1.1. Practices of Listening

Fall 2018

Themes in this issue


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We have also published articles written around the theme 'Practices of Listening', on the website.


Laura Pannekoek and Zoë Dankert
editors-in-chief 2018-19

In the keynote speech at the 2015 What Now? symposium,artist and audio investigator Lawrence Abu Hamdan argued that we have entered a new era of listening. Hamdan identifies a fundamental shift in forensic listening: the recording and storing of police interviews is being replaced by algorythmic tracking of incriminating keywords uttered online. All speech becomes liable,everywhere and at any time. While we may have always been talking, the conditions of listening are changing. We contend that this is consequential not only for the shape discourse takes, but also for the ways in which we relate to ourselves and the world. The essays gathered here in this first issue of Soapbox take seriously the idea that perhaps it is less what we say that affects our social and political condition, than the various ways in which what we call practices of listening take place.

To the Boundary of the Known World: Acousmatic Listening and Imagination in Derek Jarman's Blue

Andrea Avidad

This article argues that acousmatic listening may enkindle imaginative modes which gesture towards potentiality: what might be. Departing from Pierre Schaeffer’s conceptualization of acousmatic sound as autonomous sound object or ideal objectivity, it emphasizes the cognitive and epistemological dimensions of this modality of listening. It follows sound scholar Brian Kane’s theory of acousmaticity: the underdetermination of material source and causal event by sonic effect. One audio-visual artwork—Blue (Derek Jarman, 1993) — is analyzed as calling for a practice of acousmatic listening which includes the perception of unseen sounds and the imaginative production of sonic bodies. The article proposes that Blue has many different degrees of acousmaticity. Such richness of acousmaticity allows the piece to invoke a poetics of proximity: an(im) possible touch of incommensurable events, spaces, and temporalities, through and as sound. Blue’s acousmatic sounds, voices, and noises make a suggestion that can go in many different directions, depending on the listener’s imaginative capacities.

Andrea Avidad teaches Film Studies and Communication Studies at The Bronx Community College of The City University of New York.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking: Being Listened to and the Subservience of Speech

Eeke van der Wal

Through an analysis of the relation between the speech recognition software Dragon NaturallySpeaking and myself, as user, I argue in this paper for an understanding of listening as an active determinant in the relation between listener and speaker, instead of a conception that merely infers the act of receiving and obeying. I observe that although the software is marketed as a technology that would obey by listening to the user’s commands, my experience with the software points to another direction.

As a computer operating subject, I am dependent on Dragon’s recognition of speech. Drawing on Hegel’s master-slave dialectic, this paper argues that Dragon is an active participant in the relation between user and technology, rather than a mere tool. Following Karen Barad, I highlight the material-discursiveness of speech. Rather than focusing on meanings, Dragon attunes to—or listens for—the materiality of speech through its recognition of phonetic speech structures. As such, the article moves away from an anthropocentric understanding of listening.

Eeke van der Wal holds a master’s degree in Organisation, Change and Management (UU). Currently, she is completing a research masters Cultural Analysis (UvA). Fascinated by the (e)mergence of material-discursive practices, her recent research revolves primary around material encounters and the way in which they (re)configure, organise and resist (cultural and individual) understandings of self and other.

Radiant Language and Entangled Listening in Svetlana Alexievich’s Chernobyl Prayer

Niall Martin

Niall Martin mediates on the noisily entangled relations of listening, writing and our perception of culture in the aftermath of nuclear events. Thinking through the material traces, containment and waste of the Chernobyl disaster, Alexievich’s Chernobyl Prayer (1997) opens up a reconceptualization of the Chernobyl disaster as an event that alters the nature of testimony, challenging the lost sonic source of an event that is simultaneously in the past and yet to come. Chernobyl Prayer’s more than human perspective explores the exclusion zone as a sonic space in which radiation becomes audible through the silence of other species. In this way, sound extends itself to that which is present as well as absent. This reading of Chernobyl Prayer rethinks our understanding of sound as species-specific and in doing so acknowledges the displaced position of the auditor.

