Masterclass: The Politics of Everyday Sound

Sound is booming both as an artistic field, and as a field of study. Increasingly, it is also used as a powerful tool to discipline subjects within the context of contemporary urban life and warfare. Sound transforms the ways people inhabit space, and can even act to bring the future—the fear of a deadly drone strike for example—into the present, as is the case with the drone sonics installation Susan Schuppli and Tom Tlalim produced for the exhibition Art In The Age Of…Asymmetrical Warfare.

The master class will tap into the politics of sonic subjectivity in the city. What technologies, tactics, and sound making devices exist in the urban fabric of Rotterdam? Who owns, operates and controls the sounds of the city? How does sound modulate and transform the spaces in which we live and work? What resonances emerge from our common recollections and experiences of sound? Are the acoustic memories of air raid sirens and the aerial bombings that devastated Rotterdam still present in some form today? How might they be triggered again? What impact does the use of Muzak and sonic branding in contemporary consumer culture have on us, as well as on those who work daily under these continuous sounds? How is sound used as an instrument for power and social control in our day-to-day civil society? How might the acoustic sphere of our cities be deployed creatively as a space for resistance and activism? These are all questions that we might begin to think about in preparation for the master class.

Working as a group, participants will investigate the sonic conditions around us and in particular within the immediate vicinity of the Witte de With. Together we hope to develop strategies for bringing the politics of everyday sounds into public awareness through acts of critical listening and acoustic intervention. We will explore case studies, locations and ideas brought forward by each participant, based upon their everyday lives and experiences, with the aim of exposing contemporary manifestations of sonic dominance and acoustic contestation in the city.

Suggested readings for your future reference

Schuppli, Susan. Uneasy Listening. In: Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth. Sternberg Press, (2014): 381-392.
Goodman, Steve. Sonic Warfare : Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010.
LaBelle, Brandon. Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life. New York, NY: Continuum, 2011.
Barthes, Roland. “Listening.” In The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art, and Representation, 245–60. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
Kane, Brian. Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice. New York, NY: OUP USA, 2014.


Supported By

The exhibition Art In The Age Of…Asymmetrical Warfare and its related public program are kindly supported by the vfonds.