Silences and policies in the shared listening: Ultra-red and Escuchatorio
With this article we want to offer a critical approach to participatory practices within sound art. To this end, we will analyse the work of two groups of sound artists who have placed participation and collaboration at the centre of their work and of their definition of sound art itself, using two very different approaches: Ultra-red and Escuchatorio. Both groups understand listening as a political action which always implies a relationship with others and with the environment. However, their very different ways of activating the collective listening may encourage us to consider how collaborative art is understood and practised at a time when the interest in participation from different artistic and cultural institutions (also political) keeps growing.
By considering Escuchatorio and Ultra-red, we want to ask ourselves how it can be decisive who proposes to perform the sound action: whether it is a community in struggle or a group of artists, or a gallery/institution. Different proposers generate different receptors/participants and also different ways of understanding which values are at stake and how they are distributed. Who is able to participate and how it can be done entail different degrees of involvement, impact and barriers. For a specific group that meets in a specific place participatory art can foreground the differences between people who are close to each other (Ultra-red), whereas the participation of anyone who can use any type of recording device and upload recordings to the network emphasises the similarities between people who are otherwise strangers (the expanded radio of Escuchatorio).
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