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 Club

Hum Club KuhlSchrank

Hum Club 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 Club 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 Club 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 Club 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 Club 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?