What are the settings in which speech and sound can be heard and have a meaningful effect? How has our ability to listen changed with the development of new technologies for synthesizing, transmitting, capturing, and quantifying expressions? Instead of valorizing the assertion of individuality through speech (which now is so likely to be mediated, mined, and commodified), how can we listen in ways that make us more receptive to one another and ensure that a plurality of voices can be heard? When and why might we reject this ideal and refuse to make ourselves available or open to others (or to the systems that feed on our expressions)?
Triple Canopy addresses these questions in Omniaudience, which emerges from the magazine’s 2018–19 Public Engagement residency at the Hammer Museum and is organized with the Los Angeles–based artist Nikita Gale. Omniaudience refers to the faculty of hearing and comprehending everything, but might also name a congregation of listeners who possess, or strive to attain, this faculty. The first installment of Omniaudience occurred in December 2018; the second installment is a progression of listening sessions, presentations, performances, and discussions at the Hammer Museum and Coaxial Arts, with contributions by Lynnée Denise, Nikita Gale, Harmony Holiday, Nour Mobarak, Alexander Provan, and C. Spencer Yeh. (Subsequent installments in Los Angeles will occur in June and in the fall, along with related events in New York City and elsewhere.)
Omniaudience at the Hammer Museum
With Nikita Gale, Alexander Provan, C Spencer Yeh & Nour Mobarak
Saturday, May 4, 1:30–5 p.m.
Nikita Gale will facilitate a listening session devoted to the creation, distribution, and reception of “River Deep, Mountain High,” which was produced by Phil Spector and performed by Tina Turner. More generally, Gale will ask how audio engineers manipulate performances and recordings in order to mold the identities of artists and cultivate (or target) audiences. Alexander Provan will deliver a lecture, illustrated with chart-toppers, on the use of consumer-behavior data and neurobiology research in the production of pop songs that are guaranteed to be pleasing to as many listeners as possible (and to avoid confronting listeners with songs that they haven’t already been conditioned to like). C. Spencer Yeh will present a live quadraphonic performance of material from The RCA Mark II (Primary Information, 2017), which is composed of recordings of non-musical sounds created with the eponymous, sixty-year-old synthesizer—an avant-garde icon, now in disrepair. Yeh eschews the signature tones of the synth in favor of live recordings of mechanical parts clicking and whirring; he demystifies the technology and confronts the legacy of rarefied electronic music. Nour Mobarak will speak about the vocalization of sound and phonetics in relation to her recent work, which employs recordings of utterances from dozens of languages made by the UCLA Phonetics Lab Archive. Then she’ll be joined in conversation by Gale, Provan, and Yeh, who’ll ask how recordings of human voices quantify and categorize speakers—and how the components of language might, alternatively, be experienced as indeterminate sonic materials.
Omniaudience at Coaxial Arts
With Lynnée Denise & Harmony Holiday
Sunday, May 5, 6–8 p.m.
1815 S. Main St.
Lynnée Denise will present a multimedia essay that employs recordings of interviews and performances to portray the experiences of black artists in the music industry, which she identifies as an economic institution that emerges from chattel slavery. Denise will ask how the pervasive narratives of fame, addiction, and financial exploitation minimize the ability of black artists to benefit from their labor and intellectual property. Harmony Holiday will listen with the audience to neglected musical recordings that manifest traditions of collective improvisation and diasporic gathering.
Triple Canopy’s focus on listening—or hearing with intent—is tied to a long-standing concern with the modes of distracted viewing and reading that proliferate online, and that characterize the attention economy. The magazine’s residency at the Hammer Museum is a cornerstone of Two Ears and One Mouth, a forthcoming issue that addresses how we speak and listen and who has the right and capacity to be heard. (The other is “Parts of Speech,” an exhibition on public speech, organized with Public Fiction and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, that hinges on a series of experimental lectures.)