Niall Martin is an Assistant Professor in the department of Literary and Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. His research engages with the different ways in which concepts of noise interact with and produce our ideas of globalisation. Recently, Niall has been working with the concept of il/literacies, exploring how the il/literate extends questions of decolonisation into discussions of semiosis and new materialism.

Immersed in Multiplicity: Subjective Time in a Time Crystal

Emilio Aguilar

In this paper I look at 'Peace for Triple Piano', a video which represents a musical canon both in sound and image. I call this peculiar form, whose structure is endowed with symmetry in both time and space together, an audiovisual canon. Such a structure is what in physics is known as a time crystal. I argue that this time crystal creates a temporal interference because, in this video, objects relate simultaneously to each other beyond the boundaries of what we commonly perceive as presence. Through a reading of Michel Serres, I propose a model to integrate this multiplicity of time based on hearing as opposed to listening. Finally, through Serres's concept of quasi-object, I argue that this video, by making its audience integrate multiple networks, constructs a quasi-audience.

Emilio Aguilar is a singer specialized in the performance of music from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century. He currently combines his professional work with an interdisciplinary project between the University of Amsterdam (Cultural Analysis) and the Conservatory of Amsterdam (Early Music Singing) in which he researches material-discursive practices to bridge the gap between the speaking-thinking and singing-performing body.

On How to Pry Beyond the Image Frame with CC (Closed Captions)

Stepan Lipatov and Sissel Møller

Text and image—understood separately—are the bread and butter of graphic design. However, typography, when well executed, can also turn text to image. Rejecting this distinction, therefore, paves the way to forms of listening without sound. With this in mind, for this first issue of Soapbox, we have prepared a collection of images with borrowed captions, the combination inspired by closed captioning (CC): the transcription of non-speech sounds in television for hearing impaired people. In our opinion, this phenomenon is interesting not only because of the image and text relation, but also because of how it transforms sound to text.

Sissel Vejby Møller (1994) and Stepan Lipatov (1989) are both graduating students at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. As graphic designers they experiment with the language between text and image.

One Megaphone and Two Thousand Bottles: Listening to Frames of a Mistransmitted Protest

Erica Moukarzel

This essay de-listens to the dominant voice of a politician addressing 2000 protesters through a comparison of depictions by two media channels. It positions the image of the politician's power in the loudness of his voice, so easily broadcasted on TV screens across the nation, as it upstages and speaks over the main subject of the story: the protesters' precarious position. By translating their voices—expressions of their precarity—into visible objects, the essay works to balance out the power play of the protest, equalizing the voices in the space and showing how they made themselves heard on a visual scale. It uses the concept of the frame to dive into the vulnerabilities of the singular politician and the plural alliance in the space of protest, playing with their depictions to restore power and voice to those whose voice the image corrupted.

Erica Moukarzel (1993) is a Lebanese writer and researcher based in Amsterdam. Her work centers on the intersection of cultural memory and urban space, aiming to weave gaps left by past spatial divisions using long forgotten memories and stories. She recently obtained a Research Master's in Cultural Analysis from the University of Amsterdam and currently works as Curatorial Assistant at the Oude Kerk.

Decolonial Listening

An Interview with Rolando Vázquez

How do practices of decolonial listening help us move towards a more ethical relation to the world and to others? In his work and teaching, Rolando Vázquez has been developing practices of decolonial thinking and listening that seek to form relational worlds beyond the hegemonic framework of Western modernity. In this interview —what better way of talking about practices of listening—we talk about the required humbling of modernity, about the (im)possiblities of listening to those who have been silenced and about the necessity of thinking in dialogue with others.

Rolando Vázquez is associate professor of Sociology at University College Roosevelt and Utrecht University. Together with Walter Mignolo, he has coordinated the Decolonial Summer School at UCR since 2010. Vázquez belongs to the movement of Decolonial Thought and Aesthesis and, in 2016, wrote with Gloria Wekker et. al. the report of the Diversity Commission of the University of Amsterdam.

