Allanah Stewart is an artist from Aotearoa/New Zealand, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. As well as her work in various experimental music projects, she is the presenter of a monthly podcast radio programme called Enquiring Minds, hosted by Noods radio, which explores old and new, lesser known and well known sounds that loosely fit under the banner of experimental music.
Jen Callaway is a Melbourne musician, sound and performance artist, photographer, and community services worker raised in various parts of Tasmania. Current projects include bands Is There a Hotline?, Propolis, Snacks and Hi God People; and upcoming film Here at the End, by Campbell Walker, as actor/co-writer.
Isha Ram Das is a composer and sound artist primarily concerned with ecologies of environment and culture. He works with experimental sound techniques to produce performances, installations and recordings. He was the 2019 recipient of the Lionel Gell Award for Composition, and has scored feature-length films and nationally-touring theatre installations. He has performed at institutions such as the Sydney Opera House; Black Dot Gallery, Melbourne; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Metro Arts, Brisbane; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; and Boxcopy, Brisbane.
Dylan Robinson is a xwélméxw (Stó:lō) writer, artist, scholar and curator, He is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, and associate professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is author of Hungry Listening, Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies, published by University of Minnesota Press.
Megan Cope is a Quandamooka woman (North Stradbroke Island) in South East Queensland. Her site-specific sculptural installations, video work and paintings investigate issues relating to identity, the environment and mapping practices. Cope’s work often resists prescribed notions of Aboriginality and becomes psychogeographies across various material outcomes that challenge the grand narrative of ‘Australia’ as well as our sense of time and ownership in a settler colonial state.
Australian musician Sean Baxter died on 15 March 2020. Part of Melbourne's improv scene, he is described by musician Anthony Pateras as possessing “a unique aesthetic vision and intellectual depth, mixing highbrow philosophical concepts with punk sensibilities in how he lived, spoke and played. He was pure energy.”
Drumkit and percussionist, Sean was an Australian improviser who forged an international reputation as a bold explorer of percussive possibilities both as a soloist and through his work with the acclaimed avant-garde trio, Pateras/Baxter/Brown. Focusing on the use of extended techniques applied to the conventional drum kit, he utilised an arsenal of metallic junk and other percussive detritus to expand the sonic palette of the percussion tradition. In addition to Pateras/Baxter/Brown, he was involved in many collaborations and was drummer for groups The Throwaways, Bucketrider, Lazy, SxSxSx and Terminal Hz.
Thomas Ragnar is an artist based in Singapore. His work is often underpinned by collaborations, affinities and research with experiential methodologies.
Alessandro Bosetti is an Italian composer, performer and sound artist, currently based in Marseille. His work delves into the musicality of spoken language, utilising misunderstandings, translations and interviews as compositional tools. His works for voice and electronics blur the line between electro-acoustic composition, aural writing and performance.
Lin Chi-Wei is a legend of Taiwanese sonic art, whose practice incorporates folklore culture, noise, ritual, and audience participation.
Mat Dryhurst is an artist who releases music and artworks solo and in conjunction with Holly Herndon and the record label PAN. Dryhurst developed the decentralised publishing framework Saga, which enables creators to claim ownership of each space in which their work appears online, and a number of audio plays that derive their narrative from the personal information of listeners. He lectures on issues of music, technology, and ideology at NYU, and advises the blockchain-based platform co-operative Resonate.is.
Sean Dockray is an artist, writer, and programmer living in Melbourne whose work explores the politics of technology, with a particular emphasis on artificial intelligences and the algorithmic web. He is also the founding director of the Los Angeles non-profit Telic Arts Exchange, and initiator of knowledge-sharing platforms, The Public School and Aaaaarg.
Author of Hearing the Cloud (Zero Books), Emile Frankel is a writer and composer researching the changing conditions of online listening. In his spare time he runs the Sci-Fi and critical fantasy publisher Formling.
Bridget Chappell is a raver and theory bro currently living on the unceded nations of the Latji Latji and Nyeri Nyeri people. They make music as Hextape and organise parties in drains, observatories, and other natural amphitheatres. They founded and run Sound School, work with young musicians behind bars, and make experimental sound technologies to challenge police sirens.
Holly Herndon experiments at the outer reaches of dance music and pop. Born in Tennessee, Herndon spent her formative years in Berlin’s techno scene and repatriated to San Francisco, where she completed her PhD at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. Her albums include Platform (2015) and Proto (2019).
Candice Hopkins is a curator, writer and researcher interested in history, art and indigeneity, and their intersections. Originally from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Hopkins is a citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation. She was senior curator for the 2019 Toronto Biennial of Art, and worked on the curatorial teams for the Canadian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, and documenta 14.
Raven Chacon is a composer, performer and artist from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation. His work ranges from chamber music to experimental noise, to large scale installations, produced solo and with the Indigenous art collective Postcommodity. At California Institute of the Arts, Chacon studied with James Tenney, Morton Subotnick, Michael Pisaro and Wadada Leo Smith developing a compositional language steeped in both the modernist avant-garde and Indigenous cosmologies and subjectivities. He has written for ensembles, musicians and non-musicians, and for social and educational situations, and toured the world as a noise artist.
Lisa Lerkenfeldt is a multi-disciplinary artist working in sound, gesture and performance. Central to her practice is languages of improvisation and intimacy with technology. Traces of a personal discipline and form of graphic notation are introduced in the online exhibition 14 Gestures. The associated recorded work Collagen (Shelter Press, 2020) disrupts the role of the common hair comb through gesture and sound.
Haroon Mirza is an artist who intertwines his practice with the role of composer. Mirza considers electricity his main medium and creates atmospheric environments through the linking together of light, sound, music, videos and elements of architecture. Regularly showing internationally in group and solo exhibitions, Mirza’s work has also been included in the 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, China (2012) and the 54th Venice Biennale, Italy (2011), where he was awarded the Silver Lion.
Shanghai native 33EMYBW (Wu Shanmin) has been an active member in the Chinese music scene for over a decade. She has also performed at CTM and Sinotronics in Germany, China Drifting Festival in Switzerland, and SXSW. Her 2018 album Golem, released on SVBKVLT, was met with critical acclaim and voted one of the best electronic albums of 2018 by Bandcamp. In 2019 she released DONG2 EP under Merrie Records Beijing, and will premiere her sophomore album Arthropods (SVBKVLT) at Unsound 2019.
Alexander Garsden is a Melbourne-based composer, guitarist and electroacoustic musician, working across multiple exploratory musical disciplines. Recent work includes commissions from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Speak Percussion, Michael Kieran Harvey and Eugene Ughetti; alongside performances with artists including Tetuzi Akiyama (Japan), Oren Ambarchi, Radu Malfatti (Austria), Julia Reidy, David Stackenäs (Sweden), and with Erkki Veltheim and Rohan Drape. From 2014 to 2019 Garsden was Co-Director of the INLAND Concert Series. He has taught through RMIT University and the University of Melbourne.
Annika Kristensen is Senior Curator at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne.
Arben Dzika is an artist whose practice involves working with various media including, but not limited to: sound, image, word, and performance. His work primarily seeks to reflect on, interrogate, and play with technologies, systems, and human senses. Within his practice, he works as a producer and DJ under the moniker, Dilae.
Audrey Schmidt is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. She is a regular contributor to Memo Review, co-editor the third issue of Dissect Journal, and has written for various publications including Art Monthly, Art + Australia and un Magazine. She co-founded Minority Report with Adam Hammad in 2018 and released one online issue that was available until the domain expired in 2019. Audrey sits on the FYTA (GR) Board of Advisors.
Autumn Royal is a poet, researcher, and educator based in Narrm/Melbourne. Autumn’s current research examines elegiac expression in contemporary poetry. Autumn is the interviews editor for Cordite Poetry Review, and author of the poetry collections She Woke & Rose (Cordite Books, 2016) and Liquidation (Incendium Radical Library, 2019).
Bianca Winataputri is a Melbourne-based independent curator and writer researching contemporary practice in Southeast Asia, and relationships between individuals and collectives in relation to history, globalisation, identity and community building. Currently working at Regional Arts Victoria, Bianca was previously Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the NGA. She holds a BA (University of Melbourne), and BA Honours from the ANU where she received the Janet Wilkie Prize for Art. In 2018 Bianca was selected for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art’s Curators’ Intensive.
Brian Hioe was one of the founding editors of New Bloom, an online magazine covering activism and youth politics in Taiwan and the Asia Pacific, founded in 2014 in the wake of the Sunflower Movement. Hioe is a freelance writer on social movements and politics, as well as an occasional translator.
Chi Tran is a writer, editor, and an artist who makes poems that may be text, video, object, sound, or drawing. Chi is primarily interested in working with language as a means of coming-to-terms. Their work has been published by Incendium Radical Library Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Australian Poetry and Liminal Magazine and exhibited at galleries including Firstdraft, Sydney; Punk Café, Melbourne; and ACCA, Melbourne. In 2019, as a recipient of The Ian Potter Cultural Trust Fund, Chi spent three months in New York developing their practice with renowned poets including Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Fred Moten, and Jackie Wang.
Chun Yin Rainbow Chan is a Hong Kong–Australian artist, living in Sydney. Working across music, performance and installation, Rainbow is interested in the copy and how the ways in which it can disrupt Western notions of ownership. Central to Rainbow's work is the circulation of knock-off objects, sounds and images in global media. Her work positions the counterfeit as a complex sign that shapes new myths, values and contemporary commodity production.
Dale Gorfinkel is a musician-artist whose stylefree improvisational approach informs his performances, instrument-building, and kinetic sound installations. Aiming to reflect an awareness of the dynamic nature of culture and the value of listening as a mode of knowing people and places, Dale is interested in bringing creative communities together and shifting perceived boundaries. Current projects include Prophets, Sounds Like Movement, and Music Yared as well as facilitating Art Day South, an inclusive arts studio with Arts Access Victoria.
Danni Zuvela is a curator and writer based in Melbourne and the Gold Coast. Her research is informed by interests in feminism, activism, ecology, language and performance. With Joel Stern, Danni has led Liquid Architecture as Artistic Director, and continues to develop curatorial projects for the organisation.
Eric Avery is a Ngiyampaa, Yuin, Bandjalang and Gumbangirr artist. As part of his practice Eric plays the violin, dances and composes music. Working with his family’s custodial songs he seeks to revive and continue on an age old legacy – continuing the tradition of singing in his tribe – utilising his talents to combine and create an experience of his peoples culture.
Fjorn Butler is an artist, researcher, and event organiser. As an artist, she works primarily in sound and performance under the name Papaphilia. As a researcher, she interrogates how biological discourses are used in neoliberal/colonial governance structures to shape the political. Fjorn's research informs her writing on sound-poetics and the challenges this framework poses to anglophone notions of property. She is also co-director of Future Tense and co-curator of Writing and Concepts.
