesthetic practices are expected to be productive in some way. They need to generate
something (a change, for example), otherwise they are not
justifiable. So in that sense, it is nice to resort to such an ‘unproductive’
immersion as a resistance technique. On the other hand, however,
this immersion through sound in the present moment may lead to a certain
passivity and credulity. It may
impede one’s ability to critically evaluate the soundscape that one decides to
immerse herself/himself in. For example, it is easy to find peace and gain
pleasure from the sounds of Alpine cowbells, enjoy the sense of being immersed
in their unique harmonies. But behind this aesthetic appreciation, there is
another kind of story that those sounds
tell. While pleasing to us, for the cows who are forced to wear
those bells continuously with no break, the same sounds are oppressive and
traumatizing. There have been studies done that demonstrate some devastating
effects not only on the cow’s hearing abilities but also on the quality of
their milk which decreases because of anxiety that those bells instigate. Many other sounds
that we tend to appreciate because of their aesthetic and harmonic qualities
might in fact have similarly troubling depth.
In this last decade
of my regular practice of soundwalking and recording, I have been learning to
attend to listening as not only a gateway to a deeper sense of the present
moment but more importantly a specific mode of allowing to situate that present
moment (and one’s position in it) in the context of a longer time-span, even
deep time. Thus, in each soundscape of the here and now I try to hear the
echoes of the then and there. To me, sounds and soundscapes are not ephemeral
phenomena that innocently appear at the given moment and then vanish instantly.
They have their extensions (often problematic) in the past and they extend
(often dubiously) into the future. I
like to approach that which we hear today as being impregnated with the echoes
of the past. By implication, today’s sounds will reverberate in the soundscapes
to come. I like refer
to the practice of that kind of sonic sensitivity in terms of transversal
listening. I am currently working on an experimental book and an
about that kind of listening that I hope can also be inspiring to others.
But to address your
question more directly, I think that listening can help empty oneself of deep
awareness of place and time as much as it can help deepen that awareness.
Similarly, listening can help us better recognize and compose our subjectivity
as much as it can help destabilize it, even temporarily abandon it if we, for
example, decide to listen from the standpoint of the Other, for example
an Alpine cow.
Inaudible Cities, the project you developed for Sound Diaries in 2019, inspired by Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities, explores the peripheries of Stockholm through audio-visual field recordings. I like how you transform Calvino’s literary idea into a sound translation, but your soundwalks and recording techniques are also inspired by the writing methods of the Oulipo group. How do you think these self-imposed instructions are present in the process of the project and in the resulting performance?
I have always been fascinated by the idea of constraints as a trigger for inventiveness. Not only in the context of the arts, but also, or perhaps even primarily, in response to difficulties encountered in one’s everyday life. I do not exactly know where this interest comes from, but the history of my homeland and the part of Europe it is located in can certainly be seen as one source. Firstly German nazis and after them the communist regime forced several generations to operate within very harsh constraints. Oftentimes the only way to survive in these oppressive systems was through tactically and inventively subverting those limitations. To make use of limited resources in a most efficient way, one often had to resort to creativity. (Btw. such concepts as DIY and urban gardening, celebrated today as counter-capitalist practices emerged much earlier in other parts of the world precisely because of limitations, poverty and constraints, not excess as is the case of capitalist, Western Europe). While reading works of Georges Perec, a son of Polish Jews who emigrated to France, what stroke me was the way he worked through his and his family’s identity and traumatic past by voluntarily self-imposing a set of constraints and limitations (and in doing so, poetically re-articulated those constraints that were forcefully imposed on his family and community). Strangely enough, it feels as if it was not really the content of his writing alone but these very constraints and stylistic limitations that actually constituted the depth of his work.
Cities, I do not necessarily come up with any
but rather find them out there in the fabric of the urban space. I work with
performative and material constraints rather than linguistic. In
terms of the space,
map of the Stockholm’s underground and more specifically its 13 end stations
became the project’s leading
constraint. In terms of time, building on this
number of end stations
I allow myself
maximum 130 minutes on exploring the vicinity of each one. The time of my
journey back home I usually spend on penning down some thoughts that later
constitute the textual layer of the otherwise primarily audio-visual account.
conceiving of any
specific linguistic or writing methods, I like to approach the act of walking
as a particular kind of writing the space and in the space. Here
I find connection with
Michel de Certeau who famuously compared writing to walking. Words to him were
absent signifiers of the act of speech. Similarly, traces of walks only refer
to the absence of what was passed by and experienced through that very act. One
venture to extend this thought by saying that field recordings refer to the
absences of what was listened to at the moment of making them. Walking and
listening are essential beacuse it is in the act of walking
that space is generated and in the act of listening that the soundscapes
emerge. Traces that these acts produce are only of secondary significance (again
what we have here can be seen as another instance of the existence-archive
complex mentioned earlier).
