Brandon LaBelle

9—10 January 2020 // The Sonic Ecology of the Tourist City

Brandon LaBelle is an artist, writer and theorist working with questions of social life and cultural agency, using sound, performance, text and sited constructions. He develops and presents artistic projects and performances within a range of international contexts, often working in public and with others. This leads to interventions and performative installations, archival work, and micro-actions aimed at the sphere of the (un)common and the unlikely. He is also an active lecturer working with institutions around the world addressing questions of auditory culture, sonic and spatial practices, the voice and the politics of listening. Since 2011 he works as a Professor at The Art Academy – Department of Contemporary Art, University of Bergen, Norway. Current research projects focus on citizen practices, sonic agency and auditory knowledge, and the aesthetics and politics of invisibility.

As a sound artist his works have been presented in galleries and major exhibitions throughout the world (more recently Kunsthall 3,14, Bergen (2018), La Tabacalera, Madrid (2017), Documenta 14, Athens (2017), South London Gallery (2016)) and has various audio releases on international experimental labels, and regularly produces works for radio, notably Documenta / Savvy Funk, Berlin (2017), Radio Reina Sofia (2016), Kunstradio in Vienna (1999, 2001, 2007, 2009) and Deutschland Radio (2009).*

His latest book, “Sonic Agency: Sound and Emergent Forms of Resistance” (Goldsmiths / MIT Press, London, 2018), asks the question of how current social and political crisis can be approached through sonic thought and imagination, and inquires on the possibilities of sound and listening as vehicles for resistance, citizenship and political action.

*Taken from Brandon LaBelle’s website:

The Sonic Ecology of the Tourist City

9-10 January 2020 // Perception and Narrative
Ivo Louro, Iñigo Sanchez, Daniel Paiva, Margarida Mendes with Brandon LaBelle

Although the Anthropocene is largely represented through graphs, maps and vivid images of environmental disasters, its global changes are equally present in how a place sounds and the way it shapes the possibilities for listening and sounding of situated people and other living beings. From the hums and sonic bursts of deep sea mining to the prospect of silent springs to come, by way of the trolley rattling and engineered-for-authenticity sonic ambiances of the tourist city, listening to Anthropocene topologies invites new reflections on scale, presence, permanence, agency and the experience and politics underlying this proposed epoch.

This seminar invites participants to reflect on these concerns by way of a situated case: the touristification of Lisbon. Recent scholarship has scrutinized the anthropocenic force of mass tourism around issues of sustainability, environmental ethics, power relations, and/or mobility. As Lisbon becomes an increasingly popular tourist destination, these issues are embedded within the city’s shifting sonic ambiances. Through a combination of theory and practice, this seminar will explore the sonic impacts of touristification in Lisbon and ask how the sonic ecology of cities affected by mass tourism can help us sense and reflect on the interplay of global eco-sociological changes turned into local issues and vice-versa.

Building, Dwelling, Thinking in the Anthropocene

9-10 January 2020 // Perception and Narrative
André Pereira, Ateliermob / working with the 99%

How does one dwell in the Anthropocene? Sustained environmental change in the course of a human life has been either exceptional or too slow to be perceptible, allowing for “timeless ways of building.” In contrast, inhabiting the Anthropocene requires architecture and city planning to be able to contend with rapidly shifting socio-ecological environmental shifts, which create very observable communal, social, and political stresses. These are manifest in our built surroundings and raise questions of housing rights, the power relations between center and periphery and sustainable building.
In this seminar, we will reflect on the challenges that mass migration, resource management, and market dynamics impose on the practitioners of architecture (be they professional or not) and how the shape of cities, houses and communities are affected by them.

Funny Animals

9-10 January 2020 // Perception and Narrative
Hugo Almeida, Ana Matilde Sousa, Aidan Koch, Daniela Pinto, Pedro Moura

This seminar takes the concept of “funny animals”—the anthropomorphic animal characters originating in comics and cartoons—as a starting point for participants to explore a wide variety of “character” representations. From the onset of mass culture, advertising, cartoons and comics have used anthropomorphic animals to both domesticate the unfamiliar and unfamiliarize the domestic. Today, cute mascots and LOLcat memes populate the commodity- and media-spheres, alongside daily social media testimonies of animal intelligences and their interactions with humans or among themselves. But representation in the third person inevitably raises the question of what belongs to the represented and what is a projection of the representer. In the face of a Sixth Great Extinction, how does our obsession with animal characters impact who gets to survive, on individual and populational levels? How can nonhumans be interpreted in “their own terms” or made to “speak” in interspecies dialogues? Recognizing the presence of nonhumans in peoples’ imaginaries as sites of both sentimental investment and radical strangeness might hold the key to a participatory and inclusive trans-species project.

