fugitive frequency, season 4 episode 6: Good Morning Geylang

A view of a carpark entrance through a silhouette of palm fronds. The leaves of the fronds match with the hazard stripes painted onto the speed hump and the strong parallel lines of the image made by the railings and gate,

“Good Morning Geylang”, a deep listening dawn mix and a meditation on migration, labour, infrastructure and place-making in Singapore. Made in residence at Singapore Art Museum, 1 April–29 June 2024.

The field recordings that make up this mix were recorded in the streets, rooftops and void decks around the neighbourhood where I am staying in Geylang. Singapore is undoubtably an air-conditioned nation however I’m not a fan of such climate controls. I prefer to keep the windows open and as my apartment is on the 4th floor of an old shophouse, I am at tree height. I’m often stirred before dawn by the sounds of birds chattering. Soon after I hear the first MRT commuter train rumbling off in the distance and as the city starts to wake it is often the sound of a garbage truck and its distinct pungent scent that brings me to my senses. I’m in an area where many migrant workers also stay and in the mornings I can watch them gathering in the street below, waiting to be taken in trucks to work sites around the city. I’ve been struck by the interplay of daily rhythms at this time of day. With reference to Henri Lefebvre’s notion of rhythmanalysis, I can discern  the circardian rhythms as night turns into day, the institutional rhythms of the train schedule and the rhythms of the working day. Singapore imports much of its construction and domestic workers from neighbouring countries including Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Their wages are lower than locals and they have few rights. There has been some discussion about constructions workers who are transported around in lorries with minimal safety, an exception to Singapore’s road rules, and there have been several serious accidents.

“Good Morning Geylang” is the first iteration of a live sound work I am developing. Comprised of field recordings I’m making in Singapore as a reflection on migrant labour/leisure. I’m thinking of it as a deep listening work to be performed in pitch black — picking up on a recent discussion of sensory deprivation following the debut of REFUGE at Singapore International Festival of Arts, by the Observatory in collaboration with Duck Unit, Rully Shabara and Justin Shoulder.

A list of artists I’m thinking about includes:
33EMYBW, specifically Mandala (2023)
William Basinski
Robert Curgenven
Philip Jeck
Francisco López
Oval (early releases)
Steve Reich (early tape pieces)
David Toop
Chris Watson

fugitive frequency, season 4 episode 2: disarming peace

A silhouette of a figure, backlit standing on a stage. The image is rendered in greyscale as a negative.
1. “Anti War Dub” – Digital Mystikz On 26 January 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found [YouTube] there was a case for potential genocide being carried out by Israel in Gaza. The court stopped short of recommending a provisional cease fire and rather required Israel report back in one month about measures taken to address its concerns (legally binding for member states). My friend, the artist Sybille Neumeyer, responding to the ongoing loss of (civilian) lives commented that there is no longer a neutral position. Indeed, I’ve heard arguments in Berlin that calling for a cease fire opposes Israel’s right to self-defence and is thus antisemitic—an accusation that can lead to serious repercussions in Germany. This episode is a playlist/meditation on how peace activism has become weaponized, reflecting on my experiences at Transmediale and CTM festivals this year. 2. “Afrotek” – Scratcha DVA The context of this episode is the Strike Germany campaign, that began in January 2024 when the Berlin Senate announced that it would adopt an anti-discrimination act as a condition of its cultural funding, which included a controversial working definition of antisemitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). It reads:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