Earwitnessing the Assembly: Listening to the Voice of the People in the Gezi Park Protests

Duygu Erbil

This paper investigates practices seen and heard during the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey, highlighting how an assembly constituted itself through the sonification of opposition. As an alternative to representationalist accounts of the poetics of these protests, this analysis models a practice of earwitnessing: attuning to the demonstrations’ sonics and noise to hear the voice of the people. Consequently, it is argued that an assembly was formed performatively—one that exceeded the creative class milieu that has been the focus of much recent writing. Unlike analyses that focus on the visual, this earwitnessing approaches the memory of activism to articulate an under-theorized form of critical listening. Attentive to the cultural memory in activism, earwitnessing means listening to betweenness—that relational space where bodies enact interdependency.

Duygu Erbil is completing her RMA in Comparative Literary Studies at Utrecht University. Her research interests primarily focus on critical posthumanisms and new materialism. She is currently working on an analysis of autobiography in the context of prison activism and experience in the United States.

Learning Listening

Mieke Bal

Reflecting back on the articulation of the methodological framework for the practice of cultural analysis and the founding of ASCA over twenty years ago, Mieke Bal explores a practice of listening through her own installation Nothing is Missing. The videos presented in the installation featured mothers of migrants being interviewed by a person close to them. This resulted in confronting dialogues that have the potential to offer the attentive viewer — and listener — new perspectives on familial relationships, migration and interculturalism. Ultimately, through her analysis, Bal demonstrates the enduring pertinence of the notion that ‘the object speaks back’.

Read the extended version online.

Mieke Bal is a cultural theorist, critic, video artist and occasional curator. She works in cultural analysis, focusing on gender, migratory culture, psychoanalysis and the critique of capitalism. Her books include a trilogy on political art. Her video Madame B, with Michelle Williams Gamaker, is widely exhibited. Her most recent film is Reasonable Doubt, on René Descartes and Queen Kristina (2016).

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May 7, 2021


June 7, 2021

Clogging up the Final Frontier

On Earth, Outer Space, and Orbital Waste

The issue of outer space and orbital debris has from the outset been one of exclusion (e.g. non-spacefaring nations, women, and other minorities). However, the risk that space waste poses calls for inclusive and interdisciplinary thinking as well as a different understanding of time. This afternoon is an attempt at doing so as we engage with a journalist and poet, a space archaeologist, and a space law expert to answer questions about the future of space and space waste and our relationship to both. We’ll explore why space exploration and colonisation hold such a tight grip on our imagination, as well as issues of responsibility and accountability, and how artistic expressions (e.g. literature, performance, art, etc) can potentially reframe the dominant narrative and help create (public) awareness.

About the speakers

Alice Gorman is an internationally recognised leader in the field of space archaeology and author of the award-winning book Dr Space Junk vs the Universe: Archaeology and the Future (MIT Press, 2019). Her research focuses on the archaeology and heritage of space exploration, including space junk, planetary landing sites, off-earth mining, and space habitats. In collaboration with NASA and Chapman University, she is part of a team conducting the first archaeological study of the International Space Station. She tweets as @drspacejunk and blogs at Space Age Archaeology.

Marjolijn van Heemstra studied theology with the aim of becoming an arbitrator. Before getting there, she got into theatre which led her to work as a poet, writer, journalist, theatre- and podcast maker instead. Her poetry has won various literary prizes and her latest novel has been translated into eight languages. Marjolijn van Heemstra has been writing for De Correspondent since 2019. Her focus is on how space can help us look at the Earth differently. Her more recent book on this them, In lichtjaren heeft niemand haast, will be published later in May. She also regularly makes podcasts (Sør (2018), Stadsastronaut (2019), De Binnenbühne (2020)) in which she takes the listener along on her quests.

Frans G. von der Dunk holds the Harvey and Susan Perlman Alumni / Othmer Chair of Space Law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s LL.M. Programme on Space, Cyber and Telecommunication Law since January 2008. He also is Director of Black Holes BV, a consultancy in space law and policy, based in Leiden. Moreover, Von der Dunk has acted as legal advisor or legal task manager in more than 130 projects, advising various government agencies and international organizations as well as a number of non-governmental organizations and industrial stakeholders on matters of space law and policy, including major space applications such as satellite navigation, remote sensing, and private commercial spaceflight. He has has been awarded the Distinguished Service Award of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the Social Science Award of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), and the Social Science Book Award of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). He was a signatory of the ‘Asteroid 100x Declaration’, together with various Nobel Prize winners, dozens of astronauts and cosmonauts, and other luminaries from the global science and entertainment community.