Freya Schack-Arnott is an Australian/Danish cellist who enjoys a multi-faceted career as a soloist and ensemble performer of classical and contemporary repertoire, curator and improviser within experimental music, electronics, popular and cross-disciplinary art forms. Schack-Arnott regularly performs with Australia's leading new music ensembles, including ELISION Ensemble (as core member) and Ensemble Offspring. Her curatorial roles include co-curator/founder of the regular 'Opus Now' music series and previous curator of the NOW Now festival and Rosenberg Museum.
Gooooose (Han Han) is an electronic music producer, visual artist and software developer based in Shanghai, China. His current releases include They (D Force, 2017), Dong 1 (D Force, 2018), Pro Rata (ANTE-RASA, 2019). Gooooose's 2019 SVBKVLT–released RUSTED SILICON received positive reviews from media including boomkat, Resident Advisor, Dusted Magazine, and The Wire. Gooooose has performed live at CTM (Berlin, 2018), Nyege Nyege (Kampala, 2019), Soft Centre (Sydney, 2019), Unsound (Kraków, 2019) and Recombinant (San Francisco, 2019).
Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, archivist, director, and the author of four collections of poetry, Negro League Baseball, Go Find Your Father/A Famous Blues, Hollywood Forever, and A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom. She lives in New York and Los Angeles.
James Rushford is an Australian composer-performer who holds a doctorate from the California Institute of the Arts, and was a 2018 fellow at Academy Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart. His work is drawn from a familiarity with specific concrète, improvised, avant-garde and collagist languages. Currently, his work deals with the aesthetic concept of musical shadow. James has been commissioned as a composer by ensembles including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Glasgow), and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and regularly performs in Australia and internationally.
Jessica Aszodi is an Australian-born, London-based vocalist who has premiered many new pieces, performed work that has lain dormant for centuries, and sung roles ranging from standard operatic repertoire to artistic collaborations. She has been a soloist with ensembles including ICE; the Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras; and San Diego and Chicago Symphony Orchestras’ chamber series. Aszodi can be heard on numerous recordings and has sung in festivals around the world. She holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Queensland Conservatorium, an MFA from the University of California, and is co-director of the Resonant Bodies Festival (Australia), and artistic associate of BIFEM.
Kt Spit (Katie Collins) is an artist and musician based in Narrm (Melbourne). Lyrically and visually her work explores subcultural narratives and challenges dominant representations of loss, grief, and true love. In 2015 Kt independently released her debut album, Combluotion, and in 2019 will release a visual album entitled Kill the King.
The Convoy conjure illustrious soundscapes from the abyss of chaos, revealing hidden worlds of the imagination as the performance takes form and infuses with subjective experience. Using instruments of sound, light and smell, The Convoy enchant space with themes of tension, evolution, entropy and regeneration. Sensorial immersion transports audiences through highly dynamic environments that shift and blend into one single, breathing moment. As entity, rather than singular, Immy Chuah is a guest within The Convoy on unceded land.
I’m interested in what can be done with one’s identity and the space around it. Both my body and mind, touching everyday feelings between the rational, the playful and the political. Of course, this is often to do with my disability and my sexuality. My work has been focused on access, and the lack of it — to places, people’s minds and opportunities. I find plasticine is a great subverter of space and potentially of people’s minds. And the continued flexibility of it is something I am really enjoying — covering or filling up gaps and playing with crevices. But I’m finding that my work is drawing more and more to spoken word as a powerful format.
Sarah McCauley is a Melbourne-based music producer, editor and writer.
Neil Morris is a Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung man. He is well known in Narrm/Birraranga for his musical project DRMNGNOW, a project built on subject matter tackling the colonial nature of the Australian construct and how that affects contemporary society upon this land. The work is unapologetic, clear, and deeply poetic. It hints toward Morris's extensive experience as a spoken word artist in Narrm since 2015. Morris's work is triumphant in the face of severe adversity often imbued in a quite fortified melancholy, a powerful marker of the survival of First Nations peoples in the now.
Natasha Tontey is an artist and graphic designer based in Yogyakarta. She is interested in exploring the concept of fiction as a method of speculative thinking. Through her artistic practice she investigates the idea of how fear, horror, and terror could be manifested in order to control the public and how fictional accounts of the history and myth surrounding ‘manufactured fear’ might operate as a method of speculative fiction that determines expectations for the future.
Mat Spisbah is a New Media curator with a unique portfolio of programming that seeks to integrate non-traditional artistic methods and emerging technologies. Having lived in Hong Kong for 14 years, he is connected to the region’s art and culture, and has created professional networks with artists, curators, galleries, promoters and industry professionals across Australasia. Portfolio highlights include the debut Australian performances of north Asian artists including: Howie Lee, Rui Ho, Meuko Meuko, Pan Daijing, Alex Zhang Hungtai, Tzusing, and Gabber Modus Operandi.
Mandy Nicholson is a Wurundjeri-willam (Wurundjeri-baluk patriline) artist and Traditional Custodian of Melbourne and surrounds. Mandy also has connections to the Dja Dja wurrung and Ngurai illam wurrung language groups of the Central/Eastern Kulin Nation. Mandy gained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Aboriginal Archaeology in 2011, worked for the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages for six years and is now a PhD candidate studying how Aboriginal people connect to Country, Off Country.
Lucreccia Quintanilla is an artist, writer, DJ and PhD candidate researcher at Monash University. Her writing and art have been published and exhibited both within Australia and internationally. Quintanilla’s practice is a collaborative one that manifests into outcomes within galleries and also as events and performances outside of that context. She regularly speaks at panels and symposiums on themes within her research, has received grants for her projects and residencies, and has taught at university level.
Amanda Stewart is a poet, author, and vocal artist. She has created a diverse range of publications, performances, film and radio productions in Australia, Europe, Japan, and the USA, working in literature, new music, broadcasting, theatre, dance, and new media environments. Amanda collaborated with Chris Mann for many years in the Australian ensemble, Machine For Making Sense (with Jim Denley, Rik Rue, and Stevie Wishart), as well as in other contexts. Her poem ‘ta’ was written in honour of Chris Mann’s extraordinary vision and work.
Holly Childs is an artist and writer. Her research involves filtering stories of computation through frames of ecology, earth, memory, poetry, and light. She is the author of two books: No Limit (Hologram, Melbourne) and Danklands (Arcadia Missa, London), and she collaborates with Gediminas Žygus on ‘Hydrangea’. She is currently writing her third book, What Causes Flowers Not to Bloom?.
Ivy Alvarez’s poetry collections include The Everyday English Dictionary, Disturbance, and Mortal. Her latest is Diaspora: Volume L (Paloma Press, 2019). A Fellow of MacDowell Colony (US), and Hawthornden (UK), her work is widely published and anthologised (twice in Best Australian Poems), with poems translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese and Korean. Born in the Philippines and raised in Australia, she lived in Wales for almost a decade, before arriving in New Zealand in 2014.
Nick Ashwood is a guitarist, composer, improviser and performer from Nipaluna/Tasmania now residing in Sydney. His focuses have been exploring deep listening, harmonic space and the possibilities of the steel-string acoustic guitar by means of preparations, just intonation, objects and bowing.
Berlin-based composer-performer Johnny Chang engages in extended explorations surrounding the relationships of sound/listening and the in-between areas of improvisation, composition and performance. Johnny is part of the Wandelweiser composers collective and currently collaborates with: Catherine Lamb (Viola Torros project), Mike Majkowski (illogical harmonies), Phill Niblock, Samuel Dunscombe, Derek Shirley and others.
Megan Alice Clune shifts between musician, composer and artist. Primarily, her work explores both the concept and aesthetics of ambient music through sound installation, collaboration and performance. Megan is the founding member of the Alaska Orchestra, and has presented work and undertaken residencies across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America, including the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival (MA), Next Wave Festival, Underbelly Arts Festival, Performa 15 (NYC) and VividLIVE at the Sydney Opera House.
Andrew Fedorovitch is compos mentis. Andrew Fedorovitch embodies professionalism in every aspect of his life, including music.
Shota is an artist working in Australia. He makes sound-based works for varying contexts. He has had the opportunity to collaborate with a multitude of artists from varying disciplines. Shota is currently an honours student who is associated with the Plant ecophysiology and Ecosystem processes lab at the University of Sydney.
Sonya Holowell is a Dharawal woman, vocalist, composer and writer working across new and experimental genres. The contexts for her work, and the forms they take, are diverse and deeply questioning. Her practice comprises interdisciplinary collaboration, improvisation, multi-form writing and conceptual composition. She is also a workshop facilitator; a curator of the Now Now Festival; lecturer in experimental vocal practice; and a co-founder/editor of online arts publication ADSR Zine.
Alexandra Spence is an artist and musician living on Gadigal country in Sydney, Australia. She makes installations, compositions and performances based on (everyday) sound and listening. Through her practice she attempts to reimagine the intricate relationships between the listener, the object, and the surrounding environment as a kind of communion or conversation. She has a current, near-spiritual, obsession with the animation of material and object through sound. Alex has performed and presented work on radio, in concerts, festivals, symposiums and galleries worldwide, and has two releases: Waking, She Heard The Fluttering, with Room40, and Immaterial, with Longform Editions.
MP Hopkins is an artist based in Sydney, Australia, that is concerned with how to record voices that are not really there, and ways to make voices that are there not sound like voices. He makes audio recordings, performances, and texts.
Joel Stern is a curator, researcher, and artist living and working on Wurundjeri land in Melbourne, Australia. He has been Artistic Director of Liquid Architecture since 2013. In 2018, with critical legal scholar James Parker, Stern curated Eavesdropping, an expansive project addressing the ‘politics of listening’ through work by artists, researchers, writers, detainees and activists from Australia and around the world.
Georgia Hutchison is a cultural development practitioner and arts executive in Naarm/Melbourne, and Executive Director/CEO of Liquid Architecture. Her practice as an artist, educator, organiser and strategist crosses contemporary art, music, design and social justice.
Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu) is a new and original voice in the evolving journey of Taonga Puoro. His debut album Whāia te Māramatanga (Rattle Records) is a deeply felt and highly concentrated conversation between the past and the present—a musical passage of identity and connection. Using modern loop technology and traditional Māori flutes and horns made from stone, bone, shell and wood, Thorne creates a transcendent aural experience that touches the soul with timeless beauty. Every performance of Whāia te Māramatanga is a stunning and very personal exploration of the spiritual and healing qualities of an ancient practice.
Michiko Ogawa is a performer-composer specialising in the clarinet, born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. She performs not only classical repertoire but also contemporary and experimental music, including free improvisation and film soundtrack work. In 2019 she was awarded a doctorate (DMA) from the University of California San Diego, with a dissertation focusing on the film music of Teiji Ito. She is in the beginning stages of writing a biography of Ito’s life.
Curious about the tender intersections between art, life and friendships, Emma Nixon is an emerging curator and writer. In 2018 she completed a Bachelor of Art History and Curating at Monash University and co-founded Cathedral Cabinet ARI in the Nicholas Building. In Melbourne she has curated and written about exhibitions that investigate subjects such as abstraction, the domestic, care and collage within contemporary art.