To which the Berlin Senate added an extension which conflates criticism of Israel with the persecution of Jewish people. This decision was protested by a significant part of the cultural community in Berlin (see this letter signed by numerous Berlin-based artists and cultural workers). Strike Germany deploys similar tactics of Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS), understood as a means of peaceful protest used with success against apartheid South Africa. The BDS movement against Israel has been banned in several countries and in 2019 the German Bundestag passed a resolution to outlaw it in Germany. This decision is subject to ongoing dispute (see this letter from artists, academics and cultural workers protesting this resolution). The Strike Germany campaign can also be read as a retaliation for the forced resignations of artists and cultural workers in Berlin who have been critical of Israel, notably from South Asia (eg the resignation of Documenta 16’s finding committee in November 2023 and the cancellation of Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie 2024 soon after). Strike Germany has had a significant impact on the cultural sector, initially in Berlin’s club scene/economy, with artists withdrawing from performances at its famous Berghain club. The “sister” festivals, Transmediale and CTM, held annually in late January and early February were also affected this year. London-based producer Scratcha DVA is one artist who announced  his withdrawal via Instagram, and whom I was looking forward to seeing in Berlin. This track “Afrotek” (2021) with Durban producer Mxshi Mo brings together UK bass and gqom [YouTube].
3. “ANG INTERNASYUNAL BUDOTS BOMB STYLE REMIX [SISONS GREETINGS!]” – Teya Logos CTM opened on 26 January, the day the IJC announced its findings, so it seems significant that the festival’s first club night at the aforementioned Berghain featured a room curated by Thai artist Pisitakun, a recent fellow at the DAAD’s Music & Sound programme. Pisitakun’s research concerns the music of social movements for democracy in South East Asia and during his time at the DAAD he launched The Three Sound of Revolution project, named after the “three finger salute.” With reference to the popular TV series Hunger Games and derived from a signal used in the French Revolution, the gesture has been recently adopted by protestors in South East Asia to demand Solidarity, Equality and Liberty. The Three Sound of Revolution is divided into three sub-projects, “Middle Sound”, a compilation of protest songs, chants and speeches remixed as dance/party music by a selection of artists was released in November 2023. This was showcased during Pisitakun’s take over of Berghain’s Säule, with the artist inviting others representing South East Asia to perform and also installing a screen printing station to distribute talismanic revolutionary imagery. Given the situation of strike and withdrawals coupled with protests against the rise of populist Right wing movements in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, Pisitakun’s programming struck a chord. While CTM joined wide-spread criticism of the Berlin Senate’s anti-discrimination bill, it refrained from directly commenting on the war in Gaza and many of us were interested in—and perhaps anxious about—how participating artists would respond. Someone who clearly did not give a fuck was Filipinx artist Teya Logos playing “hardcore” Budots dance music, while screaming and slam dancing. She closed out her performance with a remix of the anthemic “Dammi Falastini” by Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf [YouTube]. 4. “MONn-aARCHhE-EAT-JACKAAAL” (Elvin Brandhi Remix) – Pisitakun

“Since I was born I witnessed three different coups: in 1991, 2006 and 2014,” says Thai artist Pisitakun. “The question is stuck in my mind: Why do we have so many coups?

This track, remixed by Elvin Brandhi, another artist featured in CTM, is from Pisitakun’s album Absolute C.O.U.P. (2020) [bandcamp] 5. “Prayers” – Pinky Htut Aung This recording is taken from the compilation Common Tonalities (2022) produced as part of Goethe-Institut’s Nusasonic project focused on experimental sound cultures in South East Asia, made in collaboration with CTM alongside Yes No Klub (Yogyakarta), WSK Festival of the Recently Possible (Manila), Playfreely/BlackKaji (Singapore). From Myanmar and currently based in Paris, Pinky is a multimedia artist and noise musician. She spoke on CTM’s panel “Revolutionary Music Movements under Distorted Rule of Law” (31 January 2024), where I asked about the connection between the kinds of popular protest songs that was discussed in the panel and the noise and “hardcore rave” dance music that was showcased at Berghain. While such sounds are often overlooked by music scholars and professionals, I was interested in how they had become popular in times of social upheaval. Noise music is distinct from commercial pop music and elite classical or compositional forms. It could be understood as being a liberatory or cathartic practice, and is often made collectively, but is it necessarily political? Or does it signify a politics that is different to conventional party systems, like anarchism? I was struck when Pinky said that for her noise music is therapeutic. To pick up on CTM festival’s theme “Sustain” for its 25th edition, could it be said that music sustains people through difficult times? 6. “Indignation” – Divide and Dissolve Divide and Dissolve [bandcamp] are well known for their commitment to Black and Indigenous struggles as much as for their slow, loud and lurching music, devoid of vocals. I said to a friend who is keen to play heavy music with other racialised people, that she might not be familiar with Divide and Dissolve’s music, but she would certainly know their tee-shirt emblazoned with the words: “Destroy White Supremacy.” A classic, is how someone described it at the band’s merch stand and Divide and Dissolve have since produced a series of tees with statements that are, according to the band, “designed to provoke a conversation.” Emerging from Naarm/Melbourne’s punk scene, where I first saw them play in 2017 alongside anticolonial death metal band Dispossessed [bandcamp]. Divide and Dissolve have gone on to achieve notable success, releasing their last two albums with Geoff Barrow’s (Portishead) label, Invada. So I was curious as to why they had not heeded the call to divest from Germany. With my mind still occupied with Pisitakun and Pinky’s panel about protest music and noise earlier that evening, Divide and Dissolve set the scene at Berghain with a large back-projection of a animated Palestinian flag, rippling in the wind behind a wall of amplifiers. Guitarist and saxophonist, Takiaya Reed arrived on stage wearing a black and white keffiyeh across her shoulders and the duo’s drum kit was similarly draped with the checkered cloth that symbolises Palestinian liberation. After Sylvie Nehill left the band in 2022, Reed has continued with a roster of drummers and tonight she was joined by someone she named “Ced”, “Syd” or “Seb” oder…? Having established that their performance at CTM was a statement of solidarity, Reed breathed into her soprano saxophone to begin the first song only to realise that it was broken. She asked that if anyone in the audience could help, she would appreciate them coming back stage. For some long minutes we stood around, before the super-sized animated flag chatting to our neighbours and sipping our drinks as pop music played over the club’s legendary sound system. This was turning out to be an awkward performance. Arguably, Divide and Dissolve decided to stay with the festival as their appearance would be more effective than their withdrawal. Indeed, artists critical of Strike Germany have argued that withdrawal is a privilege for only those who can afford to do so and often targets organisations working “behind the scenes” towards justice and peace. However, Divide and Dissolve also disrupted the smooth functionings of the event. Aside from delays due to her broken instrument, Reed took her time between songs to explain her position as someone with Black and Cherokee ancestry. She talked about cycles of violence, as those who have suffered genocide in turn perpetuate genocide, and elaborated on how some First Nations people in the US having survived colonial violence became slave owners. While Divide and Dissolve have cultivated a loyal and attentive following around the world, Reed’s ruminations were not well received by all at Berghain. I didn’t think it unusual when someone called out that she should stop talking and “play more music”, and certainly the audience was thinning out. Undeterred, Reed continued to address her heckler in a calm voice, without aggression, but nevertheless confrontational. With Reed holding the space and taking her time to discuss the issues that motivate the band and to name and thank all who had supported her, I began to think that Reed wields her vulnerability as a kind of power. Indeed, if Divide and Dissolve’s bone-rattling sound is as much therapeutic to experience as it is cathartic to perform, it is arguably during these times of violence and anxiety that it is most needed.
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7. “Holy Motor” – FITNESSS feat. LUnG FITNESSS’ striking intervention was into Berghain’s dance floor. Appearing among the crowd with a panel of backlit buttons strapped to their chest, FITNESSS’ provocateur (is it Jas Lin 林思穎?) encouraged the audience to push them and trigger sounds then heard on the main room’s massive surround sound system. FITNESSS are corporeal; physically confrontational and I suppose cathartic in a screamo kind of way. It feels more like a happening than a concert, as the crowd follows the action around the room. We are often pulled into to touch, mosh to crisp digital noise and so-called “sound design” or to pogo to pop music. I’m not sure if FITNESSS is the person I am watching being dragged around the room on their back, or the event in which the boundaries between performer and audience and the social conventions of the club are (physically) challenged. Towards the end of the performance, a shirtless vocalist lurches into the maelstrom of bodies, rasping into a microphone. I guess this is LUnG. Later online I read:

