Week 39: Ultra-red

Hi Everyone,

This Tuesday is another event in a year-long series of weekly conversations and exhibits in 2010 shedding light on examples of Plausible Artworlds.

This week we’ll be talking with Janna Graham and Robert Sember of the sound art collective ultra-red.


Founded in Los Angeles in 1994 by two AIDS activists, ultra-red has since expanded across Europe and North America its membership of artists and activists in such social movements as struggles of migration, anti-racism, participatory community development, and the politics of HIV/AIDS. Over the years, ultra-red has developed a kind of ambient sound activism combining situationist radicalism with the sound research techniques of the acoustic ecology movement.

“Exploring acoustic space as enunciative of social relations,” as the group puts it, ultra-red develops uncompromisingly political art projects sometimes in the form of radio broadcasts, performances, installations or recordings — including two albums “Second Nature: An Electroacoustic Pastoral” (1999) and “Structural Adjustments” (2000). They have conducted “militant sound investigations” of the spaces of needle exchange (Soundtrax, 1992 – 1996), public sex (Second Nature, 1995 – 199smiley, public housing (Structural Adjustments, 1997 – 2003), resistance to global capital (Value System, 1998 – 2003), labor (Social Factory, 1997 – 2002), education (School of Echoes, 2001 – Present), anti-racism and migration struggles (Surveying The Future, 2001 – Present), and HIV/AIDS (SILENT|LISTEN, 2005 – Present). Just to round this sonic world off, the group also runs the fair-use online record label, Public Record.

The acoustic dimension is obviously constituent of any plausible, sentient world — as much as, perhaps more than the visual realm, given that we don’t have “earlids” allowing us to naturally filter sonic experience. But it is something that we have yet to really address in Plausible Artworlds. What dynamics are at work — or at play — in the relationship between acoustics and political organizing? Between conceptual art and the sonic realm? What kind of sound-based research will help us map out the acoustic space of contested spaces and favor the emergence of more plausible (art)worlds?



Week 39: Ultra-red

[1st part]

Scott: How's the sound quality for everybody?

Female: Hello?

Scott: Hi there, great.  So welcome you guys, I know we just talked a moment ago, but welcome to another week in this series of talks about plausible art worlds, or what we're calling plausible art worlds.  It's great to have you guys here.

Female: Thanks, it's good to be here.

Scott: So we usually start these chats off, at least when we actually get the audio rolling just with a short description or just ask you guys, if you wouldn't mind, to give us a brief intro to Ultra-red for, I know we posted a link in the chat, that's for everybody who doesn't know to get a little bit of info, so they can follow along with the chat, would you mind giving us a brief; this is how we got started, this is who we are...

Robert: Yep, no problem

Female: Yep, so Ultra-red has been around for 16 years, Robert and I haven't been with the collective for all of those 16 years, but it was started in Los Angeles, and the story goes; it was started by two age activists who were working in the context of a needle exchange in Hollywood, and making  use of sound recordings to engage in political analysis of the struggles around HIV and AIDs in Los Angeles at the time, and in the history of Ultra-red, and that moment there were two members and sort of grew over time and I think collected people as we call them investigations, so people who are involved in analysis around struggle through sound, and the sort of collecting of people, or people meeting each other is really based on a number of shared interests.  The first may be, one of them being an interest in working with sound or increasingly as we say now less sound, and more scenarios and choreographies of listening, but also I think over time, when we met each other or exchanged e-mails we started to realize that all of us have some background or interest in popular education in strategies and structures and processes of organizing.  The members of the group now, there are 9 of us, we're in three countries, and sometimes more, including the US, there's still people active in Los Angeles to some extent, and the people in Los Angeles work primarily around issues of migration and public housing, but also around AIDS and HIV, and we have a group in the UK who are working on investigations also around border regimes and issues around migration and racism and anti-racism, and increasingly here, the intersection between thinking about the border and thinking about sites at the border and issues of immigration, and new immigration policy in the UK, in relation to spaces of education and how privatization of the university and the use of schools and universities in relation to border control is coming collapsed.  Then we also have some projects that have been going on in different parts of Europe, and they've been a bit more mobile projects that are site specific, but tend to circulate around the issues around migration, racism and anti-racism.  So I don't know Robert, do you want to say anything else about what it is we're up to?  I mean I think, so we all share these histories of working within struggle, some of us have more explicit relationships to the art world, like training, or background in the arts, but many members of the group really don't, and come out specifically of struggles and analysis of struggle and also action within particular struggles, so...

Scott: How many members do you have in your group?

Female: Nine

Scott: Ok, and you guys are in London now?

