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Issue 26: Two Ears and One Mouth

A series of speeches that ask how to win trust, mold opinion, and orchestrate movements. With Julio Torres, Hari Kunzru, Steffani Jemison, Tomeka Reid, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, and Astra Taylor. Music: Tashi Wada with Yoshi Wada and Friends, “Niagara (Laurel Halo ‘Lilith’ Mix),” Nue Remixes, © 2019 RVNG Intl.

We’ve just launched our twenty-sixth issue, Two Ears and One Mouth, which is devoted to the entanglement of speaking and listening, the right to expression and the right to be heard. The issue asks: Who speaks to you? Who speaks for (or with) you? Who obliges you to listen, and who’ll go silent if you don’t?

We’d planned to publish this issue—which considers the ways in which people insist on being heard and heeded, recognized as human—at the beginning of June. But we delayed in response to the police killings of so many Black Americans and the ensuing mobilizations, in order to focus on amplifying the voices of protesters and reinforcing the efforts of organizers. In the interim, we’ve been encouraging readers to contribute to the movement for racial justice— and abolishing the police and prisons— by demonstrating, contacting legislators, making donations, and assisting with mutual aid initiatives, which we’ll continue to do.

Two Ears and One Mouth was largely created before the pandemic, but nevertheless addresses the prospect of a remote-everything future that promises more fantasies of virtual reality, more surveillance masquerading as society, and more expressions yielding profit instead of meaning. The issue offers alternatives to the digital simulations of “community,” to the corporate messaging that claims we’re all in this together—and that addresses everyone, as if “everyone” is an audience to be selected. The contributions propose that we seek not only “connection” but solidarity, whether in isolation or crowds, as avatars or flesh, through interfaces or improvisations.

In “The Great Equalizer,” an essay that introduces the issue, Alexander Provan, Triple Canopy’s editor, writes about “the divide between those who fancy the first-person plural and those who bring such an amorphous body into being, whether by attracting millions of eyeballs or facing down phalanxes of police with riot gear and ‘warrior training.’” After reading “The Great Equalizer,” navigate to new works by Hari Kunzru, Astra Taylor, Steffani Jemison, Tomeka Reid, Julio Torres, and Christopher Kulendran Thomas. These doctored videos, scripts, polemics, fairy tales, conversations, and improvisations were commissioned in collaboration with Public Fiction, the nomadic curatorial project and journal, for the series Parts of Speech, which began with an exhibition on public speech at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The works evolved from speeches presented by the contributors at sites of assembly throughout Chicago, and include:

  • The novelist Hari Kunzru detailing how to write the truth under fascism (or in so-called democracies), as uniformed brutes round up dissenters and politicians insist on an alternative reality—and how to identify those who merely crave “the status of being a truth teller”

  • The filmmakers and organizers Astra Taylor and Laura Hanna assembling debtors who share accounts of predatory lending, make themselves heard above creditors and inveterate bailout candidates, and say, as one: “We’re not going to pay!”

  • The artist Steffani Jemison and performer Garrett Gray using mime and mimicry to speak and be heard without language, while addressing the notion that “the neutral body is a precondition of freedom,” among other fantasies attached by French movement theorists to colonial subjects

  • The cellist and composer Tomeka Reid reflecting, with fellow musicians, on improvisation as speech (and resistance), on the audience for “great Black music” after Armageddon

  • The comedian Julio Torres giving voice to the Flintstones’ trash hog and challenging the audience to relate to a typically two-dimensional characterization of a domestic worker

  • The artist and entrepreneur Christopher Kulendran Thomas proposing that, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, populaces disavow unjust and incompetent governments, citizenship be untethered from borders, and networks supplant nations

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll publish works by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, DeForrest Brown, Jr., Nikita Gale, Rainald Goetz, Harmony Holiday, David Levine, Derica Shields, Jonathan Sterne and Mara Mills, Tashi Wada, and Julia Weist and Nestor Siré, among others. Many of these stem from Omniaudience, a series of listening sessions and performances organized with Gale, a Los Angeles-based artist, as part of a residency at the Hammer Museum.

Parts of Speech is made possible in part through the generous support of the Stolbun Collection and Karyn Kohl and Silas Dilworth. Triple Canopy has received additional support for Two Ears One Mouth from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; the Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the New York State Council on the Arts; and the Opaline Fund of the Jewish Community Endowment Federation and Endowment Fund.