A FITNESSS performance is an expression of raw energy—creating immersive experiences that challenge conceptions of being and communion through movement, electronic sound architecture, and post-modern aesthetics. With an emphasis on audience involvement and collective presence, FITNESSS’ work explores the volatile nature of interpersonal dynamics, as well as the transformative power of crowd synchronization.

8. “Dimensional Spleen” – Aïsha Devi I have been looking forward to see Aïsha Devi perform for some years. Although she does perform often enough in Berlin, I always seem to miss it. Now, touring her recent album Death Is Home (2023) [bandcamp], I find myself sitting exactly front and centre in the Volksbühne theatre where Devi will perform the closing concert. The stage’s scenography consisted of patchwork drapes and flags, set in motion by fans. Strobe lights and fog machines further contributed to Devi’s theatrics, and I heard someone commenting about “the weather on stage.” Dressed in a sheer black dress and shiny black trainers, Devi was often rendered as a silhouette and it soon became apparent that she had a Palestinian flag affixed to the back of her outfit (see main pic above). I can’t be certain about Devi’s use of flags. Given the artist draws inspiration from her paternal ancestry in Nepal, I’m guessing they are a reference to the Buddhist traditions of the Himalayas; when the wind blows through “prayer flags” bearing sutras they are believed to recite them. Devi often discusses the links between her mediation practice and music production by way of the healing qualities of frequencies. In a recent interview for Metal she offers:

Modern physics acknowledges 11 dimensions, and we perceive life in just 3D. To heal this civilization, I think we will have to be much more aware of our existence outside of this corporeal reality and in a higher dimensional plane. I really think that hyper-materialism is annihilating our sense of immortality, and that’s why the intangibility of music is so present in our life. Music is one of the tools that can help us initiate this consciousness and open the portals. I want to bring back the essential ritualistic aspect in contemporary music.