Fayen d’Evie is an artist and writer, based in Muckleford, Australia. Her projects are often conversational and collaborative, and resist spectatorship by inviting audiences into sensorial readings of artworks. Fayen advocates the radical potential for blindness, arguing that blindness offers critical positions and methods attuned to sensory translations, ephemerality, the tangible and the intangible, concealment, uncertainty, the precarious, and the invisible. With artist Katie West, Fayen co-founded the Museum Incognita, which revisits neglected or obscured histories through scores that activate embodied readings. Fayen is also the founder of 3-ply, which investigates artist-led publishing as an experimental site for the creation, dispersal, translation, and archiving of texts.
Debris Facility Pty Ltd is a para-corporate entity who engages im/material contexts with the view to highlight and disrupt administrative forms and their embedded power relations. Deploying print, design, installation, and wearables as the most visible parts of operations, they also work in experimental pedagogy and perforated performance of labour. They are a white-settler parasite with theft and dispossession as the implicated ground from which they work. They currently hold contracts with Liquid Architecture, Victorian College of the Arts, Monash University and Debris Facility Pty Ltd.
Timmah Ball is a writer and urban researcher of Ballardong Noongar descent. She has written for The Griffith Review, Right Now, Meanjin, Overland, Westerly, Art Guide Australia, Assemble Papers, The Big Issue, The Lifted Brow, the Victorian Writer magazine and won the Westerly Patricia Hackett Prize for writing.
Jessie Scott is a practising video artist, writer, programmer and producer who works across the spectrum of screen culture in Melbourne. She is a founding member of audiovisual art collective Tape Projects, and co-directed and founded the inaugural Channels Video Art Festival in 2013.
Christopher L G Hill is an artist, poet, anarchist, collaborator, facilitator, lover, friend, DJ, performer, sound pervader, publisher of Endless Lonely Planet, co-label boss; Bunyip trax, traveller, homebody, dancer, considerate participator, dishwasher, writer, bencher, eater, exhibitor: Sydney, Physics Room, Westspace, TCB, BUS, Punk Cafe,100 Grand street, Lismore Regional Gallery, Good Press, Gambia Castle, Conical, GCAS, NGV, VCA, Mission Comics, Slopes, Art Beat, Papakura Gallery, Neon Parc, UQ Gallery, Tate Modern, Connors Connors, Glasgow International, Sandy Brown, OFLUXO, New Scenarios, Margaret Lawrence, Flake, Utopian Slumps, World Food Books, Sutton, Rearview, Joint Hassles, a basement, a tree, Innen publications, SAM, Chateau 2F, etc, and tweeter, twitcher, sleeper, Biennale director (‘Melbourne Artist initiated’ 2008, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018-20), DJ, retired gallerist Y3K, conversationalist who represents them self and others, born Melbourne/Narrm 1980c.e, lives World.
Iliass Saoud was born in Halba, Lebanon in 1960 as the sixth of eight children of Wakim and Nadima Saoud. Escaping the Lebanese Civil War in 1977, Iliass migrated to Canada pursued a BA in Mathematics from Dalhouse University in 1982. In 1987 he married Janice Joseph (Fakhry) before settling in Australia to raise his family in 1997, owning a variety of small businesses including the Gaffney Street post office across from the Lincoln Mill’s Centre in Coburg from 2005-2011. Currently, Iliass works part time at a local newsagency and is an avid Bridge player and a dedicated grandfather of one.
Dimitri Troaditis works in the Greek-Australian media. As a poet he has been extensively published in Greece and in Australia in numerous literary journals, websites, blogs and anthologies. He has published six poetry collections and two social history books so far. He has organised poetry readings in Melbourne for years and translates others’ poetry. He runs poetry website To Koskino and was a resident of Coburg for 19 years.
Luisa Lana was born in Australia in 1953. Her mother Nannina had arrived in Australia in 1950 with a 3 month old son, and worked for many years on the sewing room floors and her father Angelo worked on the docks where he helped unionise the Italian workforce. Luisa and her brother were latchkey kids, as they looked after themselves in the morning and ran the ‘Continental’ deli in the evenings. Luisa attained a teaching degree, then a postgrad in Social Sciences, and twice studied Italian at The University for Foreigners in Perugia, Italy. Luisa married Luigino Lana, a Venetian migrant who operated a mechanic business in Brunswick for over 30 years. She devoted her life to being an educator and a mother, teaching Italian to English speakers and English to generations of migrants from around the world. Currently Luisa is translating her father's memoirs from Italian to English, and enjoying being a Nonna.
Anabelle Lacroix is a French-Australian curator, writer and radio contributor. Working independently in Paris, she is based at Fondation Fiminco for a year-long residency focused on the politics of sleeplessness (2020). She has a broad practice, and a current interest in experimental practice, working with performance, sound, discourse and publishing. She is a PhD candidate at UNSW Art & Design.
Geoff Robinson is a Melbourne-based artist working on Wurundjeri country. Robinson creates event-based artworks that utilise the temporal qualities of sound and performance and the spatial conditions of physical sites to unravel the durational layers of place. Robinson has presented projects with Titanik, Turku; Bus Projects, Melbourne; Liquid Architecture, Melbourne; and MoKS, Mooste, Estonia. He was awarded the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2014 and completed the PhD project Durational Situation at MADA, Monash University, Melbourne, 2018.
Mattin is a cross disciplinary artist working with noise, improvisation and dissonance. His work Social Dissonance was presented at documenta 14 in 2017 in Kassel and Athens.
Elena Biserna is a scholar and independent curator based in Marseille (France), working at the intersection of social, political and public spheres.
Tobi Maier is the director of Lisbon’s Municipal Galleries, and recently presented Mattin’s Expanding Concert (2019–2023) a four year long concert distributed in time and space through different media: 5 public interventions in 5 different galleries in Lisbon, and 5 texts published within the city.
Clare Milledge is an artist and academic, she lives and works between the lands of the Arakwal people in Bundjalung country (Broken Head, Northern NSW) and the lands of the Bidjigal and Gadigal people (Paddington, Sydney). She is a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Art & Design and is represented by STATION gallery.
Alexander Powers is a choreographer, performer and DJ from Naarm. In 2019 they premiered their first full length choreographic work Time Loop at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, receiving the Temperance Hall Award at the Fringe Awards. Under the moniker Female Wizard, they are known internationally for their forward-thinking DJ sets. They’ve performed at Golden Plains, Dark Mofo, Boiler Room, Hybrid Festival and Soft Centre and held a four year residency at Le Fag.
Zoe Scoglio’s (often collaborative) practice explores the space of art as a site of study and sociality to engage the radical imagination towards alternative ways of being, knowing and relating. Current research takes critical and collective somatic approaches towards response-ability in these times of ecological collapse, within settler colonial conditions. Past projects have taken place within varied contexts, on top of mountains and under full moons, as large collective choreographies and intimate encounters.
Tricky Walsh is a non-binary artist working in New Norfolk, Tasmania, who works both collaboratively and in a solo capacity. Their projects focus on both spatial and communication concerns in an increasingly speculative manner and while they use a diversity of media (architecture, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, sound, film, comics, radio) it is foremost the concept at hand that determines which form of material experimentation occurs within these broader themes.
Kengné Téguia is a Black Deaf HIV+ cyborg artist, who works from sound deafinitely. #TheBLACKRevolutionwillbeDEAFinitelyLoud
Angela Goh is a dancer and choreographer. Her work poses possibilities for disruption and transformation inside the aesthetics and conditions of technocapitalism, planetarity, and the post-anthropocene. She lives and works in Sydney, and has toured her work across Australia, Europe, the UK, the USA and Asia. She received the 2020 Keir Choreographic Award and the inaugural Sydney Dance Company Beyond the Studio Fellowship 2020-21.
Jannah Quill’s deconstructive exploration of electronic instruments and technologies manifests in electronic music production and experimental audio-visual performance and installation. Jannah modifies existing technologies (such as solar panels) into innovative light-to-audio systems, used with software/hardware experimentation and modular synthesis to carve a distinct voice in electronic music and art.
Tom Smith is a Melbourne-based artist, musician and researcher whose work combines video assemblages, experimental performance, speculative fiction, electronic music, websites and critical writing. Tom’s work is concerned with the politics and poetics of computational systems, the contradictions of creative economies, generic digital aesthetics and music as a mode of critical inquiry. Tom is also one half of music production duo Utility, and runs an independent record label called Sumactrac with Jarred Beeler (DJ Plead) and Jon Watts.
Pris Roos grew up in Rhenen, the Netherlands. Her family migrated from Bogor, Indonesia, to start their own toko in the Netherlands. Toko is the Indonesian word for shop, and they sell non-Western food (products). Roos grew up in the toko, a space of being together, and full of colours, smells, food, stories and images of immigrants. The toko is a source of inspiration for her artistic practices. Stories that are normally not heard find their way in her works. Roos makes portraits of immigrants that she meets in the toko, on the streets or in her surroundings of the South of Rotterdam. She visits them at home or invites them to her atelier. The stories are translated into painted portraits, videos, installations and spoken word performances.
Winnie Dunn is a Tongan-Australian writer and arts worker from Mt Druitt. She is the general manager of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Sydney University. Winnie’s work has been published in the HuffPost Australia, The Saturday Paper, Griffith Review, Meanjin Quarterly, SBS Voices and Cordite. She is the editor of several anthologies including Sweatshop Women, The Big Black Thing and Bent Not Broken. Winnie is currently completing her debut novel as the recipient of a 2019 CAL Ignite Grant.
Jon Watts is a Melbourne/Naarm based musician, designer, 3D artist and animator. His music has been released through cult labels SUMAC and Butter Sessions, and he is currently Senior Multimedia Installer at the National Gallery of Victoria.
Pan-Pan Kolektiva was established in March 2020, as a research group on listening. Pan-Pan is a standard emergency call based on the acronym Pan which stands for Pay Attention Now.
Nathan Gray is an artist whose recent works use voice as their medium, taking form as lecture-performances, radio-plays and documentaries, DJ sets, narrative and rumour.
makik markie yammamoroto
Leighton Craig is an artist living in Meanjin/Brisbane. He has been in a number of bands (The Lost Domain, G55, The Deadnotes et al) and is currently a member of the duo Primitive Motion with Sandra Selig.
Anne Zeitz is associate professor at University Rennes 2. Her research focuses on aural attention, the inaudible, the unheard, and the polyphony in contemporary art. She directed the research project 'Sound Unheard' and she co-organised the eponymous exhibition at the Goethe-Institut Paris, Paris and exhibition 'Échos magnétiques” at the MBA Rennes, Rennes in 2019.
