Poethical De-Scriptings


‘Poethical De-Scriptings’ broadcast live from Pixelache Helsinki Festival #BURN____2021 outside Oodi central library, Helsinki, 7 June, featuring artist and finance activist Ana Fradique and artist-musician Suva Das.

‘Poethical De-scriptings’ is a term I use to describe a practice of live and improvised verbal narrations for radio broadcast.

In her essay, ‘Toward a Black Feminist Poethics’ (2014), Denise Ferriera da Silva proposes ‘poethics’ as a means of emancipating the ‘Category of Blackness’ from the scientific and historical ways of knowing that produced it, with ‘the ethical mandate of opening up other ways of knowing’ (p. 81). Releasing Blackness from objectification, commodification and the forms of domination that produced slavery, a Black Feminist Poethics elicits a range of possibilities that decolonization demands; not for the betterment of this world, but rather toward ‘the end of the world as we know it’.

‘Scriptings’ is a word coined by the artist Achim Lengerer who is concerned with the political questions of speech and language. It is a conflation of the words ‘script’ and ‘writings’, and is also the name of Lengerer’s publishing and production house in Berlin. ‘Scriptings’ also refers to ‘social scripts’, a term borrowed from behavioural psychology to describe knowledge of how to perform adequately in a given situation. One example is how one gets the attention of a waiter in a restaurant. In some circumstances this can be achieved by establishing eye contact, in others it might be acceptable to call, gesticulate and even whistle. While whistling might be inappropriate in the first scenario, attempting to make eye contact might be insufficient in the latter. So knowing the correct social script is crucial to achieving the desired result, as is performing roles correctly to enable social functioning.

My practice of poethical de-scriptings adopts poethics as an approach to being in the world that enables one to delink from the social scripts that one performs by default. It draws from the ‘alt text’ descriptions that often accompany images online to assist those who are visually impaired. Efforts to address issues of accessibility are inherently political. In this example from screen-based media, written and audio descriptions expose the epistemological violence of (hegemonic) visual cultures.

The term ‘access intimacy’ was conceived by writer and disability justice activist Mia Mingus to name the ‘hard to describe feeling’ and ‘eerie comfort’ that arises when someone ‘gets’ her access needs. Access intimacy is not exclusive to disabled people and Mingus (2011) confides:

There have been relationships that carried emotional, physical and political intimacy, but sorely lacked access intimacy. And there have been relationships where access intimacy has helped to create the conditions out of which emotional, familial and political intimacy could grow.

Mingus urges her readers to adopt ‘Access as a framework’ to address a spectrum of needs of those who are (differently) disadvantaged in an ableist world. Furthermore, she distinguishes access intimacy to ‘obligatory access’ that is ‘stoic’ or perfunctory. She writes:

Sometimes access intimacy doesn’t even mean that everything is 100% accessible. Sometimes it looks like both of you trying to create access as hard as you can with no avail in an ableist world. Sometimes it is someone just sitting and holding your hand while you both stare back at an inaccessible world.

My practice of poethical de-scriptings shifts from literal descriptions of my visible surroundings into self-reflection and speculation. While it might sometimes involve close looking and articulation of details, I work in the haze of representation; my poethical de-scriptings may not be visually accurate, but neither are they fiction. Rather, I seek to be personal and precise about what I am see-feeling-thinking.

I approach radio as a medium that is networked and as an event that can be collectively produced and distributed. Rather than the mass media notion of broadcasting to the world, I pursue radio as a social practice that connects peers, friends and enthusiasts. Rather than shouting out to an unknown audience, my technique is more akin to whispering into a lover’s ear.

Attempting audio descriptions made me acutely aware of the power dynamics inherent in language and that are reinforced in everyday speech acts. I discovered that my efforts to communicate clearly and sensitively were determined, and arguably undermined, by social scripts which inform reflexive speech. Foregrounding these codes emphasised that what is ‘normal’ is designed and that these designs condition, noticeably in the built environment and ‘public sphere’. Indeed, it reveals the prejudices of normativity and how one is positioned relative to authority.

As such, poethical de-scriptings attempts to deconstruct and dismantle these power dynamics through an improvised verbal practice. It makes one acutely aware of how ‘words shape worlds’; how ‘worlding’ is material-discursive and how language is privileged as knowledge. Towards the end of the live broadcast embedded above, the artist Suva  demonstrates his hand percussion skills on the ‘Konch’ urban furniture in which I was seated. It is an example of how such a skilled musician can ‘talk with their hands’. This might be phonetic, as Suva mimics the sound of language with percussion. Suva also refers to pre-established cultural codes that might announce an event such as the birth of a child, a wedding or war, emphasising that drumming can also be emotive, making using of texture, pattern and abstraction.

Extending out towards non-verbal communication such as humming and drumming, poethical de-scriptings seeks to jailbreak language from the authority it is deployed to uphold and shift ways of being-in-relation in the world.