I admire Devi’s open-mindedness and willingness to speak her mind as much as I enjoy her music. When she addressed the audience at the closing of the concert she voiced her support for Palestine and said: “I came here because this is my community—you are my community.” Despite several withdrawals (and at least one forced cancellation at Transmediale), I often heard people reiterate this sense of community with phrases like: “this is my community and so in these days of war, genocidal violence and the threat of fascism it is important that we come together and talk.” Certainly, there are those of CTM’s community who were missed. Kyham Allami, for example, who was instrumental to Nusasonics’ Common Tonalities project, announced his individual and indefinite strike from all German state funded work in October 2023, some months before the Strike Germany campaign. This prompts me to think about the politics of friendship during this time of polarization. TBC…

fugitive frequency, season 3, episode 12: The Image of Gaza

A protest placard sitting on a bench stating: “PROTECT ALL CIVILIANS-CEASEFIRE NOW”

My friend, the artist and broadcaster Nathan Gray [Instagram], describes the current war in Gaza as the “New Berlin Wall”, as it has polarised a city that is home to significant migrant communities from both Palestine and Israel. In a country held accountable for the Jewish Holocaust and which considers Israel’s security and right to exist its “Staaträson”, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment have surfaced since Hamas’ 7 October attack in southern Israel. From a distance in Finland, I began to approach these developments via anti-racism frameworks; being attentive to (historical) forms of biological race and ethno-nationalism, alongside more recent concepts of ethnocracy—a term coined by Oren Yiftachel, a Professor of Political Geography, to describe circumstances in which democratic processes are unequally distributed among citizens, biased towards ethnic groups in power.

Cultural theorist Paul Gilroy opens his book, Against Race (2000)—re-published as Between Camps (2004)—with a citation from Frantz Fanon:

At first thought it may seem strange that the anti-Semite’s outlook should be related to that of the Negrophobe. It was my philosophy professor, a native of the Antilles, who recalled the fact to me one day: “Whenever you hear someone abuse the Jews, pay attention, because he is talking about you.” And I found that he was universally right—by which I meant that I was answerable in my body and my heart for what was done to my brother. Later I realized that he meant, quite simply, that an anti-Semite is inevitably anti-Negro.
Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks) cited in Gilroy 2000, p. 1.

Writing at the turn of the last century, Gilroy argues that the ambition of anti-racism work should be to dismantle race as a category of difference, and he urges his readers to be wary of emergent forms of racism arising from technological developments, such as genetics.

Like many others, doomscrolling through a feed of “atrocity images” and trauma over the past two months, my interest was piqued last week with the publication of an investigation “‘A mass assassination factory‘: Inside Israel’s calculated bombing of Gaza” by +972 Magazine and Local Call , an independent, bipartisan and non-profit platform established by Israeli and Palestinian journalists. Authored by Yuval Abraham [Instagram], the article outlines Israel Defense Forces (IDF) use of machine learning and AI in determining military targets, in particular a system named Hasbora (The Gospel). There has already been much discussion about the inherent bias in such systems and criticism about their use in policing, so Hasbora’s deployment in a situation where vengeance is a motive is alarming. It should be noted, as Abraham states at the beginning of this interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, that this report was vetted by the Israeli military censor. That is, the IDF has some interest in publicising this information. A recent article in the New York Times reveals how Israel’s security intelligence failed to act on early indicators of Hamas planning an attack on 7 October, thus Abraham proposes that the Netanyahu government is under pressure to produce a “victory image” for its citizens, and arguably one that foregrounds its technological prowess.

Investigative journalist Antony Loewenstein, whose recent book The Palestine Laboratory (2023) is concerned with how Israel develops and tests its sophisticated military and surveillance technologies in Gaza, is often called upon to comment on these issues. Contained within a security wall, Egypt’s national border and the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza is often described as an “open-air prison”. With over 2 million people in area that is approximately 365 square km, it is one the most densely populated regions in the world. As noted by scholars Eyal Weizman (2007) and Jasbir K. Puar (2017), Gaza is tightly controlled; dependent on aid, supplies and (communication) infrastructures that are ultimately managed by Israel, calculated according to what is necessary for survival. Thus, it can be easily analysed as a bio/necro-political regime. Following the end of the cease-fire on 30 November and as the staggering civilian death toll continues to climb, the US and other allied states, including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, are qualifying their statements of unequivocal support for the war Israel names “Operation Iron Swords”, cautioning the Zionist state to minimise civilian casualties while continuing to sanction its efforts to completely destroy Hamas. In an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!, Loewenstein points out that these states are continuing to export arms to Israel, and that some of them have significantly expanded these exports since 7 October. Alongside arms proliferation and shared intelligence, these states are also implicated in global supply chains that produce these weapons technologies. As such, the images (and information) currently flowing out of Gaza are effectively, as Al Jazeera presenter Jonah Hull puts it, a “live-fire, real-time experiment” demonstrating these technologies and their concomitant political strategies.

