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What:

Eavesdropping

Tue, 24. Jul–
Sun, 28. Oct
2018

Where:

(url)

Ian Potter Museum of Art
Melbourne

Eavesdropping is a unique collaboration between Liquid Architecture, Melbourne Law School and the Ian Potter Museum of Art, comprising an exhibition, a public program, series of working groups and touring event which explores the politics of listening through work by leading artists, researchers, writers and activists from Australia and around the world.

Reworked image, original Athanasius Kircher Musurgia Universalis, 1650. Vol. 2, Rome: Francisci Corbelletti. University of Melbourne Rare Books Collection, Music.

Words:

EAVESDROPPING used to be a crime. According to William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1769): ‘eavesdroppers, or such as listen under walls or windows, or the eaves of a house, to hearken after discourse, and thereupon to frame slanderous and mischievous tales, are a common nuisance and presentable at the court-leet.’ Two hundred and fifty years later, eavesdropping isn’t just legal, it’s ubiquitous. What was once a minor public order offence has become one of the most important politico-legal problems of our time, as the Snowden revelations made abundantly clear. Eavesdropping: the ever-increasing access to, capture and control of our sonic worlds by state and corporate interests.

But eavesdropping isn’t just about big data, surveillance and security. We all overhear. Listening itself is excessive. We cannot help but hear too much, more than we mean to. Eavesdropping, in this sense, is the condition – or the risk – of sociality per se, so that the question is not whether to eavesdrop, but the ethics and politics of doing so. This project pursues an expanded definition of eavesdropping therefore, one that includes contemporary mechanisms for listening-in but also activist practices of listening back, that is concerned with malicious listenings but also the responsibilities of the earwitness.

This project directs our attention towards specific technologies (audio-tape, radio-telescope, networked intelligence) and politics (surveillance, settler colonialism, detention). Some contributions address the personal and intimate, others are more distant or forensic. Their scale ranges from the microscopic to the cosmic, from the split-second to the interminable. What all the artists and thinkers involved have in common, however, is a concern not just for sound or listening, but what it might mean for someone or something to be listened-to.

Curators Joel SternJoel Stern is a curator, researcher, and sound artist, concerned with theories and practices of sound and listening (Liquid Architecture) Dr James ParkerJames Parker is the Director of a research program on Law, Sound and the International at the Institute for International Law and the Humanities (IILAH) at Melbourne Law School. (Melbourne Law School)

Contents

Public Program:

Movement 1: Overhear (July 24–August 5)
wiretapping, the sonic episteme, sonic agency,
excessive listening, forensic listening

Movement 2: Silicon ear (Aug 9–11)
big data, automation, algorithmic listening,
panacousticism

Movement 3: Earwitness (August 20–31)
the sonic colour line, sonic warfare, listening to history, the hearing, justice as improvisation

Movement 4: Listen Back (Oct 19-28)

Exhibiting Artists:
Athanasius KircherWORK: Musurgia Universalis

"Quanta sit in huius Theatre Echaei structura opinionum varietas, quanta Authoru dissensio, explicari vix potest: cum nullus sere ex ijs, qui in Vitruuium commentatisunt, illud rito se intellexisse ostendat."
Fayen d’Evie and Jen Bervin with Bryan Phillips and Andy SlaterWORK: Cosmic Static

"Kinaesthetic, ultrasonic stories. Grote Reber, who built a parabolic antenna in 1937 in his Chicago backyard to try to listen to signals from outer space, and later moved to Tasmania, where he built an array in the backyard of a sheep grazing property, and for a decade was the world’s only radio astronomer. The operational staff who monitor and maintain the array of small diameter radio telescopes at the SETI Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, California, listening for anomalous stellar and interstellar signals."
Joel SpringWORK: Hearing, Loss

"Throughout the late 1980's and early 90's Otitis Media was a leading health issue for indigenous kids, affecting language development, attendance and other outcomes. A group of indigenous women lead the charge on this issue by implementing a screening program for kids that become a research project for best practices Australia wide. I myself had consistent ear infections for the first 3-5 years of my life, as is the common story in our communities both urban and remote, and unfortunately continues today. I feel that the children who were treated in this program, and the programs it influenced, have these women to thank for something most people including myself have take for granted, that we can hear clearly."
Lawrence Abu HamdanWORKS: Rubber Coated Steel; Saydnaya (The Missing 19DB); Conflicted Phenomes

