Critical Waves launches at the ICA

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the Critical Waves event at the ICA last week. It was great to hear such a variety of takes on the issues of radio, sound and the voice.

Voice as Material panel

After receiving a warm welcome from Astrid Korporaal, the ICA’s Associate Curator of Education Partnerships, and Dr Ben Cranfield from Birkbeck College, we started the morning session, ‘Radio Play: Voice As Material’. First up, sound and radio artist, Magz Hall offered us a glimpse into the politics of the voice, encouraging the audience to consider which voices are often excluded from the airwaves, before showcasing a range of DIY and creative approaches towards radio, which move away from what she referred to as “good voice syndrome”. We heard from sound artist and composer Iris Garrelfs, who shared an insight into her practice with the audience. Explaining her process of producing micro-collages from tiny slithers of audio recordings, Iris encouraged us to consider how literature and other research material might be mapped in an experimental and non-verbal way using sound. The final speaker of the morning, artist and curator, Sam Belinfante explored the voice as a form of contact – something transmitted and received, connected and disconnected – which plays with ideas of interiority and exteriority. After we’d heard from all three speakers, Elizabeth Cetin, PhD candidate at Birkbeck College, fielded questions from the audience, and a lively debate ensued about the ethics of working with the voices of others through sampling and appropriation.

After a well-earned break for lunch, and a chance to meet and chat with our fellow researchers, we returned for the afternoon session, ‘Disembodied Voices: Speaking and Authorship’. Artist and activist Marc Herbst kicked off the presentations, infecting the audience with his enthusiasm through a lively discussion of the bodies that are disembodied by the state. Marc played clips from radio programmes as a way to explore the power relationships enacted by the state through its voice. Next up, artist Aura Satz talked us through some of the ways in which her practice has used audio to displace authorship, allowing for a more mobile idea of where a voice might come from. Sound artist and radio producer, Lance Dann was our final speaker of the day, and he teased out some of the differences between analogue and digital listening, discussing the communal and serendipitous ways that we might tune into the wireless, as well as the podcast’s intimate and direct address. Finally, we rounded off the day with some questions for the speakers, fielded by Claudia Firth, PhD candidate at Birkbeck College. Discussion ranged from podcasts and the runaway success of ‘Serial’; to how audio is affected when it is presented via different technologies and platforms; to the social production of radio stations versus the podcast as an individual pursuit.

Thank you to all our speakers, and to our audience for making it such an engaging and insightful event. We hope that the conversations that were started at the ICA will continue when we reconvene at Birkbeck College in a few weeks time for the next instalment of Critical Waves.

We look forward to seeing you all there!



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