Sonic Continuum

Nottingham Contemporary’s new research strand, Sonic Continuum, investigates practices of world-making through sound, both as a force that constitutes the world and a medium for producing knowledge about it. Thinking through sound, silence and speech, whose voices are heard, who listens, and by what means, Sonic Continuum, explores the sonic as the articulation of tempos and cycles of time.

This long-term research strand includes listening sessions, performance, new sound commissions, a symposia series, a writer in residence, study sessions, podcasts, yoga and more, investigating how listening might exceed existing frameworks of representation. It brings together cross-disciplinary contributions that use sound to narrate historical and contemporary global processes as means to rethink regressive populism and towards a poetics of the future beyond neoliberal regimes of extraction and dispossession.

By assembling both sequential and simultaneous timeframes, it sets a renewed interest in rhythm as a social language in which connections between historical, political and structural inequities can be perceived. It asks: can sound restitute failures to listen? What future imaginaries and sonic worlds can listening unfold? Sonic Continuum expands on the event series The Violence of Abstraction between March and July 2019, and questions how conjoining our hearing senses with the unsound, the not-yet audible, and the silent, projects imaginative modes of resistance, aural alliances and forms of attunement.

Symposia series

Histories of Listening – 28-29 March 2020

Acousmatic Paranoia – 25 April 2020

Listening as Critique – 27-28 June 2020

Expanded Listening – 23-24 October 2020

Sonic Continuum develops over the course of 2020 through a symposia series in four instalments. The series proposes a shift from representation to expression and investigates the various geometries of power that determine how sonic knowledge, discourse, narratives and aesthetics emerge across transhistorical and geopolitical continuities.

A first instalment titled ‘Histories of Listening’ on 28-29 March looks at the compositions of time at play in the interconnected biosocial rhythms of human, vegetal and mineral lives. Departing from global histories of labour, it investigates how the complex of time emerged out of colonial encounters and how the pulsing rhythms of colonial modernity are central to capitalist modes of production.

A second instalment on 25 April, ‘Acousmatic Paranoia,’ is an afternoon of talks and performances on the occasion of Sung Tieu’s exhibition In Cold Print. It explores the materiality of sound through historical and contemporary manifestations of sonic warfare, focusing on the psychoacoustic dimensions of fear. Expanding on the artist’s practice through the lens of geopolitics, sonic infrastructure and their factual ambiguity, the event seeks to reflect on the way resonant frequencies can redefine spaces of conflict by introducing political possibilities and auditory imaginaries.

A third instalment ‘Listening as Critique’ taking place on 27-28 June explores lineages of musical forms, systems of knowledge, language and sensibilities that are lost and gained through transnational movements. Composing through the flow and circulation of sounds—from transoceanic slave trade and anticolonial liberation struggles to international solidarity movements and resistance within music and club cultures. This symposium articulates with our summer exhibitions and investigates rhythm in the wake of the power and authority of the archive.

The final instalment ‘Expanded Listening’ on 23-24 October, looks to the haptic and the sensorial, as well as affective and cognitive dynamics of listening across a wide spectrum of frequencies. It discusses how the environment is acoustically perceived and how attuning the auditory senses to a context of slow and systemic violence may produce a longer temporal frame for sonic agency.

Sonic Continuum is curated by Sofia Lemos and assisted by Ryan Kearney.

Writer in residence

Nottingham Contemporary’s new residency is a collaboration between visual artists and practitioners for whom writing is a significant element in their practice. It emerges from long-term conversations about complex social and political topics and the desire to dwell in the space of imagination. Each yearly residency features individual and collective study sessions organised in collaboration with the resident writer.

In 2020-2021, Nottingham Contemporary welcomes TIME TRAVEL / DIASPORA, a project by Jota Mombaça and the LABORATORY OF VISIONARY FICTION, an emergent, speculative platform focused on the study of the intersections between political imagination and visionary forms of art, literature and philosophical critique.

Since 2018, the LVF activates diverse formats such as workshops, residencies, reading groups and public programmes. At Nottingham Contemporary, the activation will consist in a non-linear research process on diasporic movements in time and space through a series of study sessions, new writing and a publication. Mixing both fictional and historical narratives, visual arts and critical theory, TIME TRAVEL / DIASPORA investigates the interconnectedness of conflicts in South America from the second half of the twentieth century to today. Informed by different historical unfoldings of violence and resilience that resonates both in local and global scales, LVF creates a social diagram in which several temporalities collapse onto each other.

Jota Mombaça is a non-binary bicha, born and raised in the northeast of Brazil, who writes, performs and investigates on the relations between monstrosity and humanity, kuir studies, de-colonial turns, political intersectionality, anticolonial justice, redistribution of violence, visionary fictions, the end of the world and tensions among ethics, aesthetics, art and politics in the knowledge productions of the global south-of-the-south.