Melissa Johnson is Associate Professor of Art History & Visual Culture at Illinois State University (Normal, IL). Her scholarly research focuses on the histories of craft and its intersections with modern and contemporary art. She is currently working on a project that explores artists making work in response to the writings of Virginia Woolf. She’s deeply interested in situating her academic writing and her textile-based work as parallel practices, and is working on two writing and textile projects, “Woolf Words” and “Haptic Investigations,” and a project on mending and repair.
Diego Ramirez makes art, writes about culture, and labours in the arts. In 2018, he showed his video work in a solo screening by ACCA x ACMI and he performed in Lifenessless at West Space x Gertrude Contemporary in 2019. His work has been shown locally and internationally at MARS Gallery, ACMI, Westspace, Torrance Art Museum, Hong-Gah Museum, Careof Milan, Buxton Cotntemporary, WRO Media Art Biennale, Human Resources LA, Art Central HK, Sydney Contemporary, and Deslave. His words feature in Art and Australia, NECSUS, un Projects, Runway Journal, Art Collector, and Australian Book Review. He is represented by MARS Gallery, Editor-at-large at Running Dog and Gallery Manager at SEVENTH.
Noemie Cecilia Huttner-Koros is a queer Jewish performance-maker, writer, dramaturg, poet, teaching artist and community organiser living and working on Whadjuk Noongar country in Boorloo (Perth). Her practice is driven by a deep belief in the social, political and communal role of art and performance and in engaging with sites and histories where queer culture, composting and ecological crisis occur.
Josten Myburgh is a musician based on Whadjuk Noongar boodja country who plays with techniques from the worlds of electro-acoustic music, radio art, free improvisation, field recording and experimental composition. He co-directs exploratory music label Tone List and the Audible Edge festival. He has performed in South Africa, the United States, and throughout South East Asia, Europe and Australia. He is a Schenberg Fellow and a student of Antoine Beuger and Michael Pisaro.
Aisyah Aaqil Sumito is an artist and writer living near Derbarl Yerrigan on Whadjuk Noongar Bibbulmun lands. Their work reflects mostly on personal intersections of disability, queerness and diasporic ancestry in so-called 'australia'. They have recently made text-based contributions to Runway Journal and HERE&NOW20: Perfectly Queer, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery.
Michael Terren is a musician and educator from Boorloo/Perth. Grounded in experimental studio-based practice, his work explores the social construction of the technologies of music’s creation and distribution. He is a sessional academic teaching music at two Boorloo universities, and in 2019 finished a PhD thesis entitled 'The grain of the digital audio workstation'.
Joee Mejias is a musician and video artist from Manila. She is co-producer of WSK, the first and only international festival of digital arts and new media in the Philippines and co-founder of HERESY, a new platform for women in sound and multimedia. She performs as Joee & I: her avant-pop electronica solo project.
Myriad Sun are an experimental audio/visual/rap trio from Walyalup (Fremantle), Australia, composed of electronic producer Ben Aguero, Mc POW! Negro, and Limit Bashr. Additional performers: Mali Jose, Billy Jack Narkle and Polly-Pearl Greenhalgh.
Jasmine Guffond is an artist and composer working at the interface of social, political, and technical infrastructures. Focused on electronic composition across music and art contexts her practice spans live performance, recording, installation and custom made browser add-ons. Through the sonification of data she addresses the potential of sound to engage with contemporary political questions and engages listening as a situated-knowledge practice.
Sounding Together comprise of the following performers: Rhys Butler (alto saxophone); Simon Charles (soprano saxophone, shakuhachi); Eduardo Cossio (electronics, writing); Luke Cuerel (alto saxophone); Jim Denley (flute, writing); Julia Drouhin (voice, electronics, objects, images); Jameson Feakes (mandolin); Be Gosper (voice, objects); Noemie Huttner-Koros (voice, writing); Lenny Jacobs (percussion); Annette Krebs (amplified string instrument); Annika Moses (voice, images); Josten Myburgh (clarinet, alto saxophone, editing); Dan O’Connor (mastering); Stuart Orchard (guitar, objects, editing); Daisy Sanders (voice, movement).
Yan Jun, a musician based in Beijing uses a wide range of materials such as field recording, body, noise and concept. Yan Jun: “I wish I was a piece of field recording.”
Katie West is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives on Noongar Ballardong boodja and belongs to the Yindjibarndi people of the Pilbara tablelands in Western Australia. The process and notion of naturally dyeing fabric underpin her practice – the rhythm of walking, gathering, bundling, boiling up water and infusing materials with plant matter. The objects, installations and happenings that Katie creates invite attention to the ways we weave our stories, places, histories, and futures.
Simon Charles is a composer and performer based in Noongar Ballardong Country (Western Australia). His practice reflects an interest in the instability of compositional structures; as friction between musical notation and perception and interactions with place. He has performed at Serralvés Festival (Porto), The Wulf (Los Angeles) Studio Rotor (Berlin), Vigeland Mausoleum (Oslo), Avantwhatever Festival (Melbourne), DATA (Marseille), ANAM Quarttethaus and the Melbourne Recital Centre.
Tiarney Miekus is a writer, editor and musician based in Naarm/Melbourne. Her writing has appeared in The Age, Meanjin, The Lifted Brow (Online), Overland, Memo Review, un Magazine, Art Guide Australia, Swampland and RealTime. She is currently editor and podcast producer at Art Guide Australia.
Liang Luscombe is a Naarm/Melbourne-based visual artist whose practice encompasses painting, sculpture and moving image that engage in a process of generative questioning of how media and film affect audiences.
Thembi Soddell is a sound artist best known for their powerful acousmatic performances and installations in darkness. In 2019 they were awarded a PhD from RMIT University for their practice-based research titled, A Dense Mass of Indecipherable Fear: The Experiential (Non)Narration of Trauma and Madness through Acousmatic Sound. This research developed a novel approach to understanding lived experiences of anxiety, depression and trauma using a medium (abstract sound) with the unique ability to reflect the intangible nature of the inner world.
James Parker is an academic at Melbourne Law School and long-time associate curator with Liquid Architecture. His work explores the many relations between law, sound and listening. He is currently working on machine listening with Joel Stern and Sean Dockray.
Eloise Sweetman loves art, misses her home in Western Australia, all the time loving Rotterdam where she became friends with Pris Roos whose artwork Sweetman speaks of. Sweetman is a curator, artist, writer and teacher working in intimacy, not knowing and material relation. She started Shimmer with Dutch-Australian artist Jason Hendrik Hansma in 2017.
Cecilia Vicuña's work dwells in the not yet, the future potential of the unformed, where sound, weaving, and language interact to create new meanings.
'In January 1966, I began creating precarios (precarious) installations and basuritas, objects composed of debris, structures that disappear, along with quipus and other weaving metaphors. I called these works 'Arte Precario', creating a new independent category, a non-colonized name for them. The precarios soon evolved into collective rituals and oral performances based on dissonant sound and the shamanic voice. The fluid, multi-dimensional quality of these works allowed them to exist in many media and languages at once. Created in and for the moment, they reflect ancient spiritual technologies—a knowledge of the power of individual and communal intention to heal us and the earth.'
Camila Marambio is a private investigator, amateur dancer, permaculture enthusiast, and sporadic writer, but first and foremost, she is a curator and the founder/director of Ensayos, a nomadic interdisciplinary research program in Tierra del Fuego.
Las Chinas is the cosmic coincidences led to the meeting of Chileans Sarita Gálvez and Camila Marambio in Melbourne. Their shared reverence for the ancestral flautón chino from the Andes Mountains lead to playful explorations of its unique dissonant sounds and thereafter to experimenting with atonal signing and other technologies of the spirit.
Influenced by Chilean feminist poet Cecilia Vicuña, the now deceased poet Fidel Sepúlveda, the musical ensemble La Chimuchina and the chino bands from the townships of La Canela and Andacollo, Las Chinas honours the ancestral tradition by enacting the principle of tearing each other apart.
Bryan Phillips A.K.A. Galambo is a Chilean/Australian artist working in community arts, music and performance, using sound as a means to facilitate engagement with others. His practice has mainly been developed in Chile, but after completing his Masters in Community Cultural Development (VCA-2013) he has become involved in projects with artists from Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Australia.
Douglas Kahn is an historian and theorist of energies in the arts, sound in the arts and sound studies, and media arts, from the late-nineteenth century to the present. His books include Energies in the Arts (MIT Press, 2019); Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts (University of California Press, 2013); Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT Press, 1999); Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of Digital Arts, edited with Hannah Higgins (University of California Press, 2012); and Source: Music of the Avant-garde, edited with Larry Austin (University of California Press, 2011).
André Dao is a writer, editor, researcher, and artist. His debut novel, Anam, won the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. He is also the co-founder of Behind the Wire, an oral history project documenting people’s experience of immigration detention and a producer of the Walkley-award winning podcast, The Messenger. He is a member of the Manus Recording Project Collective.
Poppy de Souza is a Meanjin (Brisbane) based researcher affiliated with Griffith University and UNSW. Her work focuses on the politics of voice and listening—broadly defined—in conditions of inequality and injustice, including the relationship between sound, race, and conditions of (not) being heard. Poppy has previously worked in community arts and cultural development (CACD), and with the national Film and Sound Archive as a curator on australianscreen.
Andrew Brooks is an artist, writer, and teacher who lives on unceded Wangal land. He is a lecturer in media cultures at UNSW, one half of the critical art collective Snack Syndicate, and a member of the Rosa Press Collective. Homework, a book of essays co-written with Astrid Lorange, was recently published by Discipline.
Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, cultural advocate and filmmaker. He was writer for the Kurdish language magazine Werya. He writes regularly for The Guardian and several other publications. Boochani is also co-director (with Arash Kamali Sarvestani) of the 2017 feature-length film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time, and author of No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison. He was held on Manus Island from 2013 until 2019.
Emma Russell is a critical carceral studies scholar and senior lecturer in crime, justice and legal studies at La Trobe University, Australia. She researches and writes on policing and criminalisation, prisons, detention, and activism. Emma is the author of Queer Histories and the Politics of Policing (2020) and co-author of Resisting Carceral Violence: Women’s Imprisonment and the Politics of Abolition (2018).
Jason De Santolo (Garrwa and Barunggam) is a researcher & creative producer based in the School of Design, University of Technology Sydney, Australia. He has worked with his own communities as an activist and advocate using film and performance, protest and education to bring attention to injustices and design solutions using Indigenous knowledge.
Kynan Tan is an artist interested in the relations and conditions of computational systems, with a focus on data, algorithm, networks, materiality, control, and affect. These areas are explored using computer-generated artworks that take the form of simulations, video, sound, 3d prints, text, code, and generative algorithms.
Snack Syndicate, two rats (Andrew Brooks and Astrid Lorange) living on unceded Wangal land; texts, objects, events, meals, and publics.
Spence Messih is an artist living and working on Gadigal land. Their practice speaks broadly to sites of pressure, power structures, materiality, and language, and more specifically about these things in relation to their own trans experience.
Tom Melick is the co-editor of Slug and part of the Rosa Press Collective and Stolon Press.