Female: Yeah, we're in London right now; I live here, and Robert is visiting, right now he's living in [inaudible 0:06:24.8] hooking up a project there, but yeah, it's exciting, we don't all spend that much time together, this is kind of like an issue, I mean this kind of Skype call feels a bit [inaudible 0:06:38.0] to some of the ways in which we organize ourselves, but we tend to work in project teams  that are located in a place for a period of time.


Scott: Oops, look like we lost them.

[2nd part]

[male][continued...] so that there was a sense of a need to actually shift [inaudible 0:00:11.5] away from construction of analysis and then circulation of those in a packaged form into a much more process-based collective investigation focused kind of procedure.  And so we often [inaudible 0:00:31.1] as we moved from imposing sounds to organizing [inaudible 0:00:37.2] and this shifts an emphasis from the creation of objects to the constitution of these investigations that had been [inaudible 0:00:53.5] through these processes of collective listening, questioning, discussion, analysis and the formation [inaudible 0:01:03.4] of a kind of contribution to organizing that [inaudible0:01:09.7] arise from the language we would use, the articulations of the ideological [inaudible 0:01:17.5] that sort of group of people who ...

[3rd part]   

[male][continued... inaudible/unclear sound until 0:10:08.9]

Female: Does anyone have any questions?

Scott: Yeah, I'm sure other people do too, just a quick question  is; you're interested in groups, at least one thing of what I remember from what you were saying is that, well I guess what happens when groups really listen, and I was curious about what your criteria are for the groups that you work with?  Do you have criteria?

Female: It's a really good question, we've been trying to grapple with that, I think in the last year or so, because we've had a lot of invitations to go places for shorter periods of time where maybe the earlier work of the collective came out of a very long engagement with the struggle in a particular place, or within a struggle that a longer trajectory this kind of way the art world operates develop invitations for shorter term visits has made us revisit that.  I don't know, in the UK, I think we've found-- because we've done quite a lot of these maybe shorter-term visits to places, but we've found the most important moments that we've had have been where we've been able to have criteria around working with other people who are involved in a struggle that we have direct experiences within, so for example, we're doing a project in Glasgow, but because we've done a couple of years of work, doing anti-racism work with people who have been direct, who have experienced racist violence directly in the South West of England in a rural area, we thought it was would be best and most important for us to work with an organization that's already involved in that struggle, so there's an organization in Glasgow called Unity that works doing direct migrant support, so that would be like one way we would approach who we would want to work with, but having said that in the last year, I think we've also worked with other groups that; or gone into a situation where a gallery has identified groups on our behalf and we've had to negotiate which of those groups would be appropriate to work with, or that we could work with in a way that would...

Scott: Groups of people around the gallery that were requesting?

[female]Yeah, a lot of the time where [inaudible 0:13:11.5] been brought in, especially to galleries, or are invited into galleries to almost as like an outsourced arm of their public engagement; like there's a funding stream and a number of galleries that need to be doing public engagement work; want to maybe do it more radically than the instrumentalized model of arts education in Britain, which is very specific, but really has over the last 25 years involved arts educators and artists in processes in so-called integration, pacification.  So there's also a critical group of curators and educators who are saying "We don't want that, we want to do engagement, but we don't want to do that", and part of that invitation is really to also assist them to work within the culture of their institutions or funding streams to develop a different way of doing that.  Having said that, that can be a bit clumsy it can mean that we enter into a space and there are some groups that have been defined as groups who are local who might have affiliation with the movements that we've been involved with, but sometimes that can be quite a loose affiliation, or a loose reading of those movements, so in those cases, we do these kind of listening exercises where we find I think a lot of the time the most resonance is with organizations that share to some extent either some of our commitments; whether those are commitments within a political struggle, or commitments within popular education, or within particular histories.

