Empathic Listening/Radical Listening: learning from feminist and decolonial contemporary arts practices through artistic research.
University of the Arts, London
Year of enrolment: 2019
Participation in conversation is always political. Speaking remains dominant, with listening devalued as a minor ‘other’ in a binary opposition; an inequality based on a dialectical subject/object distinction that reflects societal practices of violent othering (Ferreira da Silva 2014).
This project’s urgency responds, via practice-based artistic research, to societal practices of differentiation; listening and being listened to are unevenly distributed following intersections of oppression and privilege. My proposal considers how listening is practiced, working on the basis that much expertise on listening is practice-based and experience-situated, and that better understanding and sharing of this expertise in listening can support processes aimed at rebalancing privilege by contributing to a wider pool of knowledge on what listening is and how it functions, supporting ‘listening across difference’ (Dreher 2009) with ‘a feminist ear’ (Ahmed 2016).
I propose a generative theoretical framework connecting Barad’s concepts of ‘intra-action’, ‘response-ability’, and ‘exteriority-within’ (2007) with Ferreira da Silva’s concept of ‘difference without separability’ (2016). I will use a balance of multi-modal artistic methods to address my research questions to contemporary art as it is embodied, practiced, and materialised by feminist and decolonial practitioners. Theory and practice are interwoven, reflecting a theoretical entanglement of epistemology, ontology, and ethics, with publication of the research process in several forms—online interview archive, film, participatory workshops, publishable toolkits, installation artworks, and written thesis—aimed towards audiences with differing experiences.
The research will investigate listening and its micro-political implications within contemporary art by: critically reviewing existing arts publishing and programming to map how listening is currently understood; documenting practices that are not foregrounded in mainstream contemporary arts discourses; and creating artworks that foster possible alternative ways of listening. Its focus is listening as practiced by individual and collective art practitioners, and smaller institutions emphasising public engagement.