This podcast, “The Image of Gaza”, returns to the theme of “optics”. It is a montage/mixtape of news media, music, infomercials and street recordings that serve as a prompt to think about the images flowing out of the war and how they are being received and interpreted by different interests. These include:

– affective “atrocity images” of an exceptional humanitarian crisis at scale and evidence of possible war crimes
– a “victory image” that Israel’s Netanyahu government is under pressure produce following security intelligence failures to act on early indications of Hamas’ 7 October attack
– a “live-fire, real-time experiment” demonstrating Israel’s military technologies and that attest to a global weapons market and production supply chains that implicate the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia in the war.

Media used (in order)

Music: “Drone Command”, Marc Torch

A song that was briefly removed from Spotify in May 2023, provoking a backlash against the popular music-streaming platform.

Yasmeen Daher from Palästina Spricht/Palestine Speaks addresses a demonstration in Berlin, 4 November 2023.

Breakfast@Goethe with Matti Aikio, 2 November 2023

A group of people sit around a long white table. They are facing two figures at the far end of the table who are obscured by arching microphone stands. Bhind them is a screen with a video projection showing a web browser opened on YouTube.

Goethe-Institut Finnland [Instagram] hosted fugitive radio and Sámi artist, reindeer herder and political representative, Matti Aikio [Instagram] for a breakfast event, 2 November 2023. It was live broadcast on πNode and lumbung radio/Station of Commons.

We began by recalling Matti’s visit to Sydney, Australia in 2000 as a representative of the Finnish Youth Parliament and then went on to range over issues that overlap art and politics, such as: settler colonialism in Finland and the Nordic States—notably so-called “Green Colonialism”—alongside the appropriation and weaponisation of Sámi culture by the tourism industry. We also discuss our mutual interests in music; the horrorcore rap of Inari language activist Amoc and the intricacies of Sámi joiking. Given we both DJ, Matti also shed some light on the underground techno scenes in the North.

Many thanks to Lena, Petra and Ville-Veikko from Goethe-Institut Finnland for organising the event. Also props to Timo Tuhkanen, Eddie Choo Wen Yi, Constantinos Miltiadis, Irina Mutt, Mathilde Palenius and Essi for their generous contributions to our conversation, and to Goethe-Institut Finnland and Jakub Bobrowski for the fotos [all links on Instagram]!

Sumugan Sivanesan (L) and Matti Aikio (R) sit at the end of a table behind microphones. Before them are bowls of fruit and jugs of water. Behind them is a video projection of the desktop of Sumugan’s laptop, displaying the software, platforms used for the broadcast and IR chats occurring simultaneously. Foro: Jakub Bobrowski.

Media used in this broadcast:

fugitive frequency, season 3, episode 8: “Risky Business” with Mariam Elnozahy

Sumugan Sivanesan and Mariam Elnozahy in the foreground, with their backs to the camera, are seated at a table in front of a laptop. In front of them is the vegetable garden of the Jan van Eyck Academie. People are gathered here in the sunshine during open studio, 2023.

This month’s episode “Risky Business” is a conversation with curator, writer and researcher Mariam Elnozahy, recorded during a live broadcast at the Jan van Eyck Academie’s Open Studios, 24 June 2023. Our discussion takes its cues from a statement issued from Jan van Eyck participants concerned with the unclear expectations and “unacceptable conditions of labour” that shaped this much anticipated three day public event. It circulates around issues of artistic production, professional practice and the commodification of identities with reference to exhibition making. Furthermore, this podcast demonstrates how a practice of fugitive radio can offer a counter-platform to circumvent the well established trope of institutional critique in contemporary art.

The podcast begins with the voice of Rose Nordin from an earlier podcast, “NightShift: ‘Creative Labour’” that connects issues of work, artistic practice, sociability and the other intangible processes that contribute to professionalised arts. Interspersed in the podcasts are segments of electromagnetic noise made with Kim David Bots and computer riddims available on fugitive productions [bandcamp].

image: “fugitive radio: outside inside open studios, with Mariam Elnozahy. Live broadcast from the Jan van Eyck Academie vegetable garden, 24 June 2023.” foto: Tessa Zettel.

rádio contra o trabalho, Instituto Procomum 18–20 outubro

A group of 8 people. In the foreground, 6 of them are seated on wooden chairs with their backs to us. In the background, 2 of them stand before a computer that is placed on a long table.

rádio contra o trabalho do Instituto Procomum transmitir ao vivo quinta-feira 21.10, entre 18-20horas!

rádio contra o trabalho convenes a working group at Instituto Procomum, Santos, São Paulo. Over three consecutive evenings we will collectively explore streaming audio/radio using free, open source or otherwise accessible tools.

I very much appreciate Gustavo, Fabio, Igor, Almir, Fernando and Danielo joining on a chilly rainy evening alongside Calu, our remarkable interpreter.