Robert: I mean I think there are two actually very useful terms to spend some time thinking about, that Jenna has introduced here; one is the idea of the invitation, and the other is this issue with the public--all the groups, particularly the sort of ubiquitous ever-patient within art spaces of this idea of the public, in face in a conversation earlier today in which this sort of question of "So at what point  is there going to be a public engagement in the project", and this sort of notion that something actually hasn't really happened within the context of an art institution until it's gone public in some way.  So this question of invitation and both the public are basically... the mains in which a lot of our work is being evolved at this point, there are essentially three kinds of invitations that are possible that help to constitute the group.  One is an invitation that actually comes from  an Ultra-red member who is involved in some kind of work or struggle and says "You know, I'm at a phase in this work where I think it would be useful for us to do some of the procedure that Ultra-red has been developing and organizing, and so this is what will occur, and it becomes something that is then nested within the context of a very long relationship.  Then there is the invitation that will come from a constituted group that will say "We're at a phase in our own work, we would be interested in having you come in and work with us in some way", and in that sense there is a kind of coherence, so the group already has a sense of history, their own vocabulary, their ideological commitments, and through the process of working with Ultra-red, sometimes some of those go into crisis, sometimes some of the things that are accepted as established procedures or terms become questioned, and a new set of analyses, or a new set of propositions emerge.  Then the third invitation is the one where we are invited by and art institution to do an event, and the event itself constitutes for the period of the event, a kind of collectivity, but there is no illusion that this collectivity actually proceeds the coming together of the event, or will actually be continued beyond it.  These three kinds of invitations produce three different engagements on our part in some way.  The conditions that they establish make certain things possible and they make other things not possible.  For us to determine what the value is of something and what has been compromised within each of these projects is a long conversation for us; what is the value of us doing this, given that there is this constraint, or something like that.  On the other hand is the question of the public.  I think that this is one of the major struggles, certainly what I'm having in a number of the projects that I'm involved in at this point, where there is, I feel, a deep need to actually have a somewhat closed investigations so that a group can in fact go about its work and develop its analysis, and at a certain point it will be in a position to invite others to come into conversation with it.  In terms of art institutions, part of the negotiation is in a certain sense "can you trust us enough, or will you give us the authority?", "will you give up the authority of being the ones who define the terms of the invitation to the public and the moment at which that invitation is going to be issued?" so that a group is able to constitute itself through this investigation and at a certain point it can determine that it has arrived at a point that it can now have a wider address.  In a certain sense, what happens is the public becomes fragmented into constituencies and then are no longer this generic, by which often in the art world is meant sort of essentially a bourgeois constituency which is the base constituency for most of the art world.  And so when you say the public, what you essential mean, referring to is a very particular audience.  So the question of the constitution of the group; there isn't a single criteria or formula.  A lot of it has to do with where the invitation comes from for us, under what conditions, we will then consider how we will respond to that invitation and how we might be able to make a contribution to the event or the process that we've been asked to contribute to in some way.  On the other end, where is this going?  Who is this for? What is the point of this work? And another series of invitations, it may be for Ultra-red to continue working on it, or it may be for group to expand its own constituencies, its own address in some way.

It's been really interesting to think about how profound, how important the invitation actually is, and the fact that the invitation keeps on being issued, it itself is revised as each phase of the procedure moves forward.  This is what happens when you work with people over time as supposed to say; here is one event, here is one encounter; that you are constantly negotiating the terms of that relationship.  That's part of what you listen to, are the terms of that negotiation for the continuing work.

Scott: Speaking of that being part of what you listen to, I don't know if you noticed just a second ago there was a questions from some of the people at Base Kamp; did someone over there want to ask that question?  Or do you want me to read it?

Yes, Cassie, or someone there, I'm not sure who was saying that they're curious about what role the music, or what role the audio takes within the projects?  Is it just a way to approach these issues; is it more about the audio itself in conjunction with these issues?  And they're curious without having heard any of the audio from these projects.

Robert: This is actually, it would be great to actually hear some of the audio, and my suggestion is if you do follow the link to Public Record, and listen to--when you have a chance, listen to either the entire 60 sounds that make up the project, what is the Sound of the War on the Poor, or just click through a random sampling of them.  And I hope that one of the things that will be immediately striking is how different the audio response is to the same question, and so that will, I think, begin to give some sense of the texture, the variation and texture that sound makes possible.  The actually procedure of working with sounds is deceptively simple; essentially people will make a recording, bring that recording in, and we will sit together around the table and listen to the recording.  More often than not, it's a sight recording, it's not a piece of music, it's not composed, somebody has gone somewhere to a particular place, or sit and has made a recording for a period of time.  After listening to it there is the question; What did you hear?  The inventory of those responses, as they begin to unfold, and it's quite exhaustive; some people will begin by wanting to catalogue the sound; "I have heard the sound of a city" and that is sort of the response to what did you hear , and then that question is asked again, and then you'll hear some people will attempt to then treat the sound as though it were some kind of quiz, I need to sort of guess exactly where this sound is.  So you see a range of responses to the listening, but by doing it collectively, the limitation of each of those responses is almost the way in which each of those responses return you to the sound, and as you're sitting at the table, you being to hear the sound differently; "I wasn't listening to it as a kind of quiz, but if I was to listen to it what would I then be hearing?" and so you start to generate a long list of descriptive.  Some are very simple, very direct, others are more interpretative or poetic, and the vocabulary of the thematic becomes very rich and broad.

Jenna: But I think also what happens is each of those modes of listening, interpretation and cataloguing, or what we mind call conceptual listening which happens quite often where people say that they heard the sound of violence, or a concept actually, maybe more so than a concrete thing in the world.  Each of those modes of listening reveals also a set of investments and desires of those people who are in the room, and that's somehow listening to those desire as well is also quite important in the formulation of some kind of group; whether it's a group who completely disagrees with one another, or a group composed or  on solidarity or something in between, that active projection of the desire is also really important to catalyzing a collective experience.

