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Climate Care + Sonic Acts of Noticing X Driving the Human

“If, […] we listen to the city at macro scale, as an ecology of diverse lifeforms and resources and habitats, we might recognize a dynamic, vital system to be stewarded for future generations of humans and other species.” (Mattern, 2020)

Sonic Acts of Noticing deploys listening as critical spatial practice. We are interested in how such practice might alter subjectivities and produce space in ways that emphasise care, and shared learning as crucial for collaborative survival. Following the potential of the sonic ‘as a means for enabling new conceptualizations of the public sphere and expressions of emancipatory practices’ (LaBelle, 2018), we offer this tool for deep listening as a way to re-make urban space by drawing attention to forms of collectivity, interdependence and mutual support, between humans and non-humans, often in the face of precarity.

We prototype an interactive audio-textual environment, where sound compositions comprised of field recordings collide with textual artefacts that are temporally coded to the audio. Provocations, quotations, and critical and journalistic writing, augment, subvert, amplify and dissonate listening, in relation to your navigation of the site and spaces of the street, opening new possibilities and configurations.

During Driving the Human this weekend, you can join us for deep listening events, and through engagement with our webtool hosted at Radialsystem, and on sound walks (together with Floating), in order to explore these ideas in relation to the waterways of Berlin.

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The demise of the high street has been anticipated across the UK and beyond, and this impending crisis has been exacerbated by Covid-19. If we wish to ‘save the high street’ what are we trying to save, and why? We challenge the idea that retail and leisure activities are the sole contribution that high streets make to cities and neighbourhoods, and proceed from a conception of the high street that foregrounds practices of care, sociality and mutuality, often in the face of precarity.

From spontaneous warmth and generosity offered at moments of transaction or service, to sites of non or anti-capitalist mutuality, or in-kind trades in response to specific capacities and needs, these activities challenge narrow articulations of citizenship and belonging, and support sophisticated forms of collectivity that often form strategies for survival in ‘high streets where there is [...] enduring austerity, [...] and long-standing processes of state marginalisation’ [1].

Following LaBelle’s identification of the potential of the sonic ‘as a means for enabling new conceptualizations of the public sphere and expressions of emancipatory practices’ [2], we propose careful listening as a way to (re)think and (re)make the spaces of the high street in ways that draw attention to these forms of collectivity, and support productive and agonistic relations, intensities and concerns.

Through an interactive audio-textual environment, this website invites you to remake spaces of Sheffield high streets in listening. Sound compositions comprised of field recordings from three ‘patches’ [3]—barbers shops, busy pavements and a pay-as-you-feel cafe—are the basis for sonic exploration. With each composition, textual artefacts emerge on the page: provocations, quotations, and critical and journalistic writing, augment, subvert, amplify and dissonate listening, in relation to your navigation of the site.

This environment is not intended to represent the spaces of the high street, but rather, through the associations, interruptions and collisions between text and listening awareness, transform them and make them anew. We see this process as a basis for developing constructive modes of listening that can be taken with you on your travels.

1. Suzanne Hall, Interview with Suzanne Hall by Studio Polpo, interview by Anna Holder, publication forthcoming.

2. Brandon LaBelle, Sonic Agency: Sound and Emergent Forms of Resistance (London: Goldsmiths Press, 2018), 4.

3. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton University Press, 2015).