8-channel sound (30-minute continuous loop), HD video (various durations). This project also includes a series of listening workshops and a publication.Attunement is a collaborative project with Olivia Webb that explores new modes of listening and being with others in the world. The project was first presented in January 2018 as an exhibition (8-channel sound installation + 2-channel HD video) alongside public ‘listening’ workshops, talks, performances and a publication of listening exercises.
The project explores the process and ethics of listening and becoming attuned to others. The verb ‘attune’ usually describes the act of making something harmonious, as in the tuning of an instrument. Attunement is also a state of relation to an object, environment or other people. To become attuned is to engage in a two-way sympathetic and empathetic exchange. In this project, attunement is used as a technique for exploring ways of being with others in the world.
Vital to this exchange is the practice of embodied listening and what Pauline Oliveros calls deep listening. Listening is central to human interaction, yet habits within Western culture tend to privilege speech and being heard over listening to and receiving others; we are quick to neglect listening and disregard its significance.
We developed a series of performances and sound based exercises that involve an exchange of breath and voice. These performances follow simple instructions. For example: Breathe in time with somebody else, sustain this until it is a comfortable and natural breath for you. Sing along with somebody else, a melody that only they know, becoming the voice of another. These exercises and more are available for you to practice for yourself in the Attunement publication.
This series of works respond to Lisbeth Lipari’s 2014 book Listening, Thinking, Being: Toward an Ethics of Attunement. In this text Lipari discusses attunement and deep listening to an other as ‘listening otherwise’. Lipari explains that:
[t]he compassion of listening otherwise takes us beyond the self and out into the groundlessness and ambiguity of the radical alterity of the other… When we bear witness and listen otherwise, we listen from a space of unknowing, loss of control, loss of ideas… Listening otherwise means that I listen for and make space for the difficult, the different, and the radically strange. I turn toward rather than away…
This is an important line of inquiry for a contemporary Western culture that so often perceives difference as otherness. Attunement is not about imitating an other, but rather demands us to critically examine the ethics of our hospitality toward others.
This project was developed during the 2017-18 Sound Art Residency at Toi Pōneke and the Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music. Our thanks to these spaces for the opportunity to work together and for their support throughout the project.
Order a copy of Breath + Voice publicationMore info: oliviawebbartist.com