I first came to Procomum almost exactly four years ago, where I initiated ‘almoço contra o trabalho’ as part of the organisations LabXSantos artist residency program, November 2018. Notably this was right after the presidential election. Here, I was luck enough to meet and collaborate with the very talented Diego Andrade [Instagram] and Victor Sousa [Instagram]. Diego is currently off the radar, nevertheless it was great to reconnect with Victor.

As expected, there have been some technical hiccups. Initially, my laptop went down and refused to reboot. After an anxious afternoon trouble shooting online and visiting a Mac repair agent in Santos, it seems that the problem was with the power source at Procomum. Then as Victor and I attempted to set up a podcast studio computer we were unable to connect to the internet due to a modem problem. ‘This is how it is in the third world’ quipped Victor, shrugging it off. As a work around I sought out free and accessible audio streaming tools that could work on Android devices. As expected, I stumbled on incompatibility issues between apps and platforms. Certainly, this is an issue that fugitive radio emphasises with its interest in radio as a social practice with experimental technology. Nevertheless it remains frustrating! While Gustavo located another modem to bring our computer online, the group decided to investigate Twitch as a popular and accessible streaming tool that could be used during the upcoming Virada Cultural weekend of events in Santos, 22–23 Outubro.

I was taken by the term gambiarra that Danielo used to describe his practice, which I understand as a kind of hacking, adhoc and improvised approach to getting things done and reminds me of what Suva Das described to me as jugaad technology in India. According to artist Giuliano Obici in Gambioluthiery: Hacking and DIY in Brazil [PDF], gambiarra has a distinctly Brazilian twist, related to notions of antropofago and carnevale; reversing “the order of artifacts, serving as a carnivalization of technique, technology and design.” Obici is concerned with musical instruments and sound art practices, proposing that his: “Gambioluthiery reinforces connections between sound and its materiality as well as the paradoxical gaps between advantage and limitations that techno-consumption produces globally.”

La Cabaret

‘La Cabaret’ image: ‘Sex-part(2006), de Majo-Post-Op

Image credit: ‘Sex-party’ (2006), de Majo-Post-Op.

Saturday June 5, 19:0020:30 CEST (Barcelona, Berlin) 20:0021:30 EEST (Helsinki, Athens)
Streaming on {openradio} 

Welcome to La Cabaret, an open invitation to mix politics and pleasure, with the energy of cabarets, queer bars and block parties to celebrate that despite all the struggles, we can make room for joy.

Happening in an apartment in Rastila, East Helsinki, this event will have interventions by post-porn researcher and artist Frau Diamanda, tarot readings by Elina Nissinen, improvised spoken word by guests and music by lintulintu.

La Cabaret invites the audience to join with their browsers and ears to know a little bit more about dissident Iberoamerican post-porn, divination with tarot cards and as Lintu Lunar describes their work, to play and dance with ‘technosexual tunes and non-binary data fantasies’. Opening home doors to anyone curious to join us in this encounter. Because this ‘us’ is about you, too.

Artists and collaborators: Frau Diamanda, Elina Nissinen, lintulintu, Yes Escobar, Irina Mutt, fugitive radio, {openradio} (Sophea Lerner).

Hum Klub

Hum Club KuhlSchrank

Hum Klub is concerned with humming as a preverbal musical form of communication and as the background noise of urban life.

Humming can be approached as a low barrier-to-entry mode of (collective) music-making. It can be (non)-performed absent-mindedly, while doing other things, or as a focused resonant practice — think of the yogic ‘Om’.

Hum Klub also has an interest in humming as the background noise to urban life; the hum of motors, refrigerators, electricity hubs, and other sounds that we are mostly inattentive to, that we have learned to filter out. We might ask how does a hum differ from a buzz?

Hum Klub seeks to explore what happens when we bring these and other notions of humming together. We could make a humming dérive or drift through an urban centre. What kind of psychogeographies might we uncover? It’s not hard to imagine how humming could serve as a means of communication, marking one’s movement within proximity to others. So might humming be a navigation tool, as a means of echolocation? What happens when the humming stops? Does background noise take over or are we left with the ringing in our ears? Where might we find ourselves when humming guides our negotiations of urban space?

Hum KClub will also convene online on ‘jamming’ platforms, such as Jam, Jamulus and SonoBus, to explore low level forms of connectivity. During this time of pandemic, what is it to be in the presence of others without a specific purpose or focus; while doing others things? How might we be together differently, digitally?

What is the history of humming? When did people first hum? One proposal is that humming and other kinds of preverbal vocalisations are vestigial forms of communication inherited from our pre-human ancestors. What might be the evolutionary reason for its persistence? Simply put: why hum? There is some discussion about the role of biosonics in wellbeing and healing, so might humming relieve anxiety? Could humming enhance the regeneration of cells and soft tissue?