"I despise anyone who says that art is about asking questions, and not providing answers. You hear that pretty much every day in our profession. Artists who repeat this statement think of this as a radical act. But what if art's radicality is actually about art being an engine for truth production? I'm not talking about the same forms of truth production in science or law, since science is totally different to law and each represents two different models for telling the truth. In forensics, science and law meet in some weird space. In art, you can borrow from the ways that science and law tell the truth in order to come up with the means by which art can also speak it."
Manus Recording Project Collective; Michael Green, André Dao, Jon Tjhia, Abdul Aziz Muhamat, Farhad Bandesh, Behrouz Boochani, Samad Abdul, Shamindan Kanapathi and Kazem KazemiWORK: how are you today

"Speaking on a smuggled phone from inside the Australian-run immigration detention centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, Abdul Aziz Muhamat related an anecdote about his day. He'd been standing near the gate when a security guard had called someone's name three or four times. The man was standing nearby but he didn't reply. Aziz told the guard to call his ID number instead - the man responded immediately. 'Look, man, no one is pretending here. Why should he pretend?' Aziz told the guard. 'We forgot our names.'"
Samson YoungWORK: Muted Situation #5: Muted Chorus

"John Cage's project has failed Asia. The institutions of music continue to neglect and negate Asian composers. Composers outside the West are invisible in their own concert halls... We must begin by confronting the very language with which we describe the auditory and the act of composition. What does it mean to "orchestrate" and to "compose"? Could one orchestrate and compose without reproducing the power structures that are implicit in these terminologies?"
Sean Dockray"There are many conversations that happen on social media that are worth archiving and re-presenting outside of the perpetual present of those platforms. The Facebook timeline is like a broken toilet, constantly flushing. The collective knowledge generated within a status updates that generates hundreds of comments or a particularly active and focused group needs to be rescued from the planned forgetfulness of social media." Susan SchuppliWORKS: The Missing 18 1/2 Minutes; Listening to Answering Machines

"The material witness — an entity (object or unit) whose physical properties or technical configuration records evidence of passing events to which it can bear witness. Whether these events register as a by-product of an unintentional encounter or as an expression of direct action, history and by extension politics is registered at these junctures of ontological intensity. Moreover, in disclosing these encoded events, the material witness makes ‘evident’ the very conditions and practices that convert such eventful materials into matters of evidence."
William BlackstoneWORK: Commentaries on the Laws of England

‘eavesdroppers, or such as listen under walls or windows, or the eaves of a house, to hearken after discourse, and thereupon to frame slanderous and mischievous tales, are a common nuisance and presentable at the court-leet.’
Talks & Performances:
Andrew Brooks"Gossip is dependent on the reproduction and performance of social practices rather than the acquisition of ‘factual’ knowledge, and so relies on and works to produce bonds of intimacy and standards of trust. This is not to claim that gossip only trades in falsity, indeed, it often trades in important factual information. Yet its performative structure — 'have you heard?' — is one that foregrounds dialogical relations, interaction and, ultimately, multi-vocality." Anja Kanngieser"The sounds of a place reveal much of its conditions. By listening to the ambiances or atmospheres of a place we get a sense of the complex and shifting terrains that make up its infrastructures, the sudden flashes of activity, the unremarkable meanderings and stutters, the relations of organic and inorganic matter." Brian Hochman"The eavesdropping threat loomed large during the 1950s and 1960s: in the work of state and local law enforcement agencies, who wiretapped extensively in criminal investigations; in the exploits of private investigators and eavesdropping specialists, who capitalized on technological innovations to expand their industry's reach; and, perhaps most importantly, in the contradictions of state and federal lawmakers, who sent conflicting messages about the legitimacy of eavesdropping practices that had dogged the nation's communications infrastructure for more than a century." Bruce Mowson Ceri Hann"Self reflective delirium is the only way to outwit the uncreative constraints of predictability. If you can’t make science get you there, maybe a mock séance will." Jake Goldenfein"Power in the networked age seems to mirror the capacity to configure or reconfigure relationships of access, and it is against that reality that the significance of access for (rather than to) citizens needs to be seriously rethought. The reconfiguration of access to secret information is what gave the leaks of Edward Snowden and Wikileaks their force. Similarly, it is only lawful access to the intelligence gathered and assessed on individual subjects that can offer an ever-observed citizenry a valuable new project of self-correction." Jasmine Guffond"The relative invisibility of digital surveillance and the proliferation of consumer modes of online surveillance has both intensified and rendered ambivalent our relationships to being surveyed. Sound provides a means for listening back to some of the imperceivable surveillance infrastructures that monitor our habitual online browsing." Jennifer Stoever"We need to talk about listening, power, and race. Willful white mishearings and auditory imaginings of blackness— often state-sanctioned— have long been a matter of life and death in the United States." M J Grant"[Some] organisations and musicians who initially spearheaded the public outcry against music torture have increasingly laid down their banners in the period since Obama came to power. At best we can blame this on a lack of knowledge and understanding about the general scale of the problem. The more cynical view would be that for many who were so outraged, it was the perceived attack on music rather than on the tortured individual which was the real motivation for their actions." Mark Andrejevic"The drone model of experience invokes the notion of a sensor-database-algorithmic formation that might be summed up by using the figure of the drone broadly construed: not just in the form of a flying, weaponised, surveillance device, but as the combination of a distributed sensor equipped with automated data analysis and response capabilities." Mehera San Roque"Where the defence has challenged the admissibility of incriminating opinions about the voices of non-familiars, most courts have distinguished the voice identification cases, often on the pragmatic basis that not admitting the evidence would require the jury to listen to voice recordings which are often of low quality, very long, and contain much content of little, if any, significance." Peter Szendy"Sur écoute: as they say it in French, written as two separate words, of someone who is put under surveillance, who is being spied upon. Mettre or placer sur écoute means to have someone’s phone tapped. Written as one word, the neologism surécoute could be understood as an intensification of listening, as its hyperbolic form, taken to incandescence, to its most extreme and most active point. In short, surécoute as a synonym for auditory hyperesthesia, a superlative super-listening." Poppy de Souza"To the untrained ear, the distinction between a ‘boo’ and a ‘boo’ may be altogether absent, but to those exposed to its injurious effects, parsing this distinction can be a challenge against ongoing injustice and, in some cases a necessary act of survival." Sam Kidel"I dial a number into the phone. Someone picks up, and I follow the script. In between words, saliva rolls around my mouth folding around air pockets that pop quietly. The person on the other end of the line breathes more heavily than I expect, occasionally blowing directly into the phone handset, rattling the microphone and sending the sound of a strong gale down the wires of their telephone line. The sound travels through the microphone, into the grid, across vast networks of wires, into the call centre, through the telephone speaker cone and into my ear. I almost feel the warmth of their breath on the back of my neck." Samson YoungWORK: Muted Situation #5: Muted Chorus

