An exhibition curated by Juana Awad & Zeenat Nagree
The exhibition is a result of the initiative of the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai that brought together curator Juana Awad based in Berlin and Mumbai-based curator Zeenat Nagree, over a period of eight months, to collaborate and co-curate an exhibition for the institute’s Gallery MMB.
Featuring contributions by 13 Indian and international artists, as it rises into the air: listening in practice focuses on artistic practices in which listening is central to their process, and in which the act of listening is exercised in its ethical-political dimension. Through a constellation of video, sound, text and image based works, the exhibition asks how to listen is to let the world in — to make sense of the world around us, along with and beyond, a sense for grasping that which sounds.
In the works of Antje Engelmann, Sandip Kuriakose, Velibor Božović and Karan Shrestha, the act of listening becomes a method of artistic investigation in the recording and interpretation of (un)told stories or marginalized narratives. This listening, seemingly close to an ethnographic study, is capable of attending in an empathetic way, opening up the possibility of elucidating complex histories, while negotiating the moment and act of listening itself.
The question of the limits of languages, and their reverberations into other forms, appears in the works of Raven Chacon and Luisa Ungar, whose pieces investigate with the possibility of the translation and interpretation of the sound experience, leading to experimentation with musical notation, subtitling, transliteration and visual recording.
When applied to an examination of archives, listening brings forward practices that are attentive to the need to reveal and break silences, or which strive to imagine archives of unheard voices. Natasha A. Kelly, Hong-Kai Wang, Carlos Motta and Amol K. Patil, all give form to unnoticed registers, without stripping agency away in the pursuit of presenting subjects to the world. Tobaron Waxman engages through song with the resonance of structures and of their histories, destabilizing their moral indictments.
Yet despite the emancipatory potential listening offers, it is imbued with its own ambivalences: the quality of the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of listening transforms the processes, spaces and bodies involved. As much as it can be an empathetic act, listening has been used as a method for exerting control and enacting fear. Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro and Pallavi Paul look into recording and surveillance technologies highlighting the power imbalances embedded in the auditory experience.
Building constellations among artistic practices rather than illustrating a concept through exemplary artworks, as it rises into the air: listening in practice calls for a shift in perception towards listening, concentrating on listening as an aesthetic and an ethical practice that allows transformation to take place.