This seminar will combine a theoretical part with workshop-like activities in which participants will be writing/drawing creatively together. The activities will accommodate different creative comfort levels and participants with a variety of backgrounds, focusing on how to develop or represent non-human characters.

Repoliticizing the Anthropocene

6-7 January 2020 // Systems of Social and Technological Organization
Davide Scarso, Elizabeth Johnson, Rita Natálio

The Anthropocene has been described both as the token of a global environmental awareness and as a inherently depoliticizing notion, promoting a technocratic rule of experts oblivious to social justice and democratic participation. At the same time, political agency appears split between a longing for systemic change through the intervention of global institutions and reliance on the individual responsibility of all of us citizens-consumers.
The invention of new political approaches to the socio-environmental problems that we are facing today and, probably in harsher conditions, in the near future implies a radical engagement with the non-human components of the world. Nonetheless, a distinction between human social life and natural phenomena often constitute an inescapable reference for thinking political action itself, at least in an emancipatory perspective.
By discussing fundamental notions like “Sustainability”, “Decarbonization”, “Capitalocene” or “Green New Deal”, this seminar will explore the tensions between the need to “politicizing nature” and the always-impending risk of “naturalizing politics”, asking under which conditions and through which processes the Anthropocene could be the site for experimenting new forms of autonomous and more egalitarian collective organization.

Dating Datafication? History, Epistemology and Politics of Big Data

6-7 January 2020 // Systems of Social and Technological Organization
Jaume Valentines-Álvarez, C.I.R.C.E., Staffan Müller-Wille

The epistemological, social, and energy implications of Big Data are central to recent debates on the multilayered global crises, the geopolitics and body-politics of knowledge, and the control of borders, desires and dissidence at the core of the Anthropocene (or Data-cene?). This seminar is devoted to collectively discussing this global and ubiquitous entity in its social, gendered, and material contexts. It will pay special attention to the long and “slow” history of big scientific data, data-centrism and algorithm governance, which is usually neither considered when looking at the immediacy and speed of data circulation nor when thinking the genealogy of the slow disasters. Through workshops, visits and discussions, we will also explore the role of the Small (communities of hackers, activists, alternative media or social databases from the margins) in contesting the merged scientific and political authorities displayed by the Big (big data, big science, big media, big companies or states). The environmental, social, and epistemological challenges that Big Data poses to science and politics need to be critically observed and discussed to depict new horizons. Convivial thinking, collaborative outputs, and, if possible, good spirits are expected from the participants of the seminar.

Anthropogenic Landscapes of Inequality

6-7 January 2020 // Systems of Social and Technological Organization
Maria Paula Diogo, Liliana Coutinho, José Augusto Pádua

One of the critiques by historians to the concept of Anthropocene is its ahistoricity and the assumption that human society is/was a homogeneous, flat and free-floating reality. In this seminar we propose to bring to the forefront of the debate the divide between those who explore and those who are explored, by focusing on the role of European colonial science, technology and medicine — anchored in a global worldwide epistemology based on the Baconian idea of progress and growth — in changing the very concept of ecology, both in colonial and post-colonial periods.

We argue that the process of domestication of overseas territories is critical to understand and discuss, from an historical perspective, the concept of Anthropocene. Large technological systems – railways, roads, dams, urbanization, sanitation – allowed for the successful implementation of new agricultural, commercial and demographic maps in colonial settings, thus designing unbalanced landscapes of prosperity and poverty in a global scale that are still visible (and maintained) today in post-colonial contexts. We propose to center the discussion on a stratigraphy of values carved in the long-durée trend by which global techno-scientific epistemology based on the concepts of progress, growth, naturalization of technology and commodification of nature became the hegemonic worldview. Based on this hegemonic view, nature became a human construction (or destruction, for that matter) and this paradox is now perceived as the “new normality.