"John Cage's project has failed Asia. The institutions of music continue to neglect and negate Asian composers. Composers outside the West are invisible in their own concert halls... We must begin by confronting the very language with which we describe the auditory and the act of composition. What does it mean to "orchestrate" and to "compose"? Could one orchestrate and compose without reproducing the power structures that are implicit in these terminologies?"
Sara Ramshaw"Law and jazz thus coalesce in the irresolution of the improvised act... Law cannot subsist without jazz’s responsive 'opening onto all that lies beyond' just as jazz requires 'some' determinacy in order to endure as jazz. It is therefore 'the necessity yet impossibility' of both pure determinacy (law) and pure responsiveness (jazz), which 'iteratively impel[s]' both law and jazz into existence." Susan SchuppliWORKS: The Missing 18 1/2 Minutes; Listening to Answering Machines

"The material witness — an entity (object or unit) whose physical properties or technical configuration records evidence of passing events to which it can bear witness. Whether these events register as a by-product of an unintentional encounter or as an expression of direct action, history and by extension politics is registered at these junctures of ontological intensity. Moreover, in disclosing these encoded events, the material witness makes ‘evident’ the very conditions and practices that convert such eventful materials into matters of evidence."
Norie Neumark Tim McNamaraTIM MCNAMARA is Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Melbourne. He is an international expert on language testing, including the use of language tests in immigration, citizenship and asylum contexts. His work on language and identity has focused on the impact of poststructuralist approaches to subjectivity. Tim is the author of Language Testing (OUP, 2000) and co-author (with Carsten Roever) of Language Testing: The Social Dimension (Blackwell, 2006); two new books, Fairness and Justice in Language Assessment (OUP, with Ute Knoch and Jason Fan) and Language and Subjectivity (CUP), are due out early in 2019. He is the immediate Past President of the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) and was Conference Chair for the 2017 conference in Portland, OR. Tim is a Fellow of the Academy of the Humanities of Australia and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (UK). with more TBA.
Exhibition Team:
Technical Design: Marco Cher-GibardMarco Cher-Gibard is a sound artist and musician from Melbourne, Australia, who is interested in listening as an explorative and political act, sound making and the everyday. His field of activity is diverse. His work has been presented internationally by LIFT Festival, Vienna Festwochen, Holland Festival, Melbourne Festival and the Nationally Gallery of Victoria amongst others.
Online/Offline: Public OfficePublic Office is a collaborative research, design & development practise focusing on the intersection of physical and digital publishing.
Exhibition Design: Sibling ArchitectureSIBLING works at the intersection of architecture, urbanism, cultural analysis and graphic communication to produce new and unexpected spatial outcomes
Co-presented by: Exhibition supporter: Media partners:
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