Kimberly Peuling (moderator) has been an intern at SPUI25 since January 2021. She is currently completing a research master in cultural analysis at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Her research focuses on the environmental and socio-political implications of orbital debris and the imaginaries of past and future spatial infrastructures. In addition to her studies and traineeship, she is a teacher assistant at the UvA, editor-in-chief and web design coordinator at Soapbox Journal for Cultural Analysis, and a member of the events committee of the Benelux Association for the Study of Art, Culture, and the Environment (BASCE).

In collaboration with


June 13, 2021

Geographies of Freedom

(*please note that the date above is the publication date, not that of the event)

Thursday 17th June, 18:00-20:00 (CEST)

Soapbox are delighted to present a screening of the film Geographies of Freedom developed by multimedia artist Miguel Peres dos Santos and researcher Egbert Alejandro Martina.

What is freedom and what constitutes a free life? How have architecture, the law, and geography been used to consolidate the spatiality of freedom? These are questions that are posed by the Geographies of Freedom research project, developed at Het Nieuwe Instituut. The eponymous film explores these themes by delving into the neocolonial ties of the multinational Shell and the Dutch Antilles through a compilation of archival footage.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with the director Miguel Peres dos Santos, Prof Dr Yolande Jansen, Dr Floris Paalman, and Mikayla Vieira Ribeiro, moderated by Lijuan Klassen.

About the speakers

Miguel Peres dos Santos (°1976, Lisbon, Portugal) is an artist who works in a variety of media. By emphasising aesthetics, Peres dos Santos reflects on the closely related subjects of archive and memory. His works demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilised’ selves. By using an ever-growing archive of found documents to create autonomous artworks, his works references post- colonial theory as well as the avant-garde or the post-modern and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system.

Mikayla Vieira Ribeiro is a student, educator, translator, and poet from Curaçao, and of Portuguese-North American descent. After receiving her BA in Black Studies and English from Amherst College (USA), she returned to Curaçao to teach middle school math and English. She is now doing her rMA in Literary Studies at the University of Amsterdam where she focuses on (Dutch) Caribbean literature. She is a part of and has been highly influenced by several global grassroots communities fighting for social justice in education including Liyang Network (The Philippines and USA), Catalytic Communities (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), and Korsou Kontra Rasismo (Curaçao). Mikayla dreams of decolonial knowledge building and sharing, grounded in territory and community, especially within the Caribbean and its diaspora.

Floris Paalman is coordinator of the MA programme ‘Preservation & Presentation of the Moving Image’ at the University of Amsterdam. He teaches courses on film analysis, film history, film archiving & curating, and currently researches the archiving of political films. He holds degrees in filmmaking, cultural anthropology, and media studies.

Yolande Jansen is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and Special Professor of Humanism in Relation to Religion and Secularity for the Socrates Foundation at the VU University Amsterdam. She is the author of Secularism, Assimilation and the Crisis of Multiculturalism; French Modernist Legacies (2014), co-edited The Irregularization of Migration in Europe; Detention, Deportation, Drowning (2015) and recently edited a special issue of the journal Patterns of Prejudice (2020) about ‘Genealogies of “Jews” and “Muslims”; Social Imaginaries in the Race-Religion Nexus’ (with Nasar Meer). She has been teaching about political philosophy and the decolonial humanities at BA, MA and PhD levels. Yolande is currently working on a project in which a critique of religio-secular framing is connected to a decolonial approach to ecological crisis.

Lijuan Klassen (moderator) is a former research master student of Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. In her thesis, "Camouflaging Worlding in Worlds of Camouflage“ she explored the genealogical roots and speculative becomings of camouflage as a concept-object. She is committed to the more-than-human and de-colonial practices, and always uncertain about her own identity. She currently works at De Appel Amsterdam and seeks to further explore the field of contemporary art, as an in-between space for theory that is not academia.

This is a free online event but please RSVP to info@soapboxjournal.net to receive the Zoom and movie details.

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