Anyway, everything is on fire: 2017 Critical Writing Workshop Closing Notes

Thursday 2 March 15:16

Sonic Acts 2017, photo by Pieter Kers
by Katía Truijen After a full program of timely conversations, performances, excursions, films and talks, we find ourselves catching up with the Sonic Acts festival 2017 in our ‘situation room’, backstage at de Brakke Grond. While some of us transcribe interviews or make final edits to their writing, others discuss recurring questions that were raised during the talks. The Critical Writing Workshop allowed us to spend four days away from our daily distractions, to reflect and rephrase the ideas and works that unfolded around us. Instead of writing reports about the events, we experimented with multiple forms of storytelling, while following our own intuitions and voices. Some of us imagined the consequences of radical ideas proposed by the speakers. What would it mean to have an actual artificial intelligence governing over us, as Pinar Yoldas proposes in her installation The Kitty AI? Or how would one carry out Zach Blas’ idea to cut off ones own fingers to escape from today’s global security regime? Some of us tried to unpack the nearly indescribable works of sound that were still buzzing in our ears. How to find the right words to describe Jana Winderen’s site-specific work Spring Bloom, or the fierce yet vulnerable performance of vocalist and composer Jennifer Walshe? "Good thinking can only be done through storytelling” explains scholar and feminist Donna Haraway (aka 'Saint Donna', as Ingrid Burrington referred to her) in the film portrait Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival by Fabrizio Terranova. Haraway's thinking was omnipresent during the festival, both in her claims, as well as in her infectious dedication in addressing big questions. In the film she explains that the very story of our earth is at stake. "We must change the stories of our time”, she states, “while making weak stories stronger and strong stories weaker”. These stories ‘of our time’ can be taken literally. According to philosopher and theorist Armen Avanessian, “the fear of our time is exactly the fear for our time.” "Today the future happens before the present”, he claims. In order to understand the current time-complex and to be able to force social change, we need to develop new modes of thinking and train our senses to perceive in new directions. The festival confronted us with a multitude of modes for sensing and thinking: it took a vertical perspective, instead of our usual horizontal orientation, experienced through four commissioned 35mm Vertical Cinema films. In Vertical Studies by Signe Lidén and Espen Sommer Eide, the artists took the audience on an excursion in the 46-metre-high abandoned water tower in Sint Jansklooster, to listen to their vertical soundscape based on the wind and the weather. Another way of redirecting our focus is by taking a forensic approach, as proposed by architect and scholar Eyal Weizman. By tracing events and zooming in to split-seconds of violence, in this case in conflict territories in the Negev desert, Weizman shows that it is possible to find evidence indicating the often invisible slow-violence on a geographic scale. “We need to create new images to be able to understand and reinterpret the already existing images we know”, he explains. While artist and writer Ingrid Burrington shows us snapshots of disguised data centers and military bases on Google Earth, she concludes, describing the current political climate: “Anyway, everything is on fire.” The festival has confronted us with a crescendo, a ‘noise of being’ through a complex image of issues that are at stake. It takes days to distill, reimagine and for us to finish writing about the sounds and stories that the festival has produced, practicing Saint Donna's ‘storytelling for earthly survival’.

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