Reclaim Control (Through Sound)


Sophie Mallett

 

Picture 1Video Still, Sophie Mallett National Anthems, 2016

 

I.

 

Let’s look at how connections between groups are made and maintained.

 

Let’s look at the latent role of nationalism in building identity.

 

Let’s listen to the anthem; its language; its modal patterns; Its constant recapitulation in to young minds; its casual soundtracking to public events.

 

Part of a series of symbols that nation-states use to differentiate themselves, national anthems are products of love. Benedict Anderson argues that “nations inspire love” and that the existence of cultural objects like poetry and song prove this love by the people. Not only that, but that through singing and listening, national anthems create a community based on sameness – the same melody and the same lyrics resonating in different bodies.

 

There is a difference here: a chasm between sound’s ambition to travel, diffuse and spread, and a national anthem’s ambition to sing borders into existence.

 

How might we be able to imagine an anthem not based on national borders, nor on occupied territory, but anthems that create our own territories of control?

 

How might we imagine anthems for a landscape that is opened and bordered up dependent on geo-strategic priorities of the political North; for anomalous territories involved in complicated migratory or trade routes; for territories that don’t exist, have been forgotten, have been annexed, or to those that we are denied access to?

 

How might we imagine anthems without Western cadences and musical tropes; without analogies to the corporeal; that return to the land for their form? Anthems that do not serve to eulogise the history, tradition and struggles of a unified empire, but of its divergent peoples networked across the globe; a diasporic anthem.

 

Picture 2

Video Still, Sophie Mallett National Anthems, 2016

 

Picture 3

Video Still, Sophie Mallett & Emma Letizia Jones Liminal States, 2017

 

II.

 

This year at the northernmost part of the globe, at the tip of an island surrounded by three seas, where the land bows towards the pole – NATO will hold ‘Joint Warrior’.

 

They will practice threats like disputed territories, terrorist activity, and piracy. While they’re emerged in a landscape of low scrubland overlooked by mountains, NATO will jam the GPS: disabling all local access to satellite navigations.

 

GPS

 

The familiar technology for finding ourselves online and in real life.

 

The same used by

      Military envoys to plot attacks

             Drones to find their landbourne targets

                     Cargo ships to navigate on narrow stretches of ocean

                                Border enforcement to track vessels, trucks and bodies

 

GPS

 

Made by the military

Developed in the Cold War

Freely available

Owned by the United States Department of Defence

 

GPS

 

Radio signals, sent from space

Radio signals, weak by the time they reach Earth

Radio signals that are easily eclipsed, jammed or distorted

 

GPS

 

Not just a navigational tool, but a tracking device. By jamming GPS, you are impossible to find,

you are off the grid.

 

 

Every day our pockets listen out for these radio signals. Our devices are continually attune to a constant stream of encrypted missives sent from a lonely trinity of satellites. Huge distances are crossed to connect others to our own physical location.

 

Imagine if we changed the way we listened, and the way our movements are heard.

 

Picture 4

Video Still, Sophie Mallett & Emma Letizia Jones Liminal States, 2017

 

III.

 

The one looking out constructs the view as she would like to experience it from the interior. Those on the other side don’t have this luxury to frame and construct the view. This has been the role of architecture in enclosing space: to construct a view of the world outside as you want to experience it from within.

 

From inside, the limits of this vast interior have become almost invisible; we can no longer see them. But the interior only exists by exclusion. When the interior comes under pressure from those it excludes its limits are instantly visible: then they have an overwhelming physical presence, violent in their stasis.

 

Picture 5

Video Still, Sophie Mallett & Emma Letizia Jones Liminal States, 2017

 

Radio is an architecture unto itself, a landscape carved into territories of military, state and corporate control. Conventions govern what parts of the spectrum can be used by whom: a kind of aural border control.

 

But radio doesn’t obey sovereign borders. Its reach depends on other factors – weather, topography, the strength and location of transmitter and receiver – radio’s borders are shaky and moving.

 

They expand and contract, they’re difficult to map.

 

At these nebulous borders a clear radio signal becomes noise – you hear incomplete and fractured signals. This noise is heard as interference, disruption. It’s not necessarily comfortable to listen to.

 

This is neither interior, nor exterior.

 

When signal becomes noise, that’s the liminal state.

 

Picture 6

Video Still, Sophie Mallett & Emma Letizia Jones Liminal States, 2017

Sophie Mallett is a London based artist. Her practice is concerned with forms of belonging and exclusion, and how these manifest through national borders, capital...


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