- Lynnée Denise is an artist, scholar, and producer whose work reflects on underground cultural movements, the 1980s, migration studies, theories of escape, and electronic music of the African diaspora. Denise understands DJing as a research method and strategy for employing music to foster public dialogue; she coined the phrase “DJ scholarship” to shift the role of the DJ from a party purveyor to an archivist and cultural custodian of music with critical value. Her writing has been published by the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Black Scholar Journal, the Journal of Popular Music Studies, and in anthologies including Women Who Rock and Outside the XY: Queer, Black, and Brown Masculinity. She has produced conferences on Michael Jackson with the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, on Prince with the Los Angeles Public Library, and on Aretha Franklin with UCLA’s Department of African-American Studies.
- Nikita Gale is an artist who lives in Los Angeles. Gale received an MFA in new genres at University of California, Los Angeles, in 2016. By engaging with materials that have properties that are simultaneously acoustic and protective, Gale examines the ways in which silence and noise function as political positions and conditions. Gale's work has recently been exhibited at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin, 56 Henry (New York), Bemis Center (Omaha), Commonwealth and Council (Los Angeles), CUE Art Foundation (New York), Martos Gallery (New York), and in “Made in L.A.” at the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles).
- Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, and archivist. She’s the author of A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom (2019); Hollywood Forever (Fence Books, 2016); Go Find Your Father/A Famous Blues (Ricochet Editions, 2014); Negro League Baseball (Fence Books, 2011); and The Black Saint and the Sinnerman, an LP composed of sound and speech that assimilates Charles Mingus’s classic 1963 album. She runs Afrosonics, an archive of jazz and everyday diaspora poetics, and Mythscience, an imprint that reissues work from the archive. She is currently working on a book of poems called M a a f a and an accompanying collection of essays and memoirs, Reparations: Thieves Who Stole My Blue Days, as well as a biography of the jazz singer Abbey Lincoln. She has received the Motherwell Prize from Fence Books and the Ruth Lilly Fellowship, a fellowship from New York Foundation for the Arts, and a fellowship from the Schomburg Center Scholars-in-Residence Program.
- Nour Mobarak is an artist working in text, performance, sound sculpture, and voice. She’s interested in the rational structures that are created to safeguard the irrationalities of each individual. Her work investigates the stifled compulsions and violent or desirous impulses of people and nation-states. She has performed internationally in clubs, bars, and institutions such as the J. Paul Getty Museum, Hauser and Wirth, and Cambridge University, and has published work in F. R. David, the Claudius App, and the Salzburg Review, among others.
- Alexander Provan is the editor of Triple Canopy and a contributing editor of Bidoun. He is the recipient of a 2015 Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant and was a 2013–15 fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics. His writing has appeared in the Nation, n+1, Art in America, Artforum, Frieze, and in several exhibition catalogues. His work has been presented at the 14th Istanbul Biennial, Museum Tinguely (Basel), 12th Bienal de Cuenca (Ecuador), New Museum (New York), Kunsthall Oslo, and Hessel Museum of Art (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York), among other venues. Measuring Device with Organs was recently published by Triple Canopy as an LP.
- C. Spencer Yeh is an artist, improviser, composer. He is widely recognized for his interdisciplinary activities and collaborations as well his musical project Burning Star Core. His video works are distributed by Electronic Arts Intermix. Yeh is a Triple Canopy senior editor and media producer editor, a contributing editor of BOMB, and a programmer and trailer editor at Spectacle Theater, a microcinema in Brooklyn. Yeh's work has recently been exhibited and presented at Empty Gallery (Hong Kong), the Whitney Museum (New York City), the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), MoMA PS1 (New York City), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), the Rubin Museum (New York City), MOCA Cleveland, the 2014 Liverpool Biennial, the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival, Atelier Nord/Ultima Festival (Oslo), D-CAF (Cairo), the Renaissance Society (Chicago), and the Museum of Chinese in America (New York City), as part of "The Moon Represents My Heart: Music, Memory, and Belonging." Yeh was a recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists award in 2019 and an artist-in-residence at ISSUE Project Room (New York City) in 2015. Recent recordings include Solo Voice I–X and The RCA Mark II, both published by Primary Information.