Thus, the accounts of life on the peripheries of a city that the project
generates are in some way inaudible. But not the peripheries themselves.
Perhaps, in order to experience their sonic complexity one would have to
personally embark on a journey and while walking, write his/her own account.
This is why I have been currently thinking of another format for communicating
the project. Instead of (or alongside) my recorded accounts, I would like to
activate the reader to perform his/her own exploration of peripheries. This
could be achieved through, for example, a series of instructions which would in
turn link the project’s textual layer back to the Oulipo’s tradition of
constrained writing and instructing.
Regarding the idea of constraints being informative to the way that the project is performed, I usually try to stick to the instrumentarium that accompanied me during my explorations (meaning the recording devices and microphones). Additionally, during my walks, I collect some debris, trash and organic matter which I later use in the performance as to invoke the soundscape that these items were originally implicated in. I see it as a form of an expanded field recording. In other words, instead of presenting the soundscape of the given periphery by merely collaging my field recordings from it, I reconstruct its fragments by working with acoustic qualities of materials I had picked up at those sites. Whether this is a form of working with constraints might be questionable, but it certainly helps me limit my reliance on recorded material which in projects of that is often the easiest way to go. The idea of translating the project into a set of instructions will certainly affect its performativity. In fact, each enactment of these instructions will lend itself to be considered as a unique performance of the piece. Returning to the beginning of our conversation, what if instead of documents, archives hosted instructions?
Patrick: I can imagine that your work has spread out among many avenues since you sent us your Sound Diaries pieces (Forgetting 1993, Score-Portrait, etc). My understanding of your practise is that you work simultaneously in a variety of mediums and in a number of places, often combining them all in order to ‘hear something new’, or perhaps I should say feel, as it were, to breathe the air of the impossibility of representation. Could you tell us a little about where your work has taken you since the Sound Diaries event in Oxford?
Lucia: Rather than seeking a means or a medium to represent this impossibility, I’d say that it lays more on the longing for perceptual integration: a totality of experience within multiplicities. Sometimes I like to think of my practice more as an ethos than a result, a strange device of intersubjectivity that’s trying to build its own tactics or methodologies in order to absorb the world and be absorbed by it. The last couple years, I’ve been very drawn to ideas from the Hermetic Tradition and feel close to Giordano Bruno’s investigations regarding these methods, specifically his work on memory, shadows, and his acute awareness of interrelations or links within different spectrums of visible and occult realities.
I’m indeed working on a variety of things now. I’m drawing and doing small collages, writing a series of poems called The Telaraña Circuit (telaraña means spider web in Spanish) and editing endless sound & film footage from a time-based work from 2016. But what’s been quite present in my mind for some time now, is a project that I will probably name llanto de corazón, inspired by the concept cri du coeur. It will be a series of sound/gesture alphabets, consisting of various recordings. I want to register the sound of a moving foot scraping letters against different ground surfaces. The foot will be “drawing” each alphabet glyph separately and I will record this, creating a coded alphabet of gesture, using the earth as a medium of communication. Once I have recorded all the letters in the alphabet, I will use them to “write” a poem of lamentation. The listener will feel the poem rather than understand it. However, the poem’s content is there, present through sound. By using these glyphs as notations, there’s an aspect of the poem that is hidden and another that is revealed, if one listens closely. This coded soundscape of lamentation is an outcry for ecological justice and human reconciliation, but it is also a protest, a plead from the earth.
Patrick: There are a great many images of books on your website, their pages delicately cut into, and bound together, revealing other ways of reading, or approaching, we might say, of thinking about a book, as if its stratified nature were indicative of a passage of time, each page a new temporal and geological state. Your experiments with the haptic nature of the page remind me of a particularly alchemical line by Cecilia Vicuña, ‘In the book’s darkness, gold shines’. What influence have books had on your work, I’m thinking in particular of the fluid nature of chant, recital, invocation, orality, and the ways which your work may question these relationships in the space of altered form?
