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Arwina Afsharnejad

Daria is a Ukrainian multimedia artist whose works revolve around memory as an agent of resistance, warfare in liminal spaces, violence and repair. Arwina is a German artist, researcher, and writer of Iranian descent. Together, they develop simulated environments & video games for resistance, solace, and healing. Through machine learning and command line magic, they critically examine the entanglements between extractivism, imperialist exploitation, and power hierarchies.



Our research is driven by the interest in sound as a medium of constituting collective identities and its role in challenging dominant social narratives. The study encompasses domains of care (e.g. lullabies, soothing spells, autonomous sensory meridian response), resistance (sound of feminist protests, rooftop chanting, yelling) and predicting (spoken word divination, canticumancy). We will analyze how these practices may be commodified, appropriated, or marginalized within oppressive systems, and how gendered and racialized power relations influence their place within capitalist economies. Opposing the “archive” – accumulated materials that “endure” – with the “so-called ephemeral repertoire of nonreproducible knowledge” (Taylor, 2003) we attempt to collect and centre feminist voices.

The first module of the research is dedicated to the sonic dimensions of care. We will study how sound is used to create safer spaces, comfort or provide emotional support in the context of care work, and how it intersects with gender identity and race. Poet Lindsey Turner argues that lullaby embodies a particular convergence of poetic expression with caregiving labour, though poetic innovation related to gendered reproductive labour needs to be seen beyond representation. In Caliban and the Witch, Federici describes historical processes where women's bodies and knowledge “have been appropriated by the state and men and forced to function as a means for the reproduction and accumulation of labour”. This challenges gender-neutral conceptions of "poetic language" that differentiate between a "real poet" (often assumed male) and a caregiver. The forms, born out of caregiving work, are often dismissed in favour of literary value, ignoring involved labour and those who perform the work (Turner, 2019).

Second module of the project focuses on sonic strategies of intersectional resistance in feminist movements including protests, demonstrations, and other forms of activism. How sound is utilized to amplify women's, queer’s and trans’ of colour voices, challenge patriarchal power structures, and disrupt gender-based oppression? Analysis in the second block is grounded in the body of works of scholars like Roshanak Kheshti, Shana L. Redmond, Andie Silva and others who significantly develop sound studies on intersections of feminist struggles, anti-racist activism, empowerment and solidarity.

In the third module we will conduct a soundscape analysis of prediction and hyperstition practices, focusing on sonic environments associated with canticumancy (divination through music) and fortune-telling. It includes music, chants, vocalizations and spoken word that are used to evoke spirits, invoke deities, and communicate with the divine.

As listeners, we are shaped by the dynamics of oppression and control that influence our auditory experiences (Kazlauskaitė, 2018). Building upon the concept of embodied listening we seek to explore listening as an active practice that involves the whole body, including its sensations, emotions, and memories and argue that listening can be a political act disrupting normative notions of sound, voice, and identity. Drawing from memory studies we will critically examine the ways in which sound serves as a carrier of memory, and how it can evoke, transform, or repress memories associated with gendered experiences, as well study the role of sound in memory formation, consolidation, and retrieval. By exploring potential strategies and approaches, we aim to contribute to the development of practical tools that can enhance our understanding of the complex relationship between sound, embodiment, and unbalanced power relations.

The project employs an interdisciplinary approach that combines qualitative research methods, including fieldwork, interviews, work with open-source sound databases, textual and material-discursive analysis (Barad, 2007). The latter could involve examining how material and discursive forces shape and are shaped by sound practices, and analyzing the ways in which sound is produced, circulated, and interpreted in different socio-political and cultural contexts. It can also involve exploring the role of language, representation, and discourse in defining perceptions and meanings of sound practices and how these discursive practices intersect with power hierarchies.

As an output of our research, we plan to experiment with alternative ways of presenting sound and build an immersive multisensory environment – the sonic cave of computational care (CCC). CCC is a womb-shaped sound chamber designed for co-creation, solace and healing. Embodied sonic experiences in CCC are generated by human and non-human agents – through programmed algorithms and physical touches of participants. As long as two entities interact with each other aurality of the cave is in flux.

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