Scott: And what is your preferred role within this group?  there's you, there's the numbers of Ultra-red who some of you are in proximity, while some of you are not; when you enter into this kind of activity with other people listening, is your role always organized at the events? Do you participates in trying to interpret sounds and let other people know what you were thinking?  I mean obviously you have a special role within the project because you are part of the organizing group, at least assuming from what you guys are saying that all the projects you're talking about are organized by Ultra-red; and I understand that especially when you were talking about earlier Robert about organizations and--not necessarily outsourcing activity, but outsourcing responsibility, usually they invite artist groups or curatorial groups, but specifically people who are involved in organizing to take on that responsibility; and I was just curious about both of you individually and other members of Ultra-red if you can speak on their behalf too-- what your desired position is, or if you feel that you have a responsibility to maintain a certain position within that activity.

Jenna: It's a really good questions because I think we've struggled with it in different projects in different ways, and many of us will probably disagree on what the role would be.

Scott: Maybe I should ask you individually then?

Jenna: Yeah, I mean I can just speak from a very specific project where we did a project in the south-west of England which was the first invitation what Robert talked about; it was another member of Ultra-red who worked for an anti-racism organization and invited Ultra-red--other members of the collective-- to come and work in that context, and the conversations that we were having were about answering the question what is the sound of racism in the south-west, which is a rural community, and the south of England where there's increasingly a lot of right-wing organizing, and also a lot of racist violence happening, and in those contexts we started this process of listening with a kind of facilitation, I was facilitating the sessions and Elliot was at different moments where we would be very much a quiet facilitator, facilitating, asking the question; What did you hear? taking notes when people spoke, but really quite out of the scenario in terms of our own interpretations and felt that that was quite important to leave space for people.  But increasingly in the project that we've been doing, and even in that project, our silence became quite a problem for us because we were-- in particular Elliott as an anti-racism organization--and myself as I became more involved in people's lives and in this moving towards actual political action around the issue, it was impossible to play that role of a facilitator only, so we became much more involved in the interpretations and in the discussions, but as we moved closer towards the constitution of ourselves as a collective and that would be one particular case where we all; Elliott, myself and the people we were working with were involved in collective analysis and eventually some forms of acting together as well.

Scott: Do you mean that in sense that you were actually moving towards other forms of self-organization rather than

Jenna: Yeah exactly, like moving from the question; What is the sound of racism in the south-west to what is the sound of anti-racism in the south-west.  So really, trying to think about how we would constitute a group, or a network of people, how that network could organize itself locally in response to racist violence that was happening in that particular project;  some of those small self-organized groups developed through the project, and yes , and the process went on, and that was over the course of about a year, we were very much a network.  We were part of that network, and the idea that we would be facilitating something that we weren't directly involved in, or that we would be a kind of outside figures within that, didn't seem appropriate or possible; and it was quite early on that that became the case because the more we worked with people in even the recordings of sounds, we had spent quite a lot of time with people discussing the way that they would approach recordings, the sites that they would go to and also formulating analyses with them.  The idea that we would be facilitators only just didn't work.  

Scott: I understand what you're saying is that it's more in the spirit of action research than some kind of a so-objective...

Robert: Action research is certainly one of the movements, one of the paradigms that we have actually have discussed

Scott: And I'm mainly asking about group dynamics, not to sort of try to poke at your group specifically; just out of curiosity, because I think the questions that you're asking are really relevant regardless of who's asking them, or what methods you're using; not to say that I don't think the methods are relevant--they are-- but I think that it's also something that whenever is brought up, I'm really curious about; I guess a slight elaboration on that question could be;  do you also work with other groups who are on an equal playing field with you organizationally-speaking?  

JennaThe question we're approaching in the work that we're doing in Scotland in one organization for example that works one issues of anti-gentrification and is maybe in a preliminary moment of organizing, but in terms of what they do and our knowledge of them, that we've know about them for a long time, and know about their analysis and shared some perspectives with them and were invited by them, and maybe this is an example of the second kind of invitation that Robert was talking about, where they invited us to come and attend an anti-gentrification walk that they were doing and make recordings and then work with them as partners in developing a mechanism for listening, for people to listen who had been on the walk a week after, and to use that listening of the sound walk to start formulating shared analysis, and then in that sense I think the organization was quite different than ours but comparable in terms of commitments and histories of working in Scotland and critical vocabulary and all of that kind of thing.  So definitely, that would be more of an example of an organization that invites us to do this kind of work.  I mean, even that was mediated through an art organization, but in general, the group was wanting us to com because we're part of social movements and because they know us, and we know them, so yeah; does that answer the question?

