Regenerative Listening

On listening, care and activism

July 20, 2023, Kingston University, London: This symposium explores the cross-cutting role of listening in art, activism and social care and its potential to facilitate change in times of crisis. Understanding listening as a form of solidarity and a labour of care, the symposium explores the cross-pollination of political and creative practices that intersect with socially engaged art, transitional justice, healthcare research and cultural activism. The significance of this study day consists in an inter-disciplinary methodology and perspective on listening which will connect research on this subject from political theory and clinical psychology to performance, visual art and sonic studies. 

Including presentations and discussions with: Luis Sotelo Castro (Concordia University), Leah Bassel (Coventry University), Brandon LaBelle (The Listening Biennial), John Levack Drever (Goldsmiths University), Johanna Motzkau (The Open University), Maddalena Fragnito (Coventry University, Pirate Care), Soundcamp (London). 
Convened by Lucia Farinati (Kingston University).

Listening has long been considered as a cultural, political and clinical activity that can be practised, learned and cultivated. In socially engaged art the focus on dialogue and audience participation has been a listening- centered practice giving voice to marginalised subjects. In 1970s practices of feminist consciousness raising, new protocols for group listening and speaking were recognised as a powerful political action and a vital form of political therapy. In all forms of talking therapy listening has been recognised as the core skill of professional training. But in moments of crisis (financial, ecological, Brexit, Covid, Ukraine...) what is the role of listening and why might listening matter? What happens when verbal communication or dialogue, understanding and reciprocity, compassion and empathy are under threat due to isolation, lack of care and hope? This symposium aims to re-contextualise distinct traditions of listening in politics, social and creative practice and analyse when and how their potential for social transformation is blocked at the point that a dramatic shift in perspective - without losing the attention (the listening) - becomes necessary. The cross-pollination between art, activism and social care can unlock the potential and renew the strength in each domain by asking: 
    •    Can art create a safe space for listening to narratives of trauma and loss?  
    •    Can listening within activist movements constitute, in and of itself, an act of healing  
    •    Can creative methods of listening support inclusive health and new forms of social and health care? 

In looking at creative practices of listening in art and activism and their reciprocal influence the symposium will unpack the potential of listening towards new dimensions of social justice, care and healing. Listening can be envisaged as a bridge, or a journey that we can’t take alone (Bickford, 1996), a creative, regenerative experience of reconnecting with others after times of self-isolation. 

The symposium in organized in collaboration with Soundcamp, and includes a second day of gathering - the Sound Picnic, taking place at Stave Hill Ecological Park, London.

This is an invitation open to anyone who would like to share their knowledge and practices in sound and listening studies but also to experiment with new modalities of research and collaboration in contact with nature. Designed as a field trip at the Stave Hill Ecological Park in South London, this sound picnic is an opportunity for exchange across a broader public, inviting encounters and meeting points for those interested to find out more about The Listening Academy, as well as to meet others involved in sound work and listening studies. Throughout the day informal sharing will be encouraged and facilitated through the formation of working groups. Please feel free to bring along any materials you might like to share, from publications, sound scores, texts, sound equipment or simply any proposals that are works in progress. Please also bring food and drink to share.