Hum Klub takes its cues from the poet and author Christina Hume who founded ‘Center for the Hum’. In an email interview published on Poetry Foundation (2014) she writes:

In the wake of visual aggression, metamorphosis is biological, and so must be recuperation. Our focus on the body routes us through tactile, kinesthetic, and proprioceptive senses. At the Center, we send high frequency vibrations—in the form of a hum too high to hear—to pressurize the tissues of civilian wounds, but the vibrations, more crucially, locate the wound’s own voice in a kind of echolocation. This echo-pulse lets us take back a sonic subjectivity, an identity informed from surround sound instead of frontal optics.

An excerpt from Hume’s recent book Saturation Project (2021) that concerns ‘hum’ can be found at Full Stop.

Swarm Vs Stack

Sound(ing)Systems Poster

A close friend once described fugitive radio (and when it was initially formulating as Baracca do Sound System) as my ‘teenage-boy-fantasy-sound-system project’, which I went along with until I recently encountered Nik Nowak’s Schizo Sonics at KINDL Berlin.

Indeed, I had initially proposed to build some kind of mobile sound system — ‘a bicycle-mounted radio shack’ — and it may still come to fruition for Pixelache Festival, however fugitive radio seems to drift towards dispersal and the ephemeral, rather than the monumental and antagonistic. I am no stranger to the discourse of sonic weaponry and Nowak’s oeuvre has piqued my interest in the past at CTM. So as someone with an interest in sound system culture, it’s curious that Nowak’s sound sculptures have emerged as a counterpoint to what I now find myself pursuing. Below is a quick comparison of concerns:

Swarm Vs Stack
quotidian technologies at hand / customised industrial technologies
relatively accessible, low barrier to entry / requires access to equipment, skills & some expertise
ephemeral / monumental
guerilla dispersal / centralised soundclash
technology of the (performing) body / the body as driver of the machine

This suggests to me we are dealing with a different politics of space and dialectics when it comes to soundclash. At KINDL Schizo Sonics concerns histories and strategies of Cold War loudspeaker propaganda across a divided Berlin, with contemporaneous post-war sound system cultures in Jamaica acting as ‘the angle between two walls’, to cite A War of Decibels (2021) above. (Interestingly Nowak and his crew point to Hedley Jones, a Jamaican born musician, audio engineer, inventor, writer and trade-unionist who trained as a radar engineer with the British Royal Airforce and served during World War II. When Jones returned to Jamaica he began building amplifiers that were responsive to a much wider frequency range than those readily available, which he later incorporated into sound systems. He is considered one of the most important pioneers of sounds system electronics.) While a soundclash may present a dialectical war of ideologies, I think fugitive radio is concerned with a different politics of space and subjectivation.

Considering dispersed and covert forms of audio performance that I hope to produce in the near future, I was reminded today of discussions during the Onassis AiR School of Infinite Rehearsals: Movement I about how our group might enact different or new relations in the matrices of power we were entangled in as arts workers. Here Federica Bueti alerted us to Tina Campt’s discussion of refusal from her book Listening to Images (2017): ‘creative practices of refusal—nimble and strategic practices that undermine the categories of the dominant.’

I am also reminded again of the Sound Swarm protest performances devised by Grey Filastine that have occurred at numerous UN COP climate conferences, and also of cacerolazo noise protests in which agitators bang on pots and pans.

I am thinking about the ubiquity of blue tooth speakers and how a kind of ‘sonic entity’ might emerge, as political performance and even resistance, from what is at hand and everyday. Another example is the way people use bowls as resonating chambers to amplify the speakers on their mobile phones. For Pixelache Festival I would like to explore these improvised technologies and corporeal gestures further, to develop what I’ve discussed elsewhere as a ‘Choreography of Disobedience’.

Protest Aesthetics

Last week I attended a rally in Berlin to draw attention to the longstanding issue of Aboriginal deaths in police custody in (so-called) Australia. It followed on from mass protests in Australia in affiliation with Black Lives Matter. At Platz der Republik, directly in front of the Reichstag, the organisers had set up a small but effective sound system, consisting of a self-powered speaker on wheels, above which was raised an Aboriginal flag. Coincidentally, the colours of the Aboriginal flag are also those of the flag of the Bundesrepublik. A placard proclaiming ‘Stop Adani’, a mining giant planning set to build one of the world’s largest coal ports on the Great Barrier reef, was strapped to the bamboo flag pole. Two soundbwoys (soundboize, to be gender non-specific?) hunched behind the speakers, fiddling with smart phones and wireless microphones shielded from the light rain under a lime green umbrella.