Scott: Yeah definitely, I think my question might not be that, I don't know to what degree it applies to you, or work with you've approached difficulties around the issue you're working with, or around the question of how does intergroup collaboration work when people usually take similar role; I think it's often easier for people who are in groups for those groups to work together when their roles are usually different.  I think it's sort of a larger question for organizing but it's also a question for how collective activity connect especially within the creative cultural realm can really be productive.

Robert: Actually a number of things that I would consider might be helpful, some very pragmatic things, one is something that Jenna was pointing to in the description she gave of the project in the south-west is while there are these sorts of events, and the events have a beginning and an end and they are situated often within an on setting, they're actually preceded and followed by many hours of conversation, of interaction and those are essential.  In a certain sense, the project itself that gets formally framed; so if you go to the Tate, the Tate Britain website, you'll see a project there that we did called "We come from your future", you'll see documentation of an event, there's about three photographs, there's a description, that is such a small moment in what actually is a very long collective process of building trust, and in many ways what I think are [inaudible 0:39:11.7] dynamics, the [inaudible 0:39:14.4] of friendship, of care, and in many instances a kind of love and affection, and so the development of that closeness--and then of course some instances also sometimes conflict, disagreement, animosity-- but those elements that mix together,  these relationships of commitment--those are very much a part of what happens.  As occurs, I think, with any group; over time, as you begin to become familiar with each other so the tone and the nature of the conversation is going to change, so that's one thing: Is that it's really important to not [inaudible 0:40:04.1] the kind of art that sort of gets formally identified, documented and circulated, but to see it as part of a group process, and often the event, as sort of formal as it might be, is basically a consolidating moment for a group, it's something that we're working towards, we're going to do this, it's going to be an opportunity for us to reflect on where we are within our process at this point to be able to hear how others are reacting to what we're doing, so that we can actually figure out where we're going to go next.  So it's not a culminating event, actually, this is a very important thing for us as well, is that the event, which so often within art situations; the event completes a project.  Here, for us in many ways, the event actually begins a projects, there'll be all of this procedure leading up to it, the event happens and then the questions of what can we do now?  That's a very important question, it's not now we have had a public moment, our work is done; but it's actually what have we learned from this moment about ourselves and how to we move forward?

The other thing is something that we've been working with a lot, is protocols, so that it's not as though in the facilitation people will arrive and they will sit there ignorant of what's happening and then just be directed by us through this, there actually is a formal written protocol that people actually have access to and are able to follow.  The protocol, because it is there, in a way, I think removes some of the conventional structure of authority, it doesn't create a kind of--as an equal everybody out, but in a certain sense, it becomes a kind of document to which people can reference.

Scott: Do you mean protocol the fact that you follow protocol?  Or the specific protocol itself?

David: [inaudible answer] and the protocol is repetitive, and so in a certain sense, all of the anxiety about what are we going to do next?  How are we going to move next?   In a certain sense, it becomes quite transparent, and I think that protocol-- you can break protocol, there are many instances where people have said "actually I don't want to do it this way, can we do it another way?", but the fact that there is something to begin with, I think that helps in situations, so one of the thing I'm imagining in your question is; you're working with a group that are actually very used to being the ones who facilitate group processes and suddenly they are being asked to actually be facilitated, does this cause--and especially if they have a different procedure, I mean I'm thinking this event that we did in Glasgow which was rather difficult where we actually had sort of three very strong, very different kind of facilitation styles and strategies present in the room, having the protocol didn't resolve those differences, but it became a way in which we could actually reference those difference.  It just provided a structure and organizing to the process, that made a conversation about process at least at some point in the event.  There's a lot of work that goes into the development of protocols.

Jenna: I was just going to say the protocols that we develop for an event, or listening session often have a great deal to do with what we've learned about the organization and its own capacity to listen.  For example, one project that we worked on, the one we worked on at the Tate, we were working with an organization that had a real habitual kind of practices of speaking, listening, where very particular within the organization do to a large extent to where they were situated in relation to public funding meant that there we spokes people in the organization and other people who were brought in as evidence of situations, in this case of racism, and so they had this dynamic of speaking and listening within the group and we knew that if we were to have a group discussion, or a listening session, we would somehow have to produce a protocol that would somehow equalize and  then draw attention to that habitual way of speaking and listening, so that some people in groups we always have people who feel much more confident and much more comfortable and who have also been authorized by institutional structures to become those who speak and so in many of the protocols that we've developed, it's about trying to rearrange those practices and to see what happens, to bring attention to these micro-politics, or micro-dynamics of speaking and listening that become habitual and unspoken within a group.

Scott: Interesting, yeah, do you ever feel that you guys as a group are intervened upon in a way that surprises you?


