Silencing the Crowd: Sound as Resistance vs Sound as Control
Friday 27 October | Central London
Over the last decade movements of resistance have become an indispensable component of the political landscape across the globe. What we are witnessing now, as Matt Clement points out, is “a renaissance of crowd action” (2016: 3). From the uprisings in the Middle East, the rise of the Occupy movement, riots in Europe and America to protests against Trump, the last seven years indicate a resurgence of direct social action. Such movements of resistance, however, do not take place in silence: a collective social body occupies spaces and places, consequently producing sound as a result. Protests, marches and riots are loud events: people chant, march, sing, break and smash with an intention to make a social change. One could argue that the temporal and dynamic capacity of sound contributes how such collective social events materialise and evolve in time. Sound and noise, as constructed and assembled by the participating public, become a tool for amplifying the collective body’s political position. It enables a collective voice, one actively stands against oppression and regime. It is through the shared sound of action, as Clement points out, that the “I” becomes “us” and a social plural becomes possible. (2016)
Yet, whilst the sound of resistance continues to grow and intensify in its velocity, the governments and those in power across the globe are responding. New sonic weaponry technologies, such as LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) and The Mosquito (a high-frequency “anti-loitering” device) have become normalised and are now used to control the behaviour of masses. For example, LRAD weapons were deployed in London during the Olympics in 2012 in fear of a relapse of the 2011 England riots, whilst the same technology was also used to debilitate protesters’ action after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. LRAD sound cannon is now used in more than 70 countries around the world. Sound, in that sense, sits on both sides: it articulates acts of resistance whilst simultaneously, and increasingly, contributing towards their suppression. Whilst the protesting crowds are becoming increasingly louder and noisier, the governments are using sound as an effective biopolitical tool to diminish the voice of the protesting masses.
This critical excursion, organised by the Space, Place and Time Research Collective, will invite participants to think about sound as both a tool for resistance as well as control. During the excursion we will problematize the affective and biopolitical potential of sound in the context of political action. Using recent London-based events as a point of departure for discussion, we will ‘sonically’ relive the event and question the echoing repercussions of technological advancements in sonic weaponry and crowd control. By situating ourselves through sound and text, we hope to expand the conversation and discuss more recent political actions (such as protests against Trump, neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville, the protests in Catalonia).
We will meet by the Thames in Westminster, at the location where the LRAD equipment was openly showcased by the Ministry of Defence during the Olympics in 2012. During the walk we will listen to the recordings of the 2011 England riots as archived by the “Mapping the Sound of Protest” library (a database of field recording collecting the sound of protest across the globe, organised and run by Cities and Memories collective) and afterwards will go on to discuss the provided readings and our experience of the walk at a nearby venue.
“Silencing the Crowd: Sound as Resistance vs Sound as Control” critical excursion will be followed by a workshop, which will take place at Goldsmiths later in the year.
To register, please fill in the form below.
The readings will be sent prior to the critical excursion directly to the emails provided.
Time: 3PM - 6PM