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Of Voices, Noises and Colonial Traces

by Irene Hilden

As part of the exhibition Installing the Minor Cosmos (December 6-8, 2018 at HKW Berlin), doctoral fellow Irene Hilden invited two artists to critically engage with sonic traces from the Berlin Sound Archive (Lautarchiv). Understood as a collaboration between art and academia, Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro and Anaïs Héraud-Louisadat each developed an installation in response to Hilden’s work. In her research, Hilden is concerned with sonic presences of colonial subjects in the metropolis of Berlin at the beginning of the 20th century. Archived for scientific purposes and stored at today’s Humboldt University, the sound files bear witness to the objectifying and racializing practices of the time. However, they also elicit personal legacies so far absent and silenced in dominant historical narratives and memories. The artists’ installations reacted to the broader historical contexts of a Eurocentric art and knowledge production that fashioned practices of othering and exoticization.

 About her motivation to collaborate with two artists, Irene Hilden said, “I invited Anaïs and Nathalie to engage artistically with the sound archive’s materials and my research, since I often feel stretched to certain limits in my own practice of academic writing. Although there is no way of doing justice to the >sensitive< acoustic materials, I believe in the value of different approaches and a critical discussion of each other’s work.”

 

REEL (Installation: Sound, Text, Image)

by Anaïs Héraud-Louisadat [https://anaisheraud.com/]

 At the beginning of the 20th century, linguistic researcher Wilhelm Doegen set out to compile a collection of voice testimonies with the aim of constituting a >Weltarchiv<. Doegen and others benefited from the entertainment industry displaying women and men from alleged ‘exotic’ cultures in the metropolis as part of >Völkerschauen< and colonial exhibitions. Almost exactly at the same time, members of the futurist movement started to investigate the field of sound and its classification glorifying what they felt was the highest symbol of modernity: the metropolis and the machine.

On one side there is Russolo’s futurist >Intonarumori<, on the other side the gramophone’s horn capturing the voice of a young woman named Venkatamma. On one side there is Marinetti’s warlike poetry that does not leave any space for ambiguity and silence, on the other side Venkatamma’s song about love and pain, interrupted by her laughter.

The artistic intervention focuses on the violence of the dispositive of the gramophone recording in a visual and sonorous way. The artist works visually and with sound fragments, drawing a connection between the use of the phonograph that rendered evolution audible (Ames, 2003) and works by Marinetti who designated himself a social Darwinist.

 Anaïs Héraud-Louisadat is a performance and visual artist who lives and works in Berlin. Her work focuses on the dimensions of sound, language, and voice in the transmission of knowledge and memory, as well as on the relationship between voice and body within the context of social and political activism.

 

BLACK A(N)THENA (Installation: Video, Sound, Textile)

by Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro [http://www.anguezomo-bikoro.com/]

 The installation creates an environment reflecting on the architecture of transmission through sound, archival materials and architectural debris which interrogates the perpetrators’ vocal debris within phonographic records and those of technologies of queering and modes of visibility. It considers the architecture of ruination in the lesser known liberation struggle movement in Germany’s cultural industry and considers lost colonial records of the ‘other’ and its perpetrators as ghost, ruins, witchcraft and characters inhabiting different forms.

The women in shadow rehearse the mistakes and edits that were meant to leave no trace of them and re-appear as ecologies of darkness. Traces left in nature, architecture and unpublished archives retell the stories of the voices that often technologies could make disappear. The phonograph record’s operation becomes overturned by laughter or mistake. Recorder and speaker switch places and as a female speaker who is physically censored to remain in an archive of cultural production, she is mischieving the ‘straight’ story she is ordered to perform. Both refusing to be the woman of that narrative and refusing the appropriation of the tale’s subversion/degradation over her body.

 Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro is a conceptual artist from the region of Woleu-Ntem in North Gabon based in Berlin. Her interdisciplinary practices incorporate a synthesis of collaborative engagements, the development of international community dialogue, and body politics through a merging of conceptual responses in live art performance, film, archaeology, guerrilla architecture, literature, and archives. Her critical process is informed by discourses of histories, archives and theories on postcolonialism, diaspora, migration, identities, afro- and alter- modernism and culture.

 

 

 

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