BEYOND LISTENING: AGENCY, ART, AND THE ENVIRONMENT
International Colloquium on Sonic Ecologies
Organized by Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest (MOME)
November 22 to 25th, 2023
Scientists, philosophers, politicians, activists, the media, and some in the artist communities, have recently articulated the possible dystopian trajectory we are now entering, including various grim developments in the (sound)scapes of the world. A new term has been proposed: ecocide, meaning “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts,” as defined by the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide in June 2021).
During the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal in December 2022 (COP15) more than 190 countries agreed to protect 30 percent of Earth’s land, inland water, and coastal and marine areas by 2030. www.unep.org
A soundscape is simultaneously a physical environment and a way of perceiving that environment; it is both a world and a culture constructed to make sense of the world. . . . A soundscape, like a landscape, ultimately has more to do with civilization than with nature, and, as such, it is constantly under construction and always undergoing change.
Emily Thompson, The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America 1900–1933 see
Acoustic environments emerge through the complex activities of biological, anthropogenic and geophysical processes. Listening, as opposed to hearing, is a conscious act, a practice of attentive sensing, noticing and tuning-in. The current shift of environmental, economic, political, technical and cultural climates transforms a whole range of listening practices. By paying attention to the practice of listening (to soundscapes, but not exclusively), rather than focusing merely on the visual aspects and qualities of the environment, we assume that the listener can attain different kinds of insights and understandings of the surrounding environment. For example, through listening we might be able to observe and understand more details about the relations between various actors, events and species, and perceive how they change over time. Through listening, we might also become more careful and critical observers of power relationships that orchestrate our shared environments and our own entanglement within them.
How can we escape from listening paradigms that are based on expansive, colonial, violent and extractionist approaches? What can we learn from current ethical and political applications of Acoustic Ecology, acoustic anthropology, and bioacoustics? What can we, as sound artists, scholars, activists and listeners, do beyond simply witnessing another wave of reports on declining biodiversity and the ongoing collapse of our planet’s systems? How can this ever more tangible and multi-sensory experience on a planetary scale be addressed on a local and collective level, beyond the act of listening?
The importance of environmental issues, especially as they relate to sound pollution in Central Europe, in countries like Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria, has for a long time been overlooked. In 2018, the Central European Network for Sonic Ecologies (CENSE) was established during an international conference held in Budapest. Since then, two further conferences have taken place, one in the Czech Republic (Murmurans Mundus), 2019 and one in Poland (The Second Life Of Recorded Sounds), 2020.
The proposed gathering in Budapest would be the fourth event connected to the CENSE network and would signal its return to Budapest. The Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest (MOME), the organizer and venue of the planned 2023 conference, is an institution that systematically addresses issues of environmental sustainability.
The aim of the colloquium is to provide a transdisciplinary forum for the achievements in recent years and to foster further exchanges, communication and networking during the years to come. We would like to pay special attention to the region of Central Europe, but the geopolitical range of its subjects remains open to the broader world.
In particular, we are looking for topics that address the potential of sonic ecology in these areas:
- Cultures and spectra of listening: the convergence of art, science and technology in sonic ecosystems
- Listening across, within and beyond disciplines
- New and needed audiences for sound-related art and scholarship
- Sound politics: learning from listening to the anthropocene
- The pedagogy of listening / alternative listening pedagogies and anti-pedagogies
- How to listen in other-than-human sonic environments (ecoacoustics and bioacoustics)
- Urban environments: sonic architecture and urban planning
- Social environments: inequality, discrimination, and social justice
- The relationship between listening and environmental activism
We welcome proposals for papers, research reports, artworks, sound walks, workshops. We encourage applications as well from university students, early career and non-academic applicants. Deadline for applications: 31 March 2023. If you have an idea or proposal, please contact the conference chair on firstname.lastname@example.org
Organization: Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest (MOME).
Chair: Csaba Hajnóczy.
Advisory board: Jacek Smolicki, Miloš Vojtěchovský, Anna Kvíčalová.
(we are looking for volunteers and participating institutions).
Csaba Hajnóczy is a musician, composer, musicologist, and teacher at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest, living and working in Budapest. He was the main initiator and organizer of the CESSE – Conference #1. His artistic interest is field recording based composition and the use of spatial sound systems. Since 2013 he has given numerous talks and workshops in the field of acoustic ecology, including soundwalks, in Hungary, Poland, Belgium, Turkey. Csaba participated in the Architecture and Senses in Plasy, 2017 and in all following CENSE events. He lives in Budapest. csabahajnoczy.com
Jacek Smolicki is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, researcher and educator. His work explores historical, critical and existential dimensions of listening, recording, and archiving practices in human and more-than-human realms. His work takes the form of soundwalks, soundscape compositions, diverse forms of writing, experimental archives, and audio-visual installations. He has performed, published and exhibited internationally and in 2019 co-founded the Walking Festival of Sound. He holds a PhD in Media and Communications from Malmö University.and is currently an international postdoc at Linköping University with guest affiliations at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Harvard University and Uppsala University. smolicki.com
Miloš Vojtěchovský is a curator, art historian, and audiovisual artist and founder of the Center for Metamedia in Plasy Monastery. Together with Peter Cusack started up the ongoing project Favourite Sounds of Prague. He curated the Czech section in the international networking project Soundexchange and co-curated the symposium and festival vs. Interpretation held in Prague, by the Agosto Foundation and the Frontiers of Solitude project. Other projects include: Soundworms Ecology Gathering, 2017, and Architecture and the senses, 2018. Miloš is living in Prague. sonicity.cz
Anna Kvíčalová is a historian of science, religion and the senses. She studied in Brno, Amsterdam and Berlin; between 2013 and 2017 she was a member of the research group Epistemes of Modern Acoustics at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. She is the author of Listening and Knowledge in Reformation Europe (Palgrave, 2019) and other texts on sound, hearing and acoustics. Currently she is the leader of the research project The Second Sense: Sound, Hearing and Nature in Czech Modernity at the Centre for Theoretical Study (Charles University & the Czech Academy of Sciences) in Prague. www.cts.cuni.cz
We recognize that COVID is still an active issue and will update participants with any changes that may occur. While the colloquium is planned as an in-person event, we are hoping to make as much of it as possible accessible remotely as well.