The ad-hoc quality of this installation was reminiscent of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra. The make-shift embassy was first established under a beach umbrella on the grounds in front of Parliament House in 1972 by a group of young activists, many of whom were part of the Black Theatre in Redfern, Sydney. Artist Richard Bell, who is of that generation claims, it is possibly the first and longest-standing piece of durational performance art in Australia. So it seems apt that its envoy in Berlin would be compact, portable, and also expandable—taking up space as material (flag) and as sound; piquing my interest in sound as ‘public address’ in making space, and indeed in taking space.

A small crowd lingered on from a rally for gender justice and trans rights that had just taken place on the other side of the Platz. When given the OK by the police, the organisers turned on the music, signalling that the demonstration would soon begin. I was curious to observe how music calls people together; sounds out, signals, perhaps interpellates and certainly corrals those gathered into a temporary attentive community. The music that came out of the speaker was a track that I could not name, or could not honestly say that I had heard before, but was nevertheless familiar. A thumping four-on-the-floor dance rhythm underpinned a swirling didgeridoo or yidaki sample, that mingled in the same frequency range of a looped sample of people chanting in a language I cold not recognise. The track was punctuated by a startling sample of a kookaburra laughing, quantized to the beat the bird call rings the alarm, like police sirens might do on productions composed of more ‘urban’ sound palettes. It’s a kind of music I associate with ‘bush doofs’; outdoor dance parties often held in remarkable and often secret locations in Australia. Part of cultural phenomena I associate with movements that emerged in the 1990s and early 2000s like ‘Reclaim the Streets’, psy-trance parties (often organised by Israeli expats who had spent some time after their compulsory military service decompressing in Goa) and Rainbow Festivals, alongside blockades such as Jabiluka. It’s a sound that on reflection brings together a number of interests that have informed my politics; right to the city activism, Aboriginal land rights and anticolonial activism, Blak and Green solidarity and psychedelic hedonism (and associated interests such as neuroplasticity, trauma and transformation).

I was video-documenting the event at the Reichstag, and some days later Shazaamed the track, turning up Kookaburra (2014) by the Coober Pedy University Band, a duo of Tom Wallace and William Paxton. The first release of the Animals Dancing label, it is listed under the genre of ‘tribal house’ with the endorsement of being ‘a bit too mental for me’. The Melbourne-based producers describe their collaboration as Krautback (I suppose a reference to Krautrock), so there is some sense of completion when bringing their bush aesthetics (or a simulacra of the bush) to the German (cultural) capital.

While the track brought a knowing smile to my face, and I shared some knowing glances with others at the protest, it left me wondering about its politics. Who are the voices chanting? What are they chanting? Isn’t the track ultimately a kind of kitsch — Aboriginalia?

Arguably to a DJ, such music are not songs per se, but tracks; DJ tools to be mixed and potentially subverted (depending on context). Kookaburra also brings to mind Yothu Yindi’s Treaty (Filthy Lucre remix) (1991), yet without, at least explicitly, making the same political demand. Nevertheless, here in Berlin it was put to use to call attention to Aboriginal rights and ongoing colonial genocide.

Thinking about it further brought up a memory of a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs with some friends from an inner-city warehouse community. We bought a second-hand station wagon and drove for three days west and then north, where we met up with some friends just south of Uluru. We transferred across to a fleet of ‘troopies’, former army-service four-wheel-drives, and drove to the edge of the Simpson desert, where three states meet. Amongst the crew were Izzy and Marc from activist hip-hop outfit Combat Wombat. I learned on that trip that Izzy and Marc first attempted to escape Melbourne in a reconditioned army tank powered on bio-diesel. Their second album Unsound System (2005) was recorded on the road using solar-power.

One night, it might have been a full moon, we camped out near a water hole and danced to rock ‘n roll under a desert sky. Chuck Berry and Little Richard blared out from the troopie’s speakers, and probably not so far from a US military base. The vehicle was parked on a road of loose pebbles, which we kicked up as we danced. They would scatter and collide, sparking off each; bright, brilliant flashes about the troopie’s twin beams of light.

To think further about DJing as a political practice, I want to turn attention to Berlin-based ‘post-club’ producer Ziúr, and specifically a mix from the 2018 Soft Centre Festival at Casula Powerhouse in Sydney. Clearing the space with a sequence of juddering digital noise and tweaked urban field recordings, Ziúr then raises the voice of actress Rosalie Kunoth-Monks (star of Jedda (1955)) lifted from John Pilger’s documentary Utopia (2013), punctuating the elder’s jeremiad with bursts of arrhythmic digital percussion.

Ziúr’s mix points to issues for further investigation concomitant with the ‘decolonial turn’ in art and about curatorial practice as activism. Are such practices another trend of aestheticising or performing politics, including discursive trends, or evidence of the politicisation of the arts. If so, towards what ends?