event, exhibition

Jeremy Woodruff, Sonic Borderlines II: Transcultural Protest Soundscapes, and Brian Harnetty, Shawnee Revisited

Jun 2023  

SONIC BORDERLINES II: Transcultural Protest Soundscapes (2023)

June 20th – 25th, Exhibition opening: *Tuesday June 20th at 6pm* and running Wednesday 21st – Saturday, June 24th 5-9pm and Sunday, June 25th 3-7pm

Jeremy Woodruff (USA)
8-channel audio / 15-minute loop

With thanks to Studio für Elektroakustische Musik of the Akademie der Künste and Musikfonds e.V.

Several recordings made on-site at the Black Lives Matter, Portland protests, Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests, Polish anti-PIS and women’s rights demonstration in Berlin, anti-coup protests in Myanmar, St. Petersberg anti-war protests, Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, independence demonstration in Barcelona, and anti-femicide and assassination demonstrations in São Paolo are featured in this installation. These recordings are combined into an 8-channel surround mix to create an imagined site of protest where all of the protesters gather together allowing comparisons and echoes to take place.

Every political chant is somehow started by one individual. There is always a leader, or one who begins. This mirrors the power of a mass of people who are intent on spreading a message and overcoming obstacles to the efficacy of that message. In protest chanting one message gets transferred from a single person and becomes amplified into a sonic unity of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people. Protest is a performance where the re-balancing of relations is enacted through voicing (or sometimes silence). This installation allows the listener to hear this process in multiple different cultural places and times to hear differences of how the voice is transferred from the one to the many.

Protestors know, what is experienced during it, can form the success or failure of the protest. Now when the continuity of the sound of a protest chant is interrupted it is usually because of single voices sticking out – so the occurrence of singular voices create cadences in the sonic affect of protest. The rumble of the crowd stretching to the aural horizon, in tandem with other heightened city noises (e.g. circling helicopters etc.) provide a shifting drone accompaniment which together with voice(s) can be perceived as a kind of melody and accompaniment. The way these elements shift and relate are symbols for resistance that can fuel the energy of a protest. Protesters often entrain to underlying sonic impulses and so react instinctively to their surroundings. All of these are culturally inflected processes – audible differences emerge.

In every country the problem with police violence or murder and usually also towards women in particular has more and more taken a primary place in protest of the last few years (alongside other issues). All of these protests are audibly about exactly the same issue, all over the world – an international movement against violent abuse by governments of law-enforcement as a form of repression and persecution, and a killing machine, in particular repressing women and LGBTQ+

There is musical agency inside of us that overrides all political analysis. How does the sub-verbal speak? Protest only has recourse to words versus weapons, and voices against violence. Protest has a poetic reciprocity that is shared between music and voice: a single voice becomes many and the many again become a single voice changing the potentials of public space forever.

Other related project: FATTNESS: on the Sonic Borderlines Festival at Acud Macht Neu: https://youtu.be/I0zzHbgzXW0


Brian Harnetty (USA)
Video, 2-channel audio | 22 minute loop
Commissioned by the Carleton College Weitz Center for Creativity, Northfield, Minnesota

Archival films: courtesy of Jack Shuttleworth
Archival recordings: courtesy of the Little Cities of Black Diamonds Archives, and the Anne Grimes Collection in the Library of Congress
This project was funded in part through a Creative Capital Award

Shawnee Revisited evokes the sonic and visual world of a small 19th century mining town in the United States called Shawnee, Ohio. Shawnee Revisited creates an environment of stillness and movement, where present and past bleed into one another.

A small coal mining town in rural Appalachian Ohio, Shawnee’s history includes labor struggles, economic depression, and environmental degradation and recovery. Now, hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) is the latest iteration of this boom and bust cycle. Residents find themselves caught between fighting for jobs and fighting for clean water.

In this three channel video, viewers experience contemporary footage of Shawnee: quiet streets, a local opera house, and still interiors that invite slowness and contemplation. The images appear to be photographs, yet when more time is spent with them, more is seen: trees gently sway, summer heat radiates through the air, a cobweb waves in the wind, a flag moves, a sign reflects sunlight.

The images are met with sudden transitions into the past, creating a slowly unfolding montage between contemporary video and archival and home movies. Stop the motion of this archival footage at any point and a world of visual noise, sunbursts, cracks, and film deterioration is revealed; the film’s own history is recorded alongside the people and places it depicts.

On the two side screens, seasons transition –– of landscapes, parades, portraits, and social life –– while mining remains ever-present in-between. The earliest footage is of miners exiting from their underground work (reminiscent of the Lumière brothers’ famous films of workers leaving a factory), and of their carbide-lighted hats slowly dancing in the darkened mines. Above ground, children move in parallel motion to the miners, parading down Main Street for Halloween or the Fourth of July or Memorial Day: side-by-side rituals marking the change of time, the environmental and economic costs of extraction, the entwined patterns and rhythms of culture and labor.

Throughout, sound unfolds as a background of instrumental long tones, gradually shifting and evoking the always present forest, surrounding Shawnee and nearby towns. Some of these sounds were recorded in the very places that viewers see in the Shawnee footage, further blurring past and present. We also hear the voices of local residents, speaking and singing of work, friendship, disaster, and death. Together, these voices and sounds create a sonic world that places past and present together, offering ways to move into the future.

Musicians: Aaron Michael Butler, vibraphone; Jocelyn Hach, viola; Anna Roberts-Gevalt, violin; Katie Porter, bass clarinet; Paul de Jong, cello; Jeremy Woodruff, saxophone and flute; Brian Harnetty, piano and field recordings
Videographer: Jon Johnson


video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_IQrYoepfQ&t=157s