Scott: I mean because you project is about listening, I would assume you would discover things you didn't expect, but at the same time, you probably expect that so...

Robert: Well [inaudible 0:46:01.7] we haven't spoken on it and I think we should is this issue of pedagogy and I think this may be a point where, I'm not sure we will know how to deal with this, we deal with it in the same way, but certainly within our own collective, when we spend time together we all have a conversation at certain point will occur what I call these teaching moments.  Where we find ourselves in a moment where somebody in the collective has been reading something or has and experience, or has a history that becomes very meaningful at that moment, and so we find ourselves sitting and listening to what this person has to say.  It can be a particular theoretical analysis, or it can be a particular deep history that we hear about, and these are the most wonderful and surprising moments in the event, this work I'm doing in New York at the moment is with a group of people who are creating an archive, and the moments of arriving at a point where somebody feels compelled, or moved to actually say "it makes me think of this" and suddenly there is now this sort of teaching moment and we--those who are facilitating are in the position of students in that moment as well, and the experience of learning collectively and then working together and sort of saying "now I see how this fits in to what we're doing at this point", and so collaborative pedagogical process is really the strongest element in all of this.  The listening creates this co-learning, and so the issue of who is the facilitator, the issues of authority, the issues of control, these become reorganized into the pedagogical relationships where there is an understanding that at certain points it's very likely, if the procedure, if the protocol makes this possible, that everybody will be able to teach, and that everybody will be able to learn, and the group then builds its knowledge through this process of teaching and learning.  This is the popular education model; the group finds its questions and then it also finds, within its procedures, ways of responding to those questions, and sometimes it's very straight forwards--you go and find the answer--How did this developer obtain this piece of land in order to be able to build this particular building that is now reshaping the neighborhood?  Let's find out; and so you begin to actually build that kind of critical analytical knowledge, but it arises within the context of this collective pedagogy.

Scott: I definitely don't want to take over the Q part of the Q&A discussion, so please anybody just stop me if I just keep throwing things out here, but I'm curious, since I started; a big part of your you've said is about listening, or a lot of what you do, or a lot of what you think is important, and I was curious if we have been over emphasizing the acoustic side of what you do, or if not; if you wouldn't mind--I know you've already elaborated enough--but if you would mind elaborating on this point,  I feel when you're using the term listening, you're really talking about paying attention generally speaking, not necessarily listening with your ears.  At the same time though, you could pay attention by strictly looking and plugging your ears, but you don't do that and I was curious to know; what does, assuming again that there is an emphasis on listening with your ears and on acoustic experience, what do you think that gives you, or what kind of potentials do you think that lends for building different kinds of art worlds, that an over-emphasis on visual culture or looking with your eyes doesn't?

Robert: I'd like to make this even a little bit more specific is recorded sound; so there are these sorts of sound walks that provoke an awareness or an attention to the procedures of listening that very quickly we move into recorded sound, and what does it mean to actually make a recording in one part of the world and then actually listen to that recording in a different part of the world with a group of people, and what are the qualities of sound that, we think, that sort of distinguishes in some way from visual material.  So that this metaphor of listening, as supposed to in a way to paying attention, which has a more visual quality to it, is something that we're very interested in.  There is a number of ways of responding to that question, there's sort of deep theoretical considerations of those kinds of questions.  Just to situate very simply a kind of quality to it, one of the things that's lovely about sound is that it happens over time, and that listening to a recording is sort of listening to a sequence of sounds that over the listening of the couple of minutes, or something like that, also to accumulating; that structures attention in a certain way, it provokes potentially a narrative, it creates space in some way, a sonic environment that's emerging, there's a registering of the resonances of a particular space that begin to develop and a building up through paying attention from the details of that sound a possibility, and it's the sort of unresolved nature of sound, particularly recorded sound, or what was technically referred to as the [inaudible 0:54:20.9] this idea that a sound through recording is removed from its source.  So the moment [inaudible 0:54:30.1] that particular sound, we are separated from it this sort of distancing procedures, the unfolding of a time, that this [inaudible 0:54:46.7] becomes very useful.  But I don't think that what we're doing is only about sound at all, I think this is something that we're certainly I think grappling with, there are [inaudible0:55:04.2] who are very wedded to the qualities of a sound recording, and there are others that are interested much more in what we would call the scenes and procedures of listening in a very rich sense, paying attention as you said.  I think that the emphasis on sound should be... it has a pragmatic quality, it shouldn't be over theorized, I don't think it's a hugely complicated investment on our part.