Trisha Low is a writer living in the East Bay. She is the author of The Compleat Purge (Kenning Editions, 2013) and Socialist Realism (Emily Books/Coffee House Press, 2019).
This paper develops a conception of ‘carceral atmospheres’ as a way of framing our encounter with the sound art and archive how are you today, created by the Manus Recording Project Collective (MRPC).1 Over a period of fourteen weeks in 2018, this work involved the creation and collection of eighty four field recordings by six men indefinitely detained on Manus Island by the Australian government. Highlighting the mobile qualities of sound, each ten-minute field recording was sent from Manus to Melbourne and uploaded for playback as part of the Eavesdropping exhibition, originally staged at the Ian Potter Museum of Art in Melbourne in 2018 and later at City Gallery in Wellington in 2019. Following its temporary staging in the gallery – each day of the exhibition featuring a new recording, played on loop – how are you today was developed into an online archive. In this digital archive, the recordings can be played and paused as the listener pleases, but not otherwise controlled through rewinding or fast-forwarding. Each field recording is accompanied by a date, the name of the creator, and a brief textual description of the soundscape it captures.
Through the creation of how are you today, MRPC takes up the task of conveying some of the day-to-day rhythms of detainees’ experiences through sound. When the recordings were made, refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island were spread amongst five small camps or so-called ‘open’ facilities in the major town of Lorengau.2 Subject to surveillance, curfews and control over movement, the dispersal of detainees followed the forced closure of the Manus Regional Processing Centre in October 2017 after the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court found that the camp was unconstitutional.3 how are you today thus records a particular historical moment in Australia’s imperialist and punitive offshore detention regime; a moment of reformation, consolidation and expansion of the ‘carceral archipelago’ as envisioned by Foucault several decades ago: a ‘subtle, graduated carceral net with compact institutions, but also separate and diffused methods’ of control.4
Perhaps by virtue of these reconfigurations of offshore detention and the open, unedited format of the recordings that comprise the artwork itself, the carceral soundscapes of how are you today did not sound like I expected them to sound. I had engaged with MRPC members’ prior writing and creative projects, which provide vivid accounts of the brutality of offshore detention, such as Behrouz Boochani’s powerful book,5 No Friend But the Mountains, and the award-winning podcast, The Messenger. In the latter, a curated selection of voice messages shared between asylum seeker Abdul Aziz Muhamat and journalist Michael Green via WhatsApp are crafted into a political narrative that reveals the pain and futility of indefinite detention on Manus Island.6 Following such explicit exposés by members of MRPC, the recordings that make up how are you today are decidedly more quotidian; unremarkable, even. For instance, when I listen to 03.08.19 Behrouz, the night before last, sitting by the fence near the jungle, I hear the sounds of the jungle – frogs and insects thrumming and chirping, echoing outwards – some muffled voices talking quietly in the background and a dog barking in the distance. But I do not hear the compound fence.
At the time of production of how are you today, this collective was comprised of six men confined to Manus Island by the Australian government: Abdul Aziz Muhumat, Samad Abdul, Shamindan Kanapathi, Kazem Kazemi, Farhad Bandesh and Behrouz Boochani. The artwork was commissioned by James Parker and Joel Stern for the Eavesdropping exhibition, held at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne between 24 July and 28 October 2018. The work was produced and mixed in Melbourne by André Dao, Michael Green and Jon Tjhia. ↩
Maria Giannacopoulos and Claire Loughnan, ‘“Closure” at Manus Island and carceral expansion in the open air prison,’ Globalizations 17/7, 2019: 1118-1135. ↩
Belden Norman Namah, MP Leader of the Opposition and Ors v The Independent State of Papua New Guinea (2020) SC1998. ↩
Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (London: Penguin Books, 1991), 297. ↩
Behrouz Boochani, No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (Sydney, Australia: Pan Macmillan, 2018). ↩
Maria Rae, Emma K Russell and Amy Nethery, ‘Earwitnessing Detention: Carceral Secrecy, Affecting Voices, and Political Listening in The Messenger Podcast’ International Journal of Communication 13, (2019): 1036-1055; Emma K Russell and Maria Rae, ‘Indefinite stuckness: Listening in a time of hyperincarceration and border entrapment,’ Punishment & Society 22/3 (2020): 281-301; Michol Seigel, ‘Violence work: policing and power,’ Race & Class 59/4, (2018): 15-33. ↩
Initially, I was unsettled by the presumed inability to hear the violent infrastructure that secures the men’s captivity, since the very silence of the fence threatens to undermine our capacity to listen ‘back to power’. However, the title of the recording reminds us that sound – and silence, for that matter – is always socially embedded, produced and mediated by relations of power.1 The fence ‘haunts’ the field recording even if it cannot be physically registered by the human ear.2 Attuning to the fence’s presence thus requires reflection upon the medium and condition of possibility of the artwork, which is not sound, but ‘offshore detention itself’, as the Eavesdropping curators explain.3 We cannot divorce how are you today from its context of border violence. Behrouz, the night before last, is not simply an atmospheric nature recording, for there is nothing ‘natural’ about the fence that borders the jungle, nor the regime of offshore detention that it serves. Fences, walls, boundaries and borders are enduring constructions and key technologies of carceral and imperial power, enacting violence upon racialised and gendered bodies deemed ‘disposable’ or ‘surplus’ to neoliberal capitalism.4 The atmospheric qualities of Behrouz, the night before last, are as much carceral and colonial as they are ‘natural’, insofar as the soundscape is structured by the imperialism of Australian border policies and the social conditions of unfreedom, abandonment and coerced (im)mobility that they engender.
This paper argues that a proper engagement with the medium and mode of production of how are you today requires a sensory politics that is attuned to the dynamic and increasingly diffuse nature of carceral power. In order to advance this claim, I outline a theoretical framework for interpreting carceral atmospheres, drawing upon critical thinking on the sensory dimensions of carceral spaces and on the relationship between sound, affect and the atmospheric. Through analysis of the sonic art and archive how are you today, I show how attention to the embodied aspects of detention through the medium of sound reveals particular workings of carceral power that might otherwise be left unexamined. I explore the tension between the tangible and intangible nature of carceral space in how are you today, which highlights the heterogeneity of prison soundscapes and the significance of time to experiences of punishment. Complicating the presumption of sound as object of analysis, I consider how how are you today both conveys and creates atmospheres. Rather than acting simply as a sonic portal into detainees’ experiences on Manus, the work generates new spaces of intensity shaped by the space and time of its playback. Lastly, I reflect on the work as an archive of creative practices of transborder solidarity, which might undermine some of the sustaining logics of Australia’s punitive immigration system.
The idea that spaces of detention have a particular ‘feel’ to them – that their hostile architecture and disciplinary regimes produce climates of fear, deprivation and more – is not new.5 There is a growing body of work by prison sociologists, cultural criminologists and carceral geographers that explores the multi-sensory nature of experiences of incarceration and the liminal, ‘transcarceral spaces’ that extend beyond the physical confines of the prison.6 For example, Hemsworth notices the disorienting effects of the reverberation created by the aural architecture of Kingston Penitentiary in Canada;7 and Youngintuits ‘an atmosphere of dispossession and disappearance’ in Japan’s Kyoto prison that is produced by the control of prisoners’ sonic outputs.8 While carceral spaces and soundscapes vary and diverge in multiple ways, as I discuss further below, these important recent contributions nonetheless highlight that sound ‘demarcates, patterns and disrupts carceral space.’9 Sound, in carceral contexts, is thus immanently worthy of further investigation.
The origins of the word ‘carceral’ (‘carcer’) can be traced to both the ancient state prison of Rome and one of the geomantic signs in occult divination that signifies ‘an enclosure’ or ‘prison cell.’10 However, the disciplinary mechanisms of law, power and surveillance that intentionally and detrimentally contain bodies within space and time do not require the static and impermeable structure of a cell. Carceral boundaries are not always ‘solid’, nor are they fixed or entirely ‘cut off’ from the ‘outside’ world.11 As products of social relations, these arbitrary boundaries are always porous, fluid and contingent.12 Technologies of confinement exceed the conventional spatial infrastructure of the prison or camp (such as razor wire, cement walls, guards patrolling the perimeter) to encompass temporal forms of restriction (such as curfews, sentence length, or the absence of one) and the inscription of incarceration upon bodies. Underwritten by practices of racialisation, gendering and classing, these ‘transcarceral spaces’ – the widened webs of social control that exist ‘beyond’ the prison or camp – reinforce social marginality and challenge the assumption that confinement is achieved merely through penal architecture.13 Shifting our attention to the embodied aspects of confinement, beyond what we can ‘see’, enables deeper appreciation of the functions and effects of carceral power and the profoundly sensory nature of carceral experiences.14 To advance this line of inquiry, this paper develops a conception of ‘carceral atmospheres’ that can enrich our critical engagement with the soundscapes of detention in how are you today.
Combining theorising on carceral spatialities with sonic thinking on affective atmospheres,15 I conceptualise carceral atmospheres as the spatialisation of affect through technologies of confinement. ‘Atmospheres’ are notoriously difficult to define, since they are both tangible and intangible, and arguably everywhere. Anderson conceives of atmospheres as ‘spatially discharged affective qualities’ that ‘envelop’ and press upon us ‘with a certain force.’16 For Anderson, atmospheres are ultimately autonomous, even though they ‘emerge from, enable and perish’ with bodies, environments and the relations between them. As spaces of affective intensity, atmospheres are challenging to translate through text, imagery or sound; even though the latter has many ‘atmospheric’ properties.
Sound is particularly evocative and resonant; it also has fluid, diffusive and immersive tendencies. Unsurprisingly, then, sound is deemed ‘integral to the formation of atmospheres in spaces’17 and ‘a vital tool of spatial knowledge.’18
Sound is both product and producer of space.19 It is thus a crucial medium for interrogating and understanding the spatialisation of affect and carceral power. However, as a method of social inquiry, sound is also limited. McFarlaneargues that,20 ‘space, sonic or otherwise, is never truly what it appears to the researcher’; there are always silences or ‘negative geographies’ that resist ‘sonic detection’, such as the camp’s fence in Boochani’s recording described above. Silence, then, can never be taken at face value. For example, Paglensought to investigate ‘the core of the prison-industrial complex’ by recording the silence that pervades ‘one of the most brutal prisons in the California system’: the Secure Housing Unit at Pelican Bay.21 But, Paglan realised that, in order to thoroughly understand the logics and mechanics of carceral expansion, ‘would have to look far beyond the state’s prisons and seek out their social, economic and cultural architects.’22 Like all modes of knowledge production, sound provides only a partial ‘picture’ of the workings of power. Listening to how are you today to learn more about the workings and logics of offshore detention therefore requires an expanded capacity to hear the negative geographies that haunt each recording: the carceral atmospheres.
