Body-Space: Embodied Listening Practices
Body-Space: Embodied Listening Practices is an artistic exploration where the body rethinks the urban space with ears rather than eyes while using various wearable listening apparatuses
body-observer & situated listening
Listening is a temporal event—‘a now-point’ (Ihde, 2007). Listening is a way of thinking that concentrates an intense examination of experience in its multifaceted, complex, and essential forms (Voegelin, 2014). A turn to the auditory dimension is potentially more difficult than a simple switch. It begins as a conscious decentering of a dominant visuality in order to discover other ways of thinking. This artistic exploration considers the role of the modified and intensified hearing within everyday listening practices—sound-walking and sound-standing. While using wearable listening objects that modify and disrupt hearing, the senses are shifted to sonic attention: the body rethinks the urban space with ears rather than eyes.
The primary attention is given to everyday situations of sonic—ordinary and routine sounds—the structure of particular movements in the shared public space. This artistic practice considers the lived-body experience as a central sound-based thinking mode. Situated sonic practices, body in situ, include all sonic practices that highlight space and place-based aspects of sonic experience.
The two ways of listening—sound-walking and sound-standing—were used to explore the difference between the active and passive body regarding the movements concerning the attention to sound. Auto-ethnographical everyday listening is documented with binaural microphones, allowing for experiencing sound's multi-directionality. The first part of listening practice was dedicated to explorations on listening using the walking method (Ingold & Vergunst, 2008) for exploring the city center of Borås.
The ears are meeting the multi-layered composition of sounds: the heavy bass sound of a bus passing by, the dull, pleasant sound of church bells merging into an annoying drilling sound ‘cloud’ on the right, ducks ‘arguing’ on the left and silent rhythms of a person walking on the wooden bridge on the left. I am listening with a filter dress: all sounds are dampened by the sound object. I am entering the bus; my enveloped body enters into one more ‘closed-space’, which amplifies the engine and beeps of the bus.
Within the second part of practice, the listening body becomes a static point in the everyday sonic hiss of movements and interactions. The standing point, the center of a crossroad, becomes a station where the sounds come to.
I hear the dynamics of machine engines, the clicks of light signals, the sonic interruptions, such as the alarming siren of a police car and fire truck, people talking, phone ringing, car beeping, a helicopter passing above my head… I am amplifying, blocking and filtering these sounds with different tools; thus, it exposes the body to this non-ending noise: dialogues and traffic noises merge in the temporal flow—never a silent stream of noise that we might call the ‘everyday soundtrack’ (Augoyard & Torgue, 2006). The sounds of vehicles are so loud; thus, it vibrates through the feet; I am listening with the body—it becomes a resonance chamber. To walk and to stand while listening is a very different experience, where the last one brings sonic attention much better than the first one.
modifying hearing with sound-objects
The collected knowledge is embodied within the practice of listening with somatic objects that modify sound perception in various ways. The somatic objects extend the body and modify a hearing sense by altering it through a listening device, which sensitizes the body and brings the ‘sonic attention’ for this ‘corporeal listening’ (Schulze, 2016) practice. The tools are various body-cantered spatial structures assemblage from found objects and cantered around the situated listening practice. The experimental wearing-hearing artefacts are somatic objects/tools and work as acoustically-oriented body extenders/”googles for the ears”.
The sound-objects are seen as a set—a collection of four different tools for bringing sonic awareness and exploring different hearing modifications that were developed during doctoral research (Stasiulyte, 2020). The set of tools works as acoustic filters and fosters an active listening and creative engagement with a sound matter.
A listening device de-familiarizes the ear or adds another layer of the sound of the material, such as the sound-object with long metal or short plastic tubes. Each listening-object is designed to enhance a particular aesthetic engagement with sound. Tools ‘sculpt’ the sound—dampen, amplify, reflect, filter, isolate, block, etc. The blocking and filtering could be done in different directions: backward, front, right, left, above, or below. As well, acousmatic listening could be explored by using the dress-filter, which cocoons the body into the closed space-container. The stereo and mono listening modes could be explored with the other two sound-objects, and the isolative listening could be investigated by connecting the metal ’tubes’ together.
The intensified attention to the sonic dimension is encouraged within the relational sound-objects, which encourages re-think the space from a completely different—auditory perspective. It results in a different mode of sonic-thinking and recovers the sensitivity, which goes beyond the visual. Thinking with the body through its interface with sound and everyday urban space opens new possibilities of becoming for the body, stretching its old limits and creating new ones. Where sound, body, and space meet, new dimensions of and sensitivities towards environments can be engaged, and our relationship to these and ourselves and each other within these can be re-imagined and transformed (Ouzounian, 2006).
Sound-objects, sound: Vidmina Stasiulytė
Director of photography, post-production of video and sounds: Dovydas Skikas
Body-Space: Embodied Listening Practices (video) at Domestic Provocations: Creativity as a Provocateur of Care and Vice Versa, keynote exhibition, 30 A-1, Pakistan, 11 March 2023