Live broadcast Under A Fooled Moon

SonoBus interface

A recording of the live broadcast of our radiophonic ‘closing ceremony’ for Suva’s exhibition, ‘Untitled’ at Myymälä2, Helsinki.

Participants gathered ‘Under a Fooled Moon’ in the gallery and on SonoBus, a multi-user audio streaming platform, for a live improv session that was streamed on openradio.in Using our voices, Suva guided us through a collective experiment in performing networked radio infrastructure as one would play a musical instrument.

The event was devised in collaboration with Sophea Lerner and Timo Tuhkanen.

‘Under a Fooled Moon’ a Radiophonic Closing Ceremony for Suva ‘Untitled’.

Suva Closing Ceremony

9 May 2021 from 17.00
Myymälä2, Helsinki
SonoBus Private Group: underafooledmoon
openradio.in

fugitive radio is convening a collective radiophonic ritual, gathering ‘Under a Fooled Moon’ for a live improv session led by Suva. Guests are asked to bring FM radio receivers, earbuds, smartphones and bluetooth speakers to open a portal between parallel (sonic) universes; you can join onsite at Myymälä2 gallery and online at the SonoBus Private Group: underafooledmoon. The situation is being devised in collaboration with Sophea Lerner and Timo Tuhkanen.

If you are curious to join online or in the gallery with your smartphone, SonoBus is a multi-user platform for streaming audio. It’s great for jammin’. The app is free to download and is available for a range of operating systems, devices and as an audio plug-in: https://sonobus.net/

The event will be streamed live to https://openradio.in/live

From 30 April until 9 May 2021, the Helsinki-based artist Suva exhibits a large series of watercolour portraits of ‘protagonists’ and instrument-sculptures that will be brought to life during impro-performances at Myymälä2. ‘Untitled’ is supported by Artists at Risk. See the Facebook event for dates and times.

fugitive radio is an artistic-research project initiated by Sumugan Sivanesan to research migrant/anticolonial perspectives and music in the North and pursue radio-as-method. fugitive radio is funded by the Kone Foundation and is being made in collaboration with Pixelache. Live broadcasts are supported by {openradio}.

fugitive frequency episode 05: Jammin’

Stevie

Jammin’ is a mashed-up sonic (anti-)ethnography of online multi-user audio streaming platforms such as Jamulus and SonoBus — MUDs for musos. A montage of recordings made in various jam rooms I entered or initiated in April 2021 have been edited together with excerpts from a conversation I had in November 2020 with Helsinki-based artist Suva [Facebook] and a recording from one of his recent performances.
Special thanks to ‘Europe session’, ‘Jazz so what’, ‘probando‘, ‘talktesttrytipstricks‘, ‘1234_Portugal‘ and ‘Hum Club‘ amongst others. Also a shout out to Peter from Exerzierstraße for introducing me to these spaces and who also makes a cameo.

Suva’s exhibition ‘Untitled’ [Facebook], comprising of a series of water colour paintings and sculptural instruments, can be experienced at Myymälä2 Gallery, Helsinki from 29 April – 9 May 2021. fugitive radio will be presenting a closing ceremony ‘Under a Fooled Moon’ [Facebook] on Sunday 9 May which guests can join in the gallery or on SonoBus.

Music, media and references
Stevie Wonder illustration by Al Harper for the cover of Hotter Than July (1980)

Suva debuts Time

Suva’s notebook

Suva (Facebook), a dear friend of fugitive-radio, introduced his new self-made instrument, Time, at Myymälä2 on Saturday afternoon, 30 January, to a enthusiastic crowd of fans, friends and supporters.

As described in his notebook, the instrument is made from the frame of a metal fan, long forgotten in his attic, and the frame of a watchtower clock and round wooden objects the artist found at a fleamarket. Working with his hands — binding, stretching and gluing — Suva arrived at this sculptural object-instrument. After incorporating a contact-microphone into the assemblage, ‘Time was born’.

In April–May, Myymälä2 will host an exhibition by Suva and we are planning to collaborate on an event — stay tuned!

Radio Wok Helsinki

Samba Carnival Helsinki

Fugitive Radio presented its first live ‘radio fanzine’, Radio Wok Helsinki (initially title Radiowalk Helsinki) for Nepantlas#4, Akademie Schloss Solitude curated by Daphne Dragona. Produced by myself, Sumugan Sivanesan, and Irina Mutt with the support of Sophea Lerner, the fanzine featured the multimedia artist Suva.

Notions of the ‘audio fanzine’ and of ‘performance as publishing’ were initially raised by Irina, which we developed as an experimental processes, circling around the themes of displacement, vulnerability, solidarity and self-defence. We arrived at narrative formats that referenced the printed zine, such as comics, recipes, interviews and a centrefold.

The performance occurred on Schloss Solitude’s video conferencing platform from which an audio stream was broadcast on {openradio}. Those who registered and attended the event online, were privy to extra visual and text elements and were also invited to participate or intervene. (Noone took up the offer, but we understand it could take a while to get familiar with the process!). There was also a discussion afterwards, which was also not part of the radio fanzine.