[rohrpost] Invitation - Floteson at KHM Malmö

jens maier-rothe jemaro at gmx.de
Fre Okt 31 18:28:42 CET 2008

No german version available, sorry.




A group show curated by Jens Maier-Rothe
October 25 - November 8, 2008
KHM Gallery

Nikos Arvanitis / Nate Harrison /
Ralf Homann /  Zoe Irvine /
Andreas Kurtsson / Henning Lundkvist /
Sony Mao / Tisha Mukarji /
Laurence Rassel /  The Tape-beatles /
Terre Thaemlitz / Ultra-red


Floteson - Sonic sources, courses and rearrangements

“In maritime law, flotsam applies to wreckage or cargo left floating  
on the sea after a shipwreck. Jetsam applies to cargo or equipment  
thrown overboard from a ship in distress and either sunk or washed  
ashore.” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,  
4th Edition, 2000)

When sonic culture appears in the context of contemporary art  
practices our ideas of listening and sound producing are shaped in a  
particular way. As it is with visual perception, listening situations  
are mostly quite different in art contexts than they are in everyday  
life. Precisely because of this shift in perception, it is important  
to take a closer look on how these moments of listening are created  
and what forms of participation or agency they might imply. Moreover,  
to investigate how listening itself is reflected within the art  
discourse. The omnipresence of sonic perception in most fields of art  
practice ought to have an enormous influence on art discourses, one  
might think; but can it have an influence when listening is not  
understood as a discrete and active mode of participation? Furthermore  
I would like to take an additional step toward asking what specific  
role does sound play in critical art practices; art practices that  
question the power relations at play, that challenge common criteria  
and any certainty of knowledge as much as their own social or  
political relevance. What can be a social or political intent in  
practices that are widely known as contemporary sound art? If  
listening, collectively or individually, is of specific substance for  
a vast amount of other visual art practices that try to develop a  
critical impact on social or political issues, how can this be  

Both artists and audience often seem to struggle with the articulation  
and the reading of these questions when dealing with sound in art on  
the one hand. Which makes it even more startling on the other that  
whenever a social or political engagement is attached to sonic arts,  
it is mostly rather assumed than analyzed in theoretical terms. Hence  
there is something about sound that seems to be difficult to grasp or  
to disseminate. But which end creates the gap? Is it the sound  
artists? Is it the fragmentary nature of sound itself? Do audiences  
not know how to listen? Or should the question instead be formulated  
as: What creates this illusion that listening has a social and  
political dimension? Possible answers might be found precisely in this  
gap. I even want to sugesst that a potential for criticality might be  
situated here. This rift is where imagination meets articulation,  
where a translation process happens in the active mode of listening.  
What we hear is associated to what we know and thus creates a meaning  
in relation to our conscious and subconscious memory. Sonic perception  
can be seen as a recycling process, causing our imagination to  
constantly rearrange knowledge and memorized impressions, may they be  
of sonic, visual, haptic or olfactory origin.

Recycling is rearranging the relation between old and new, useful and  
useless, between property and open source. To recycle sonic source  
material has nowadays almost become an everyday activity. Whenever we  
tune into contemporary art and sound culture, sonic salvage, remix,  
sound collage or simple copy paste techniques include and reshape  
bygone, lost or thrown overboard aesthetic experiences recreating new  
ones from them. Music sampling renders endless permutations of a  
source. Chinese Whisper principles fabricate an infinite stream of new  
subjective meanings. Sounds split into their fragments, they travel,  
cross borders and shift their significance and relevance according to  
new listeners and contexts. While moving from one world of thought  
into the next and from one medium into another their interpretations  
alter in resonance with their surroundings. While they lose and  
produce critical impulses repeatedly until laws and rules interfere  
with their flow and turn them into either property or discarded  
flotsam and start their journey once again. Tracking their courses we  
can explore the currents and listen to the shores and landfalls in the  
ocean of sound.

Floteson was the Anglo-Norman precursor of the English word flotsam,  
nowadays used in the term flotsam and jetsam for loosely describing  
objects found floating or washed ashore. Combining float (Old-Fr.  
floter) and sound (Fr. son), the exhibition jumps on the sonic track  
of permanent reuse and follows the loop of sources, courses and  
rearrangements of sonic source material. Traveling with the flow it  
shows some key strategies of and instigators for recycling and  
transforming sound within contemporary art. It wants to shed light on  
those corners where a claim for critique does not merely serve as a  
vehicle to make a so called 'sound art' look and sound more  
interesting. But where instead a focus on sonics may unveil new  
critical perspectives on social and political issues in art and how  
they could be developed and thought differently through working with  

This group show is part of a series of practical investigations and  
theoretical experiments around sound and its role for strategies in  
critical art practice in order to ask: What specific characteristics  
of sound, its material behaviour so to say, are essential for which  
critical art practices? Where do certain conceptual strategies and  
modes of address derive directly from this material behaviour? Where  
can a critical intent be achieved uniquely through working with sound  
and where does it seem impossible at all? Over the course of half a  
year the project involves three exhibitions, based on three different  
sonic properties: recycling, resonance, (non)simultaneity. At the end  
a publication with related texts will be released during 2009.

/ Jens Maier-Rothe, 2008