Jenna: But in relation to the visual, we don't only use sounds when we're doing the recordings, the sounds are field recordings and they are often somehow not immediately recognizable in many cases whether that's in the case of people making statements, to people speaking at the same time, which alters the legibility of the statement, or whether it's someone making a recording that to them is incredibly personal but to other people it is not recognizable at all, something about the--I don't want to call it opacity because it's not opacity-- but something about the invisible visual register I think there's a lot more things that are recognizable and something about may be the fact that the sounds that we tend to work with are not recognizable, allows for a situation where people can begin to hear themselves in those sounds in maybe a different way than the visual register which is much more highly [inaudible0:57:10.2] in some ways.  That might be something.  I think also, I mean it's also what we talked about before, looking at the register, not just of sound, but of sound, but of listening does allow also one's attend to power in a group and in a situation differently--I don't know whether better or worse--but you listen to relations in a different way

Robert: This is a question that I've seen come up which is about the public school in London, I don't know if you want to say anything...

Jenna: What was the question about the public school?

Robert: Just a comment would be [inaudible 0:57:56.6]

Jenna: I haven't been there yet, so I can't really say very much I know about it but

[inaudible 0:58:03.6]

Jenna: I thought there was a London branch of the public school, is there not?

I thought I heard someone talking about this already in London but...

Sorry, could the person who asked the question about the public school in London maybe be a bit more specific, just to understand what the proposition would be because it sounds exciting.

?: I would like to use this as an opportunity to ask you to sort of say a little bit about radical pedagogy, or sort of radical education and the fact that we are very caught up in the sort of [inaudible 0:58:59.5] within education, and these questions around, we can talk about what the institution's about but I think given our very deep investment in popular education and pedagogical practices that no less important than the institutions around  [inaudible 0:59:18.6] and these are things that we are thinking about a great deal in [inaudible 0:59:24.6] in particularly involved in thinking through these kinds of questions...

Jenna: Ok sure, I mean the work that we've been doing in the last and that we will be doing in the next year is really marrying the work that we're doing in struggles with what's happening in education and in particular in the UK right now at the higher-education level, but also it's at high-school level; the new migration policies are really honing in on the university asking professors to report on students who are not from the UK, not coming to class and really extending the border  to the universities so that, putting quotas on the number of faculties that can be working at the university form outside of the UK, and that kind of thing, so, we've been talking about, we starting to think how is it that we intervene into those spaces in particular also in relation so curriculum about migration whereas at university the sense of the border itself at the university in the elementary school and secondary schools, I'm sure it's the same in the UK the kind of curriculum around difference and around racism around what new migration policies are actually producing for students in schools which is a heightened sense of policing and a heightened sense of difficulty in terms of families trying to gain entry to the UK, and also a general discussion of racist practice as it's happening that we've felt it quite important to be working and thinking more about our work in schools and in trying to constitute alternative spaces for investigation that both intervene at the level of curriculum and policy, but also try and build stronger coalitions between movement, struggles, who are struggling for more people to be involved and this crisis that's happening in the universities and schools.  Is that what you're asking about?

?: I mean the other thing I think is also is a place where the influence of anarchism is particularly present as well, where it has been the free-school movement in the UK has been a very strong influence, so creating alternative spaces for learning and alternative procedures for learning and actually doing that.

Jenna: Which is really important to mark as a difference between for example David Cameron has put on the table that he's very excited about free-schools and there's some new policies within the higher education and high-school level where groups of people can autonomously form free-schools and apply to the government for money, but these free-schools are really; there is an understanding that they would be like Steiner schools or class students as  that being held up as the ideal situation and we're trying to reconcile these contradictions around what it actually means to have autonomous education that is radical and that doesn't reproduce these class-divisions and in particular cultural divisions around learning, which are already embedded the schools, so it's a difficult moment right now to think about the intervention to produce; how do we understand autonomy in relation to an autonomy that's a notion of freedom that's being of course in a new context reformulated in reactionary policies.

Robert: And I think the question has come of a October 7th action the national day of action [inaudible 1:03:58.2] that's happening in the United States, I actually teach form time to time in universities, I've taught in the UC system and in very regular contact with students who are organizing in particular at UCLA around the cuts in funding and the shifts in the curriculum, and most recently I was working in the state-education system in Ohio, in the university system there, and they too are experiencing profound cuts, and the way in which these are being used to continue the co-operatizing of higher-education and the dismantling of public-education systems is incredibly troubling.  The helplessness that students are feeling in the face of this crisis is really extraordinary and just at a very basic level being able to create opportunities or procedures for people to speak about what they're experiencing and to being to formulate  on the basis of a recognition across each other of how the crisis is affecting them very directly in their education, and being able to understand a connection between a [inaudible 1:05:31.0] process and the curriculum.  So not seeing the sort of curriculum as a independent but actually as a curriculum it is something that is already in an ideological relationship with the broader context.  It's been astonishing being in the US education system, Columbia University, I taught there for many years, the lack of a vocabulary or procedure to actually undertake an investigation of the conditions [inaudible 1:06:10.1] education has been very troubling and it means that administration are just moving forward with the dismantling of curricula that are focused on education around social critique towards the service model of education.  I think that there is, for me, this questions of pedagogy and the procedures of pedagogy  is one of the most important areas for radical action at this point, and this action--the work that has been happening particularly with the UC campuses the [inaudible1:06:51.2]I think is incredibly important.