Attending to the carceral atmospheres in how are you today allows us to gain a ‘thicker’ and more ‘immersive sense’23 of the techniques of confinement and control deployed at and through national borders. Sound recording captures some of the textures, rhythms and intensities of life in limbo, that we might not grasp through text or imagery alone. As Boochani explains, the work can surpass some of the limitations of ‘journalistic language’ precisely because it is a work of sound art: ‘it takes the audience inside the prison camp, just to live with them for a while’ and ‘to witness their lives’. In eschewing the sensationalism of short bursts and cycles of dramatic reporting, how are you today prompts us to instead attune to the ‘slow violence’24 of indefinite detention,25 and to the oppressive pacing of curtailed, corralled and disciplined movement.
In a recording titled, 06.10.18 Farhad, yesterday, following a group of friends visiting from East Lorengau camp as they’re refused entry at Hillside House, then West Lorengau House, before being allowed to enter Hillside House, we are moved to consider the ways that the checkpoint controls and redirects movements within carceral landscapes. At the level of text, the title of the recording indicates that checkpoints have the capacity to selectively and arbitrarily restrict physical mobilities, as the group of friends cycle back-and-forth between camps and detention centres. But how do the sounds in the field recording deepen or extend our understanding of the checkpoint’s functions and power effects? Or more simply: what does a checkpoint on Manus sound like? I noted down the following description of Farhad, yesterday, following a group of friends, as I listened, paying attention to the way that ‘sound produces affective atmospheres’ that ‘interface with bodies on auditory and other listening registers.’26
Gravel crunches under rhythmic footsteps as Farhad and his friends move between the camps. The shrill song of insects gradually becomes louder as they continue to walk. Footsteps are halted. Voices emerge, initially faint in the recording, and I can (barely) make out words such as ‘boys’, ‘immigration’ and ‘all good, guys?’ as the Australian guard speaks. Then, the audio quality and clarity of the conversation improves, signaling a new proximity between the guard’s voice and Farhad’s audio recorder, as the guard initiates a brief conversation with Farhad about needing ‘to get back into his art’. So, these are the sounds of negotiating with authority over one’s freedom to move? Perhaps, this verbal exchange could be read as friendly, a ‘softer’ form of power. Although I think that is precisely what unnerves me about it, that a guard can express concern for someone’s wellbeing at the same time as denying and corralling their movement; at the same time as carrying out ‘violence work’27 for the state. I think I hear tinges of condescension, hostility and paternalism in the guard’s tone of voice. After the refusal of entry to Hillside, the footsteps on gravel resume. Several minutes later, the men attempt another negotiation with authority, much of which is inaudible. The Australian guard eventually concedes: “Well if you want, these guys can go back into Hillside… That’s right, you can go to Hillside, that’s fine, I’ve got permission.” After re-asserting his authority over their movement (as he is permitted to do so), the guard stakes a claim for his innocence, justifying the exercise of control through a benevolent attempt at pacification: “All I was trying to do is to make it so that everyone wasn’t angry”. Soon after this second exchange, the recording ends.
James Parker, ‘Forensic listening in Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Saydnaya (The Missing 19db),’ Index Journal 2 (2020): 145-168. ↩
Avery Gordon, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997); Alison Mountz, ‘The enforcement archipelago: Detention, haunting, and asylum on islands,’ Political Geography 30/3 (2011): 118-128. ↩
James Parker and Joel Stern, Eavesdropping: A Reader (Melbourne: Liquid Architecture, City Gallery Wellington, Melbourne University Law School, 2019), 24. ↩
Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing (California University: California Press Berkeley, 2007); Suvendrini Perera and Joseph Pugliese, ‘Sexual Violence and the Border: Colonial Genealogies of US and Australian Immigration Detention Regimes,’ Social & Legal Studies: (April 2018); Trevor Paglen, ‘Recording Carceral Landscapes,’ Leonardo Music Journal 16/1 (2006): 56-57. ↩
Ben Crewe, ‘Depth, weight, tightness: Revisiting the pains of imprisonment,’ Punishment & Society 13/5 (2011): 509-529; Bree Alice Carlton, Imprisoning Resistance: Life and Death in an Australian Supermax (Sydney: Institute of Criminology Sydney Press, 2007); Phillip Hancock and Yvonne Jewkes, ‘Architectures of Incarceration: The Spatial Pains of Imprisonment,’ Punishment & Society 13/5 (2011): 611-629. ↩
Ben Crewe, Jason Warr, Peter Bennett and Alan Smith, ‘The emotional geography of prison life,’ Theoretical Criminology 18/1 (2013): 56-74; Kate Herrity, ‘Hearing behind the door: The cell as a portal to prison life’ in Turner J and Knight V, ed., The Prison Cell: Embodied and Everyday Spaces of Incarceration Springer Cham (2020): 239-259; Dominique Moran, ‘Leaving behind the “total institution”? Teeth, transcarceral spaces and (re)inscription of the formerly incarcerated body,’ Gender, Place & Culture 21/1 (2014): 35-51; Emma K Russell, Bree Carlton and Danielle Tyson, ‘Carceral churn: A sensorial ethnography of the bail and remand court,’ Punishment & Society (October 2020). ↩
Katie Hemsworth, ‘“Feeling the range”: Emotional geographies of sound in prisons,’ Emotion, Space and Society 20 (2016): 90-97. ↩
Alison Young, ‘Japanese Atmospheres of Criminal Justice,’ British Journal of Criminology 59/4 (2019): 773. ↩
Emma K Russell and Bree Carlton, ‘Counter-carceral acoustemologies: Sound, permeability and feminist protest at the prison boundary,’ Theoretical Criminology 24/2 (2018): 300. ↩
Dominique Moran, Jennier Turner and Anna K Schliehe, ‘Conceptualizing the carceral in carceral geography,’ Progress in Human Geography 42/5 (2017): 666-686. ↩
Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing California (California: University of California Press Berkeley, 2007). ↩
Jennifer Turner, The Prison Boundary: Between Society and Carceral Space (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2016). ↩
Anke Allspach, ‘Landscapes of (neo-)liberal control: the transcarceral spaces of federally sentenced women in Canada,’ Gender, Place & Culture 17/6 (2010): 705-723; Dominique Moran, ‘Leaving behind the “total institution”? Teeth, transcarceral spaces and (re)inscription of the formerly incarcerated body’ Gender, Place & Culture 21/1 (2014): 35-5; Brett Story, Prison land: Mapping Carceral Power across Neoliberal America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019). ↩
Kate Herrity, ‘Hearing behind the door: The cell as a portal to prison life’ in Turner J and Knight V ed., The Prison Cell: Embodied and Everyday Spaces of Incarceration Springer Cham (2020): 239-259. ↩
Dominique Moran, Jennifer Turner and Anna K Schliehe, ‘Conceptualizing the carceral in carceral geography,’ Progress in Human Geography 42/5 (2017): 666-686; Ben Anderson, ‘Affective atmospheres,’ Emotion, Space and Society 2 (2009): 77-81; Michael Gallagher, Anja Kanngieser and Jonathen Prior, ‘Listening geographies: Landscape, affect and geotechnologies,’ Progress in Human Geography 41/5 (2016): 618–637. ↩
Ben Anderson, ‘Affective atmospheres,’ Emotion, Space and Society 2 (2009): 78, 80. ↩
Michael Gallagher, Anja Kanngieser and Jonathen Prior, ‘Listening geographies: Landscape, affect and geotechnologies,’ Progress in Human Geography 41/5 (2016): 626. ↩
Katie Hemsworth, ‘“Feeling the range”: Emotional geographies of sound in prisons,’ Emotion, Space and Society 20 (2016): 90. ↩
Michael Gallagher, ‘Field recording and the sounding of spaces,’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 33/3 (2015): 560-576; Michael Gallagher, Anja Kanngieser and Jonathen Prior, ‘Listening geographies: Landscape, affect and geotechnologies,’ Progress in Human Geography 41/5 (2016): 618–637. ↩
Key MacFarlane, ‘Negative Research: Sonic Methods in Geography and Their Limits,’ The Professional Geographer 72/2 (2020): 304. ↩
Trevor Paglen, ‘Recording Carceral Landscapes,’ Leonardo Music Journal 16/1 (2006): 56. ↩
Paglen, ‘Recording Carceral Landscapes,’ 56-57; Brett Story, Prison land: Mapping Carceral Power across Neoliberal America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019). ↩
Peter Adey, ‘Security atmospheres or the crystallisation of worlds,’ Environment and Planning D-Society & Space 32/5 (2014): 838. ↩
Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011). ↩
Poppy De Souza, ‘Beyond the Horizon of the State: Listening to Offshore Detention’s longue durée,’ Law Text Culture 24, (2020). ↩
Michael Gallagher, Anja Kanngieser and Jonathen Prior, ‘Listening geographies: Landscape, affect and geotechnologies,’ Progress in Human Geography 41/5 (2016): 625. ↩
Micol Seigel, ‘Violence work: policing and power,’ Race & Class 59/4 (2018): 15-33. ↩
This recording reminds us that the power and purpose of the checkpoint is not simply to confine and enclose, but to surveil and compel movement across arbitrary boundaries. The checkpoint is a tactic of biopolitical control.1 Farhad’s recording demonstrates that, at least in part, the checkpoint achieves this control sonically. In other words, the sounds captured in this recording do not simply emerge from the checkpoint, they also produce it. The guard’s voice – ranging in tone from defensive to paternalistic – becomes a technology of spatial control and the start and stop rhythm of the friend’s footsteps embody and express disciplinary power.2 In this recording, we hear both the negotiations of authority over movement and sound as movement; each of these modalities of sound respatialise the carceral atmosphere. If, as Gallagher et al explain,3 ‘the affective aspect of sound comes precisely from the relations, exchanges and movements between bodies and environments’, then the very coercive, unequal exchanges and stilted, scrutinised movements heard here reproduce ‘the affective violence’ of the border that ‘manages asylum seekers’ bodies, time and space.’4 The checkpoint creates ‘an assault on the senses’5 that intensifies the policing of asylum seekers on Manus Island. When we intuit the carcerality that implicitly envelops the recordings of how are you today, we gain a new appreciation of the ways in which daily interactions between individuals, environments and (geo)politics reproduce conditions of confinement, even when the persistence of detention is disavowed.6 Though it is undoubtedly material, carcerality is also distinctly atmospheric, which is to say that it is permeable and unstable, and that it is felt, much like an ‘aura’ or ‘mood.’7 While the guard in the recording above eventually allows the friends to pass through the arbitrary boundary, the very need for permission to move is degrading and depleting. Carceral atmospheres emerge from unfree relations between people, things, and spaces, and through intimate and institutional experiences of restraint, domination and control.8 Listening to Farhad and his friends negotiate with authority over the right to move offers a momentary portal into asylum seekers’ ongoing experiences of punishment and exclusion on Manus that are otherwise rendered invisible. It also deepens our understanding of the routine violence of the state. The reorganisation of offshore detention on Manus Island is not a progressive or humanitarian development, but an extension of Australia’s persistent settler colonial practices: occupying lands it deems ‘empty’ and using performances of institutional ‘closure’ as a guise for imperial expansion.9
Through the accumulation of ‘everyday’ soundworlds on Manus Island, how are you today seeks to create a space for intimate and uncomfortable engagement with ‘the weight of the detainees’ limbo’, at a time when their ongoing abandonment had ‘lapsed from public attention.’10 When the work was produced, the Manus based members of MRPC were living in what Giannacopolous and Loughnan describe as ‘an open air prison.’11 While detainees had the capacity to move around the island during the day, they remained subject to surveillance, checkpoints, curfews and unsafe conditions, while separated from family and kin and unable to work. how are you today contends with this uneasy relationship between lives ‘on hold’ and in (various stages of) motion. In one recording, 16.08.18, we follow Kazem around the busy Lorengau market on a weekend, filled with the loud noises of a bustling site of local commerce, and in another recording published two weeks’ later, 30.08.18, we pace with Kazem on a weeknight around the East Lorengau compound, quiet but for his footsteps and the echoes of insects and frogs. Presented with such contrasting and quotidian soundscapes, our capacity to ‘earwitness detention’12 might be compromised, lest we embrace an expanded framework for understanding carceral spaces and experiences as embodied, affective and often diffuse.