Lucia: I remember when I was a child I used to carry books with me everywhere, all the time. I’ve always had this necessity to carry objects and take them in long excursions, at the same time collecting little objects during these transfers, perhaps as a way of delineating the concrete relation of experience during the mind’s travel. I’d take a long time reading books and usually, I’d never finish them, but I’d read fragments and really thought them through for days. But I was more interested in the book’s energy—its weight, its size, its smell, its form, its kinetic elements. An experience that really changed me happened when I was 8 or 9 years old when my book, I think it was “El Principito” (The Little Prince) fell deep in a river. I rescued it, but the book had changed forever. It had experienced the conditions of material reality as an autonomous entity, being wet, then dry—some of the pages stuck to each other, some transformed into a beautiful petrified wave. I was fascinated by all this; it happened by chance but it gave me freedom, it opened new perceptual possibilities. In a way it was my first experience of a literary rupture. The act of “reading” became sculptural, its temporal structure changed. Not in a passive way, but it transformed in a sculptural pulse that was alive and that had multiple variations. I also felt I could free the content inside the book, its intimate, contained imagination could finally merge and expand in a new energetic field.
There was a new in-between tension that was neither the book nor myself, it was the presence of poetry. So the book is many things for me. It is essentially a body with memory and experience that one can get to know and work with, but it is also a system, a technology that can be read in many forms if one grasps its elements and provide alternative paths for its continuation. Reading is process, it is the expression or the presence of time in its countless directions and dimensions. So the book in its disembodied form, with its layered manifestation of language, can become infinite if one creates other poetics for its habitation. And these acts perhaps, become not only another form of reading, or re-reading, or anti-reading, but of writing, writing new readings, readings being re-written, and so on, both actions come close to one another, they even sometimes merge into one.
Also, language and earth have a deep connection in my practice, there’s a symbolic mirroring but also a desire for its fusion. I really like the vision of María Sabina, the Mazatec poet and shaman, when she says that Language is contained in The Book, and the book emerges from the earth, like a root of awareness, of communication. In many of my works, there’s an impulse of returning language to the earth, like threading tapestries of consciousness. There’s an entropic interest that is also phenomenological, which I feel the only way for me to develop or expand it is through poetry as a medium and sound as reportage, informing me through sensation. For me, all of these subtle ideas are a product of a feminist ethos, a listening rather than a saying.
Patrick: I was wondering if you could tell us a little about the environment, auditory and otherwise, in Mexico City, and how this may or may not reflect your multiplicitous natures? I’m thinking in particular of the work of Peter Lamborn Wilson (an artist whom I know has had a great effect on you), who calls for ‘anti-categorialisationism’ to take the place of what he considers to be inter-disciplinary timidity.
Lucia: I think this question could be split into two. On one hand, I could say that the myriad operating realities within Mexico City have had a deep effect in my practice. And, replacing the term interdisciplinary with a call for anti-category within the arts, goes hand in hand with the fluid intimacy of the hermetic model and its experience of reality. They’re part of the same stream of consciousness. I agree that we must be very careful with naming everything in separate categories in the arts, poetry, science, or anything really. And even labeling something as interdisciplinary, still acknowledges that there are some barriers present in that in-betweeness. So it is interesting to think almost in geometric terms, and understand the difference between a layer and a barrier.
The visual, fragrant, auditory environment of Mexico City is layered, and these layers are extremely present, they’re alive, pulsating and operating through diverse actualities of experience. Temporal, cultural, and ideological systems coexist in a fragile tension that somehow lives together. But its nature is not catalogued or compartmentalized, it is simultaneous. In some parts of the city, especially in the Centro Histórico, entire buildings are tilted onto one side, because the city is sinking. As we know, it was built over the Texcoco Lake through the agricultural system of chinampas. This is just a little example of the intense presence of simultaneity, becoming almost a palimpsest of experience. A research project or process-poem that is evident of the city’s influence in my practice is Acción Fértil (Fertile Action), a piece inspired by the “memories” of a micro-geography: a natural pond in the outskirts of the city that was part of this lake, holding a hidden archive of memories. So I do relate to this, and in a way I think of my practice as a drift within layers, residues, and remains that are never completely vanished, they’re just changing in form, evoking new mind collisions, and possibly revealing other, new epistemologies.