Noise as Possibility
SFSIA 2021 | sonsbeek20→24

Arnhem, The Netherlands
June 2021

Faculty to be announced…


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It is no news that noise is prevalent in our post-industrial society, nor that it has inspired musicians around the globe – from Luigi Russolo to Hugh Masekela, to name a few. Whether it echoes the cacophony of the factory floor, deafening bomb blasts and machine gun fire, the unruly dissonance of cars and trucks, or the din of the trading floor – noise gets a bad rap. Noise is often considered annoying, something that needs to be controlled, contained or mitigated. However, noise may have a more positive and emancipatory side. 

This June, Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art’s program, Noise as Possibility, will take place within the 12th edition of sonsbeek20→24, developed in close dialogue with its curatorial team and framework, Force Times Distance. On Labour and its Sonic Ecologies. sonsbeek20→24 will act as a choreography of sonic movements. It will engage with an expanded and augmented musicality that invites and encourages different modes of listening that want to make audible that which is already there but remains unseen and unheard – that recovers, restitutes and repairs the still segregative conditions under which we live, between visible and invisible workers, bodies and lands. Within sonsbeek20→24, Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art will focus on noise as a liberating and transformational mode of production, one particularly relevant for the cognitariat (or global mental laborer) for which so much resides as scenario visualizations occuring in the mind’s eye. Echoing the words of Cecile Malaspina (in her book An Epistemology of Noise), “No longer considered only a factor of disturbance, detrimental to information like static noise in the channel of communication, the evolving concept of noise also becomes constitutive of new forms of knowledge and of new ways of understanding organization.” This contemporary conception of noise and sound works creates new possibilities for the forms, shapes and events that characterize and acoustically shape the sound track constituting our cultural landscapes – be they real, imaginary or virtual. 

Where in the past noise was something to be controlled and suppressed, today it is a key concept in notions of emergence, complexity and non-linearity. Today, noise and uncertainty are embraced alongside contingency as a driving force of innovation, creativity and resistance. While we are witnessing how the digital field (particularly in the United States and United Kingdom, among others) has introduced subject formation strategies based on overwhelming platforms with disinformation and disattention to create a new expression of massification, noise (and chaos) protocols are used to encrypt our data flows and enhance privacy. As such, noise influences the material world, as well as the material brain, through constituting new non-linear grammars that delineate meaning. In the words of Lambros Malafouris, “much of what we identify as human intelligent behavior never happens entirely inside the head of the individual, but is distributed, enacted, and mediated through a variety of socio-material forms and material engagement processes.” Noise is a critical concept characterizing the transformation of our epistemological field in the twenty-first century, especially as it relates to translational and interdisciplinary platforms – to information, entropy, negentropy, and, its seeming antithesis, silence. 

As Stefano Harney and Fred Moten remind us in The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, noise, disordered sound and improvisational jazz are “extra-musical.” We are called by the cacophonous because it makes us aware of music’s arbitrary nature – noise which, in another world, might be incomprehensible. Listening to cacophony and noise tells us that there is a world beyond the structures we inhabit and that inhabit us. How then might noise in turn be used to shake the very structural foundations of institutional racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, dependent upon the crystallized hierarchies of privilege? Through presentations, discussions, deep readings, performances and workshops, we will search for new epistemologies and ways of listening. 

About sonsbeek20→24
The 12th edition of the sonsbeek quadrennial, which will run from June 5 to September 13, 2020 and onwards to 2024, takes place under the auspices of artistic director Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung and his team of co-curators Antonia Alampi, Amal Alhaag, Zippora Elders, Aude Christel Mgba, and Vincent van Velsen. Overseen by the new general director Steven van Teeseling, the sonsbeek foundation will explore the elasticity of the large-scale temporary art event format and connected conditions of artistic labor, popularized and capitalized on by many biennials and other international art events.

Program Overview

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