At the time of writing, as I listen to this work in its online archive form, keeping track of the diffusion and the fate of those who have been aggressively denied the right to seek asylum in Australia is no simple task: they are dispersed across onshore and offshore immigration detention facilities; some are imprisoned in a suburban hotel in my home city of Melbourne. Two of the men, Abdul Aziz Muhamat and Behrouz Boochani, have been granted asylum in Switzerland and New Zealand, respectively. Far from making how are you today less relevant, the ongoing and tumultuous developments in immigration detention may make it more so, for the archive echoes the amorphous, mutating and expansive techniques of capture at the border. Attunement to the carceral atmospheres in how are you today opens up new avenues for exploring the tension between the concrete and the intangible nature of carceral space. The ‘enforcement archipelago’13 of the Australian border relies upon a shifting ‘assemblage of actors, sites, relations, and strategies.’14 It is not dependent upon the ‘bricks and mortar’ of a modern prison nor the razor wire of a camp.
As noted above, incarceration does not necessarily involve fixed infrastructure or bodily stasis.15 Hotels and homes can be repurposed as prisons; detainee transfers involve buses, planes, cars, trucks and boats; and the growth in electronic monitoring and surveillance signals the emergence of ‘e-carceration.’16 Identifying these emergent spaces and technologies as carceral will require that we continually develop new conceptual tools to understand confinement in order to bear witness to it. How do ‘we’ listen well, so that we hear the enduring scene of carceral violence – often mundane, sometimes spectacular – at, within, beyond, and through the border? Detention impacts profoundly upon an individual’s ‘social and physical mobility’, but it also restrains their ‘current and future life choices and possibilities.’17 For asylum seekers navigating the evolving (trans)carceral spaces on Manus – and indeed, ‘onshore’ in Australia – the pains of imprisonment are not simply a product of closed architecture, but are manifest through existential conditions of ‘indefinite stuckness.’18
The diverse field recordings produced for how are you today remind us that carceral spaces are not always fixed and totalising, nor are they monolithic. They are characterised by varied emotional topographies and evolving regimes of discipline and control.19 Differences in target populations, surveillance techniques, administering agencies, geographical locations and more confound any attempt to generalise about the qualities of carceral space, sonic or otherwise. Accordingly, we must not speak of one, but myriad ‘soundtracks of incarceration.’20 For instance, in some carceral contexts, silence can offer a welcome reprieve, or even provide therapeutic benefits. Yet in others, it becomes an oppressive force, bearing ‘down on the body as the final mark of the law.’21 In the Syrian prison ‘Saydnaya’, sound artist Abu Hamdan forensically traces a torturous and deathly regime of silence.22 Whereas in New South Wales, Australia, criminologist McKay documents how the soundscape of near-constant shouting,23 banging, loudspeaker announcements, buzzing and jangling keys invade and disrupt any semblance of ‘private’ or quiet space for those imprisoned. On Manus Island, the soundtrack of incarceration catalogued for how are you today varies widely: the rush and trickle of water in a shower, music playing through the speakers of a mobile phone, traffic noises from a balcony. Listening to these field recordings, we are struck by ‘both the powerful normalcy of such activities and how radically their meaning is transformed by the violence of their setting.’24
Despite their marked differences from the soundscapes catalogued by Abu Hamden or McKay above, these cannot be taken as auditory evidence of a non-violent or peaceful existence. As Boochanihighlights, when we listen to how are you today, we are hearing people ‘being tortured by time,’25 as they lose ‘their dreams’ and ‘their life’. Placing how are you today’s familiar and otherwise unremarkable sounds in their proper context of indefinite detention can thus help us to index the state’s weaponisation of time in carceral systems. The very structure of the work, its amassing of 14-hours’ worth of field recordings of life in limbo on Manus, reinforces the idea that carceral space is always bound up with time.26 Temporal knowledge can help to make sense of incarceration – how long has one been detained, how much longer one will be detained, and so on—but in indefinite detention, time becomes a form of torture. Carceral atmospheres can also distort perceptions and experiences of time,27 as Green describes the intensity of the men’s ongoing entrapment: ‘it’s sort of this constant sense of crisis… but also this extraordinary sense of time not passing too.’ These tensions between stasis and mobility, materiality and intangibility, and mundane and exceptional violence persist throughout how are you today. They prompt us to rethink not only our understandings of spaces of confinement, but also the ways that the spaces in which we listen to the work are altered and remade by the soundscapes of detention.
If an atmosphere is a ‘shared ground’ that is ‘located in between experiences and environments’28 and a carceral atmosphere is produced by technologies of confinement, then how are you today both conveys and creates atmospheres. Curated spaces such as the gallery, or an online archive, do not produce carceral atmospheres per se, but calculate and convey them through aesthetic objects, which in turn elicit feelings amongst spectators and listeners that generate new atmospheres. By engaging with how are you today, in the gallery or online, one can sense, reflect upon or consume a carceral atmosphere. For instance, Turner and Petersdiscuss how prison museums act as sites for the production and consumption of carceral atmospheres.29 For them, the term ‘atmosphere’ connotes the ‘more pervasive, intangible and complex sensations designed, engineered, co-constituted and also arising unexpectedly’ from particular sites.30 Through particular arrangements of sound, light, colour and text in the gallery (and the online archive), the producers and curators of how are you today attempt to create an atmosphere for listening that is reflexive and politically engaged with the ordinariness of border violence, as opposed to the ‘quick’ consumption of violent images or ‘soundbites’ of refugee displacement.
When installed as an artwork in semi-public galleries, or when streamed from the online archive via the privatising medium of headphones, how are you today functions as a sonic archive of carceral atmospheres on Manus and generates new spaces of intensity. As Gallagher argues,31 ‘field recordings are both representational and performative, their playback doubling or hybridising space in the present through sound performed by an ensemble of audio machines.’ A ‘performative reiteration’ of another soundworld (in the gallery, or in the online archive) can create new spatial and emotional intensities. Sound has the capacity to subtly or dramatically alter the mood of ambience of a space: ‘pitches, tones, volumes, frequencies and rhythms… penetrate and travel through material and immaterial matter across distances, filling spaces within and between bodies.’32 As it fills the space of a gallery with sound – or perhaps more accurately, as the sound produces the space – the field recordings that make up how are you today create a mood or ambience that is dependent upon but distinct from the carceral atmospheres conveyed in the recordings. However, galleries are far from neutral vessels. Historically, along with museums, art galleries have played important roles in shoring up the racial hierarchies that underpin settler colonialism;33 arbitrating cultural inclusion and exclusion along lines of class, gender and race;34 and reinforcing distance between spectators and those represented in such spaces (e.g. the punished, the expelled, and so on).35 These exclusionary effects might not be able to be fully overcome, but they might be challenged through practices of creative and collaborative exchange across borders.
In our quiet encounter with the acoustics of sustained exile, how are you today nudges or perhaps compels us to consider the flipside: what are the soundworlds that might weaken and denaturalise the violence of the border? Engaging with carceral atmospheres – as unfixed, evolving and interdependent – invites us to remember the contingency of the social-spatial power arrangements that (re)constitute detention and their potential for disruption. Indeed, how are you today is a sonic archive of both stuckness and activism, documenting various ways in which asylum seekers creatively and collaboratively challenge the violence of Australia’s secretive border regime. For example, we bear earwitness to the digital activation of transborder solidarity and an act of speaking ‘back to power’ while exiled on Manus Island in 02.09.18 Aziz, last weekend, making a speech to a protest in Melbourne via phone.
