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mumok cinema | Raise and Un-Raise Your Voices

mumok live

Acts of Listening and Politics of Sound: Raise and Un-Raise Your Voices! Choirs in Moving Images.
Notes and Fragments

Marietta Kesting


This program at the mumok cinema, curated by Constanze Ruhm and myself, is based on discussions, experiences, texts, and sounds. Some of these, which might be called seeds, are presented briefly here.

Helmut Draxler asks: “How can I be sure that my voice is heard and accepted as a voice and as a vote? This question already indicates that it is not only about raising your voice, but also that this act of raising your voice needs a counterpart, a kind of resonance, that I am attempting to define here with the words hear and accept.” (1) Certainty seems out of reach, and yet the technical recording of your own or other voices is one way of saving these voices and in some circumstances making them audible by playing them back and insistently repeating this. By using recordings and loops, it is possible to modify your own voice into the form of a choir. At the same time, everyone knows the experience of being stuck in a telephone loop, where the repeated statement of a voice can quickly become a kind of sound torture. Voices that address us without accepting us are unbearable, as the dialogic basis is broken, which is based on me speaking to you, you listening to me, and you answering.


As Nietzsche put it, the ear is an ecstatic organ. (2) We cannot close it, as we can our eyes. Unborn children experience their first perception of sound already in the fourth month of pregnancy, when their ears become fully developed sensual organs. Why then does it seem that looking at pictures takes priority over working with sounds? Is this because pictures are easier to put to commercial use? To speak for yourself, to “have” a voice and to listen, and in turn to be heard, are important questions in postcolonial theory, which have even partly replaced debates about invisibilities, or have come to complement these. Kristina Pia Hofer thus emphasizes a “beyond speaking for,” by instead calling for a situated “sonic sensibility.” (3) What might a decolonial listening in the cinema, as the listener to a lecture, a work of art, or a performance look like? How might this listening to silence, echoes, and motifs come about?


Is a sound installation a film without pictures?

Jake Clayton’s installation 40 Part Part (2022), which he will present at mumok cinema on November 16, refers loosely to Janet Cardiff’s multi-channel sound work The Forty Part Motet (2001). (4) In Clayton’s project the audience is invited to participate, and sounds are only audible with their assistance. The individual sound library that nearly everyone has saved on their smartphone is here put on stage as a public performance. The individual viewers may remain silent or sing along.


(1) Helmut Draxler, “Eine unerhörte Subjektivität,” in Sabeth Buchmann et al. (eds.), Die Stimme als Voice und Vote (Berlin: b_books, 2018), pp. 49–55, here: p. 49.

(2) Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra III.

(3) Kristina Pia Hofer, “Sonic Assemblies: Artistic Historiography, Video Sound, and Representation in The Woolworths Choir of 1979,” in Anamarija Batista, Notions of Temporalities in Artistic Practice (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2022),

(4) See for example, last accessed October 30, 2022.