Jenna: And we have a series in the UK, in terms of sharing events, there's a series of announcements coming up of recommendation on the cuts that will come to higher-education which is being undertaken by an executive from British petroleum who's also an authoritative to Tate has made a really necessary -not necessary [inaudible 1:07:19.8]as someone involved in other social struggles in London around education that there's a group of people right now who are trying to produce an analysis that looks at the cuts to culture that are proposed and the reformulation of the cultural sector and its relationship to the reformulation to education and how the proposition of this creative economy which the British government has been proclaiming for about ten years and the reconfiguration of education are tied into each other.  So we're looking at a series of actions here in October/November, a whole series of [inaudible 1:08:04.7] and investigation that are going on by different student groups and one thing that I've been looking at quite a lot and I think Ultra-red has been looking at also is this work-experience and the internship and the apprenticeship and how this free-labor that gets really highly model within the cultural sector, but is really spread across all the sectors at this point, is becoming a standard way of bringing people into a situation of [inaudible 1:08:42.0] but also dividing out; for example migrants, students, from affluent British National students in terms of the way the education is being formulated, so we're working in two schools right now and one is 80% asylum seekers and the students are all being streamlined into apprenticeships and free-labor practices around skills and the other school [inaudible 1:09:12.4] the students are of course being streamlined into free-labor in culture and how to we understand those two things together; how do we understand the practices around migration and how they get institutionalized within education but then also this cycle of production related to the culture industries as well.  So there'll be a series of things, so it will be nice to keep the discussion going back and forth.

Robert: I mean if anybody on the call who works in education, it would be really interesting to hear your thoughts on that, I've been thinking a lot particularly about what I see in the US and a kind of [inaudible 1:09:52.7] of teachers, I would always say to rephrase this  [inaudible 1:09:58.8] was the sound of a war on teachers at this point, in the same way the economic crisis, the emphasis on undocumented labor is a distraction from the addressing the real causes of this crisis.  In a sense this shift to this distraction into questions, standardized testing and also the failure of teachers to provide an appropriate education is a distraction from what is really producing the crisis in education and it is a conversation that I wish was more robust or louder in the United States.

Greg: This is Greg, and I have the privilege of teaching at a small art college right outside of Philadelphia and that atmosphere is obviously quite different that large public research universities but before I go into that, I just want to point out that we're about four minutes to eight, and we do try and keep it to eight o'clock so that we don't keep you guys too long, we know you have other things going on as well, so we don't want to keep you up too late.  But I really appreciate the question, and I'm sure Steven has some ideas and I don't know if anybody else on the call is a teacher, a professor or whatever, but it's also the whole Ricardo Domingo situation also calls into questions the role that tenure has played in the past, plays now and will play in the future, or the lack there-of, but what was really established, not to keep old [crummaging? 1:12:04.1] in place for 35 years, but rather to protect interesting and experimental research, that loss I think is more dangerous than people might think, to lament this loss of protection for being fired because you're not doing your job well, I think that's the sort of public face of tenure, but rather I think those of us who are of course seeking it, it's so that we can really start to make, or do the research we've always wanted to do without fear of being silenced.  What's amazing about Ricardo is he was doing that work from the time he set foot on campus, and I think that's an really an amazing and commendable and more tragic that he's in the situation that he's in because they're firing him for the same reason they get granted on tenure so [inaudible 1:13:02.2].

Robert: I agree and I think that this is a case that should be constantly reiterated and repeated what this case is about because the closeting of dissent is terrifying, it's very disturbing and particularly within the [inaudible 1:13:30.0] in the high-school level, even the silencing [inaudible1:13:35.7] it's just really profound.

Greg: Yes, I agree.  Obviously we don't want to turn this into an entirely separate conversation but also we're here at either o'clock and we just really want to thank you for sharing a lot of various angles on the work that you're doing, it's just tremendously exciting, inspiring...[inaudible 1:14:05.4]... please keep us posted, although we won't be there physically, we always like to keep in touch and hear about what's going on.

Jenna: Great, we'll add you to the list.

Robert: Enjoy the rest of your evenings

Greg: Yes, you as well and thanks everybody for coming, and thanks again you guys this was truly interesting, and we look forward to continuing our communications with you all.

Jenna: Thanks for inviting us, have a nice dinner!

Greg: Thanks, goodbye everybody.