Jasbir Puar, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018). ↩
Anja Kanngieser, ‘A sonic geography of voice: Towards an affective politics of voice,’ Progress in Human Geography 36/3 (2012): 336-353. ↩
Michael Gallagher, Anja Kanngieser and Jonathen Prior, ‘Listening geographies: Landscape, affect and geotechnologies,’ Progress in Human Geography 41/5 (2016): 625. ↩
Isabel Meier, ‘Affective border violence: Mapping everyday asylum precarities across different spaces and temporalities,’ Emotion, Space and Society September 37 (2020). ↩
Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, ‘The Occupation of the Senses: The Prosthetic and Aesthetic of State Terror,’ The British Journal of Criminology 57/6 (2016): 1279-1300. ↩
James Parker and Joel Stern, ‘how are you today by the Manus Recording Project Collective,’ Law Text Culture 24 (2020). ↩
Ben Anderson, ‘Affective atmospheres,’ Emotion, Space and Society 2 (2009): 77-81. ↩
This framing suggests that carceral atmospheres might be a productive addition to anti-carceral feminist conceptualisations of a ‘carceral continuum’ of gender violence – whereby women and non-binary people experience forms of intimate violence in the home, on the street, and in the prison that are remarkably continuous or cyclical (though distinct). See: Bree Carlton and Emma K Russell, Resisting Carceral Violence (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 103-132; Angela P Harris ‘Heteropatriarchy kills: Challenging gender violence in a prison nation,’ Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 37/1 (2011): 13-65. ↩
The appropriation of islands for use as prisons is not new in Australia. The prototype has long been tested on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with horrific consequences: before Manus and Nauru, there was Palm Island, Rottnest Island, and more; Maria Giannacopoulos and Claire Loughnan, ‘“Closure” at Manus Island and carceral expansion in the open air prison,’ Globalizations 17/7 (2019): 1118-1135. ↩
Maria Giannacopoulos and Claire Loughnan, ‘“Closure” at Manus Island and carceral expansion in the open air prison,’ Globalizations 17/7 (2019): 1118-1135. ↩
Emma K Russell and Maria Rae, ‘Indefinite stuckness: Listening in a time of hyperincarceration and border entrapment,’ Punishment & Society 22/3 (2020): 281-301. ↩
Alison Mountz, ‘The enforcement archipelago: Detention, haunting, and asylum on islands,’ Political Geography 30/3 (2011): 118-128. ↩
Martha Balaguera, ‘Trans-migrations: Agency and Confinement at the Limits of Sovereignty,’ Signs 43/3 (2018): 660. ↩
Dominique Moran, Nick Gill and Dierdre Conlon, Carceral Spaces: Mobility and Agency in Imprisonment and Migrant Detention (Farnham Ashgate, 2013); Andrew Jefferson, Simon Turner and Steffen Jensen, ‘Introduction: On Stuckness and Sites of Confinement,’ Ethnos 84/1 (2019): 1-13. ↩
‘What is E-Carceration?’ James Kilgore, 2017, https://www.challengingecarceration.org/what-is-e-carceration/ ↩
Genevieve LeBaron and Adreinne Roberts, ‘Toward a feminist political economy of capitalism and carcerality,’ Signs 36/1 (2010): 20. ↩
Emma K Russell and Maria Rae, ‘Indefinite stuckness: Listening in a time of hyperincarceration and border entrapment,’ Punishment & Society (November 2019). ↩
Ben Crewe, Jason Warr, Peter Bennett and Alan Smith, ‘The emotional geography of prison life,’ Theoretical Criminology 18/1 (2013): 56-74. ↩
Carolyn McKay, The Pixelated Prisoner: Prison Video Links, Court ‘Appearance’ and the Justice Matrix (Oxon: Routledge Abingdon, 2019). ↩
Brandon Labelle, Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life (New York: Continuum, 2010), 71. ↩
James Parker, Forensic listening in Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Saydnaya (The Missing 19db), Index Journal 2 (2020): 145-168. ↩
Carolyn McKay, The Pixelated Prisoner: Prison Video Links, Court ‘Appearance’ and the Justice Matrix (Oxon: Routledge Abingdon, 2019). ↩
James Parker and Joel Stern, ‘how are you today by the Manus Recording Project Collective,’ Law Text Culture 24 (2020). ↩
Behrouz Boochani and André Dao, ‘Interview,’ Law Text Culture 24 (2020). ↩
Dominique Moran, ‘“doing time” in carceral space: timespace and carceral geography,’ Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 94/4 (2012): 305-316. ↩
Ben Crewe, ‘Depth, weight, tightness: Revisiting the pains of imprisonment,’ Punishment & Society 13/5 (2011): 509-529. ↩
Mikkel Bille, Peter Bjerregaard and Tim Flohr Sørensen, ‘Staging Atmospheres: Materiality, Culture, and the Texture of the in-between,’ Emotion, Space and Society 15 (2015): 32. ↩
Jennifer Turner and Kimberley Peters, ‘Unlocking carceral atmospheres: designing visual/material encounters at the prison museum,’ Visual Communication 14/3 (2015): 309-330. ↩
Jennifer Turner and Kimberley Peters ‘Unlocking carceral atmospheres: designing visual/material encounters at the prison museum,’ 309. ↩
Michael Gallagher, ‘Field recording and the sounding of spaces,’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 33/3 (2015): 560. ↩
Anna Feigenbaum and Anja Kanngieser, ‘For a politics of atmospheric governance,’ Dialogues in Human Geography 5/1 (2015): 82. ↩
Karen Kosasa, ‘Searching for the ‘C’ word: Museums, Art Galleries and Settler Colonialism in Hawai’i,’ in Bateman F., Pilkington L, ed., Studies in Settler Colonialism (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); Bernadette T Lynch and Samuel J M M Alberti, ‘Legacies of prejudice: racism, co production and radical trust in the museum’ Museum Management and Curatorship 25/1 (2010): 13-35. ↩
Kevin Coffee, ‘Cultural inclusion, exclusion and the formative roles of museums,’ Museum Management and Curatorship 23/3 (2008): 261-279. ↩
Kevin Walby and Justin Piché, ‘The polysemy of punishment memorialization: Dark tourism and Ontario’s penal history museums,’ Punishment & Society 13/4 (2011): 451-472. ↩
Although physically absent and excluded from participating in public protest ‘onshore’, Aziz uses mobile phone technology to share his analysis of Australian politics from Manus Island in ‘real-time’. His voice spreads and fills the space of protest, connecting ‘onshore’ protestors to those corralled ‘offshore’, challenging any preconceived notions of refugees as ‘passive’ victims and overcoming, at least in part, the isolating and exclusionary structure of offshore detention. It is also likely that Aziz’s speech altered and remade the atmosphere of the protest and of detention on Manus, connecting them through an energised, audible exchange. Other field recordings remind us that carceral atmospheres are not overwhelmed by the repressive violence of the state but patterned and antagonised by daily acts of political resistance. In 28.08.18, Aziz speaks to a man on hunger strike; in 14.09.18. Behrouz converses with a visiting refugee advocate from Australia; Aziz convinces others to sign a petition in 25.09.18; and organizes for sick people to see doctors in 18.09.18. Text, sound and voice work together in these recordings to frame the critique and condemnation of immigration detention that is embedded in this project. In these ways, how are you today becomes an archive of the political and ‘acoustical agency’1 of asylum seekers forcibly transferred to Manus Island. By capturing these daily practices of resistance, the work provides an historical record of crossborder campaigning against the secretive and unaccountable system of offshore detention.
Through its very means of production, how are you today illustrates the potentialities of transborder solidarity as a means of exposing the violence of border entrapment. The work is a product of sustained relationship-building amongst the collective that created it. As an installation, it is not ‘self-enclosed’, but dependent on relationships – political, material, technological, and emotional. These relationships signify resistance to the isolation and expulsion inherent to the regime of offshore detention, yet they aren’t romanticised in the work. Instead, there is an attentiveness to the vast gap in conditions and worlds between ‘onshore’ and ‘offshore’ artists. This ‘gap’ is accentuated by the occurrence of lags and delays in the transmission of audio files between Manus and Melbourne, which give rise to titles in the archive with delayed temporal notations such as 29.07.18 Kazem, a couple of days ago, talking to Mansour in the East Lorengau camp and 07.08.18 Samad, last week, listening to waves and trying to relax. At times the lag may have challenged the project’s aim of increasing the immediacy of sonic exchange through ‘swift upload to the gallery.’2 This aim is worthwhile, since the ‘veracity gap’ created by the prerecorded, highly curated and produced format of the podcast can inhibit the audience’s capacity to form a connection with its creators, as Rae et al point out in an analysis of The Messenger podcast.3 However, in the minimally-edited how are you today, the uneven pacing of the flow of recordings, and the ‘time lapse’ that often emerges, allows for further reflection upon the many barriers to timely and efficient delivery of audio files from Manus – barriers that are technological, bureaucratic, systemic and personal. The order in which the recordings appear in how are you today is not consecutive, nor does it follow a clear pattern. Much like the carceral atmospheres the work conveys, the way it unfolds is somewhat unpredictable and inconsistent.
Tom Rice, ‘Sounds Inside: prison, prisoners and acoustical agency,’ Sound Studies: an interdisciplinary journal 2/1 (2016): 1-15. ↩
James Parker and Joel Stern, ‘how are you today by the Manus Recording Project Collective,’ Law Text Culture 24 (2020). ↩
Maria Rae, Emma K Russell and Amy Nethery, ‘Earwitnessing Detention: Carceral Secrecy, Affecting Voices, and Political Listening in The Messenger Podcast,’ International Journal of Communication 13 (2019): 1036-1055. ↩
Through an emphasis on atmospheres, I don’t want to imply that carceral conditions are entirely immaterial or subjective – although they are these things, and more. Rather, I want to use how are you today as an opportunity to reflect on the aesthetic and sensorial dimensions of carceral spaces, to account for the ways in which ‘infrastructures, bodies and events collide and fracture to engender particular affective environments and states’1 in carceral settings. The gradual and progressive cumulation of a carceral atmosphere through how are you today reinforces the proposition that carceral spaces are not static, fixed or immutable. They are shifting and relational; they are geographically specific and sutured to the local cultures and economies in which they are non-consensually sited; and they are continually remade and unmade through power negotiations waged on various scales (local, national, transnational). Developing an awareness of carceral spatial power as in flux can remind us of its impermanence and instability. how are you today allows us to listen for the everyday interactions that sustain the prison or the camp not as a concrete or wire-fence structure, but a set of social and political relations. The subtle, pervasive and permeable qualities of carceral power detected in these field recordings might render this power more insidious; but it also provides scope for resistance in everyday (and extraordinary) scenes of mutual support, creative exchange and crossborder solidarity. Much like atmospheres, the techniques of power involved in incarceration are continually ruptured and recuperated through reformation and expansion. Fracturing any preconceived notions of detention, how are you today provides but one opportunity to attune to this process of carceral contortion at the border and earwitness daily acts of survival.
Anna Feigenbaum and Anja Kanngieser, ‘For a politics of atmospheric governance,’ Dialogues in Human Geography 5/1 (2015): 80. ↩
Emma Russell is a critical carceral studies scholar and senior lecturer in crime, justice and legal studies at La Trobe University, Australia. She researches and writes on policing and criminalisation, prisons, detention, and activism. Emma is the author of Queer Histories and the Politics of Policing (2020) and co-author of Resisting Carceral Violence: Women’s Imprisonment and the Politics of Abolition (2018).
The writings included in Sitting by the Fence near the Jungle: Reflections on the Manus Recording Project Collective were originally published in Law Text Culture, as part of a larger peer reviewed collection on the ‘Acoustics of Justice: Law, Listening, Sound’, edited by James Parker, Sara Ramshaw and Mehera San Roque. The collection is generously reproduced here under a Creative Commons licence (non-commercial) with the permission of the journal. The original PDFs can be downloaded here, along with fifteen other pieces (some of which are forthcoming in August 2021). We ask that you cite to the originals. But we hope this version of the dossier, which places the writing in direct conversation with the Manus Recording Project Collective’s original audio recordings, offers readers a different reading experience, as well as opening the work up to new audiences.
The editor would like to thank Joel Stern as co-curator of how are you today and where are you today, Liang Luscombe and Monet Jones for their amazing editorial support and Public Office for the beautiful design. The works discussed in this dossier were originally commissioned as part of the Eavesdropping exhibition, staged at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne in 2018 and City Gallery, Wellington in 2019. We thank these institutions for their support in the public stagings of the project. Most of all, sincere thanks to every member of the Manus Recording Project Collective — Abdul Aziz Muhamat, Farhad Bandesh, Behrouz Boochani, Kazem Kazemi, Shamindan Kanapathi, Samad Abdul, Farhad Rahmati, Thanush Selvraj, Yasin Abdallah, Michael Green, André Dao and Jon Tjhia. In solidarity for their ongoing struggles for freedom and justice.
This dossier was produced online, and across multiple unceded Indigenous Lands in so-called ‘Australia’ and Aetearoa, New Zealand. We acknowledge the people of the Kulin Nation as the custodians of the lands on which we work. We pay our respects to Indigenous Elders, past and present.