THE IMPACT OF AESTHETICS, POLITICS, PHILOSOPHY AND NEW EMERGENCES IN CURRENT ELECTRONIC MUSIC AND ALL ITS SURROUNDINGS.
HOW THE DISCUSSION STARTED:
DISCUSSION, TOPICS, GOALS:
OUTCOMES, RESULTS, QUESTIONS:
We present an ongoing lecture and discussion series that supports a Safe Space for current debates around gender. Through the exchanging of our experiences, we wish to nurture a genuine curiosity where dialogue can emerge and exchanges are encouraged. We know that politics and aesthetics surround us, and can throw up collisions, therefore the notion of the Social Space is also very important. Inspired by Doreen Massey, it allows us to re-think and to re-contextualise our habits and gestures learned through our surroundings. It is crucial to be able to recognise that the way we connect and communicate, as a consequence, affects our relations, knowledge and understanding of the society around us. By acknowledging all this, and by allowing the existence of all our stories, we support the advocacy for the rights for gender equality and all other surrounding ‘isms. By opening up challenging debate, we welcome through the possibility of creating change.
From Semay Wu’s introduction to the first event on April 12, 2016:
Hello! My name is Semay Wu. And I’d like to say ‘Welcome!’ and thank you for your presence tonight. I’d like to first explain a little bit about this evening, how I think this event/discussion could work, and where I think it could go.
But first, I have this idea of making this into a series of evenings, that consciously highlights women speakers. Speakers that come from all disciplines of art, that might cross paths with ideas from philosophy, politics, gender, and aesthetics, with the view of what might be happening in these current times.
Concerning topics of discussion, each event would be tailored to each speaker, allowing them to shape the topics that will be discussed. It feels to me that we must keep striving to understand our cultural differences and biases better, and to face these awkward topics without fear of retribution, but with an interest and a trust that allows us to stop what we are doing and to reflect and think.
We tend to make fun of things that makes us feel strange and uncomfortable. And we allow our emotions to cloud our judgements. Do we consider also how our actions have an affect? And are we apathetic to change?
In our general bubble of protection, and cosiness, we are drawn to a large social network. The question is, do we hear other opinions? Why is the topic of feminism, for instance, met with such caution and weirdness? The subject of Gender has been researched for a very long time, through the sciences and humanities, and still, as people, we tend to play out the same responses. This subject, amongst others, is directly connected to all of us, it affects us all, at all stages of our lives, and I believe change comes from a daily responsibility that concerns ourselves.
Recently, I have been inspired by a human geographer, called Doreen Massey, who extensively wrote about Space. Space, in which we live, is not a flat static notion. It is alive, dynamic, and relevant. The space that we live in, is governed by the way we live in it.
If we think of globalisation, the world contains millions of stories that are happening, all at the same moment. Space re-presents a ‘slice-through’ of all these stories of ourselves and other people. If you think of Space as threads of relationships amongst all these stories, then space concerns our relations with each other. It presents us with the existence of other stories. And so, our Social Space is actually a product of our relations with each other. Meaning, we can control it, and we can choose to change it.
‘Space is the dimension that presents us with the existence of the other; space is the dimension of multiplicity. […] Space […] presents us with the question of the social. And it presents us with the most fundamental of political of questions which is how are we going to live together.’ – Doreen Massey
So, I would like to see these evenings as a place for conversation, that allows this space to become alive, and relevant. And to concern ourselves with the relations of each other. I would therefore like to see lots of interesting questions, and thoughts and, I would hope that everyone feels inclusive enough to open up to the discussion. Any questions or thoughts are very welcome.
HOW THE DISCUSSION STARTED:
In March 2016, a concert at the Institute of Sonology sparked quite a contentious discussion on facebook. The public thread began by a simple remark that arguably threw a question mark over the way women were presented on the concert bill. The prevailing overview from the following thread gave way to an eruption of comments back and forth that became complex and personal, and focussed often on the ‘aggression’ of the initial comment made. It began to exhale a tangible conduct of hostility, and in stark contrast, the support for the person was hardly felt, nor sustained. Despite all of this, there was an emergence of something more positive: a propelling of countless discussions between people. In a way, the energy thrown from this public thread allowed for this event to materialise.
What does this say about gender? That for sure, we still need to talk about it. What changes are we talking about? One common point of view is that change can only really happen whilst we are children. If this is true it leaves all of the adults off the hook since it appears that we cannot do anything about it. In addition, are we talking about big changes, that seem far away from us (that we cannot control), or are we talking about subtle changes, that we (as individuals) can choose to change in ourselves, and control?
DISCUSSION, TOPICS, GOALS:
We strive to find ways to represent and support a greater diversity within the field of electronic music, without fearing the frequently expressed worry that these changes might lead to a loss in quality of the works that are presented. No-one denies that musicians, performers and composers of electronic music today have created a rich musical landscape with a wide range of works. But perhaps we can help expose or nurture more eccentricities and wonder from the emerging richness of sonorities and stories of music. In current difficult times for the Arts – as a music community – we are responsible for finding and listening to other (non-established and new) voices, and for making our own voices heard amongst the noise.
As we gaze upon exhibitions, funding boards, festivals and conferences of electronic music, we get a chance to see who will perform and who are presented on the decision-making and discussion panels. We also become excited at watching hard-working friends and colleagues get exposure. The question may arise, however, at whether the diverse nature of our community of music is reflected upon the stages and podia.
Why is this important to ask? In many contexts electronic music is still considered – (sub)consciously – as a male subject, be it in educational institutions, at workshops or in professional networks. Perhaps these are old cultural situations at play, but in the current times, are we still submitting to these biases? When we look at the context of an international stage, are we encouraged enough to expand upon our understanding of what is out there? Upholding the qualitative commitment sought in performances and discussions, what does an expanded diversity look and sound like? Indeed, as we count the number of participants in concert programmes the numbers contentiously reveal how they are still dominated by male artists. We somehow only talk about how it is necessary to uphold the quality of individuals when we question the limitations of diversity. What does this mean?
We therefore need to question and understand how organisers, curators and publishers make their choices, and whether they themselves see the limitations in their output. There are many pioneers and entrepreneurs who are paving the way towards this richer expansion, and we feel that exposure to these are a necessary requisite. We want to know that effort is being made to open up possibilities, and to support unknown artists. In fact, who determines the aesthetics of an event, and how will it be met? How do they process what quality is, and what is not? Which artists get exposure? Is there a criteria that guarantees success?
We communicate a message – inadvertently or not – when we decide on the participants of an event. The message will always reflect upon the fact that some members of our communities are still less exposed than others, but it can also be argued that the competition is far too complex, and that everybody is fighting to stand up for themselves. True. But this does pose delicate situations in that the status quo seems to deny the existence of discrimination and problems that exist as a result of gender, sexual bias, racism, ageism, and other ‘isms.
Is this just the way it is, or do we have the right to protest? Surely it makes sense for us to reveal hidden stories, of both visible and invisible interactions that no-one else sees. We need to talk to create awareness. We need to be involved, to change attitudes and to imbue a sense of positive change. We also need to harness the creativity of a wider range of people that do not have a strong platform of support and exposure.
OUTCOMES, RESULTS, QUESTIONS:
The outcomes of discussions are: Individual motivation to find out about our surroundings; willingness to accept other people’s experiences; be aware of existing invisible situations, and how to make them visible; and for personal stories to be heard; to understand different backgrounds, cultures and thought processes; and how we might find ways to make change that benefits us all. If we acknowledge that we all have a value, and that value allows us to stand upright, then as a community, change can happen as an inclusive movement.
How can knowledge and understanding change our circumstances?