No longer considered only a factor of disturbance, detrimental to information like ‘static noise’ in the channel of communication, the evolving concept of noise also becomes constitutive of new forms of knowledge and of new ways of understanding organization.
—Cécile Malaspina, An Epistemology of Noise [1]1
Cécile Malaspina, An Epistemology of Noise (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), 2.

This special session of Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art (SFSIA) focused on a contemporary conception of noise that builds from the idea of listening as a participatory practice. Whereas in the past noise was something to be controlled and suppressed, today noise and uncertainty are entangled with one another as key concepts in the production of contingency as a driving force of innovation, creativity, and resistance. As Reza Negarestani surmises in his essay “Contingency and Complicity,” the contingent artwork can become the basis for new interactions and dynamic processes that drive the artist to novel realizations and open up a potential of the work not assumed at its inception. [2]2
Reza Negarestani, “Contingency and Complicity,” in The Medium of Contingency, ed. Robin Mackay (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2015).

At the center of sonsbeek20→24 is an investigation of global power structures that, as a result of the drift toward digitality, have taken on increasingly nonlinear, unstable, and topologically distributed spatio-temporal forms. In the process, new plateaus have emerged, shock waves upon which extended and embodied stratifications exist as fields of immanence. “Curating Noise: Reverberations and the Polyvocal” uses the Third Havana Biennial (1989) as a model to build a self-reflexive problematic provoked by an intellectual and discursive turn in the apparatus of biennial production. “Curating Noise” engages the biennial apparatus in relation to its colonial history, as well as its economic and intellectual opportunity, through the epistemological problem of noise. Many of the published books and past curatorial efforts on noise (with a few exceptions, such as the Annual Avant-Garde Festival of New York founded by Charlotte Moorman and the San Francisco Tape Music Center directed by Pauline Oliveros) promote a linear narrative that centers European and patriarchal perspectives. As such, most histories begin with Futurism and pass through Fluxus on their way to new forms of punk and free jazz, as in the works of Throbbing Gristle and the Boredoms. While including these histories, “Curating Noise” aims to include more geographically, culturally, and otherwise diverse perspectives in order to estrange and expand the histories of noise production and understand it in radically new post-humanist ways. Considering Gilles Deleuze’s definition of puissance as “a capacity to multiply connections that may be realized by a given ‘body’ to varying degrees in different situations […] thought of as a scale of intensity or fullness of existence (or a degree on such a scale), analogous to the capacity of a number to be raised to a higher ‘power,’” we are excited by potential new forms of power, or puissance, that may be generated as a result of these shared discussions. [3]3
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (London: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), xvii.

Warren Neidich

Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art (SFSIA) is a nomadic, intensive summer academy with shifting programs in contemporary critical theory that stresses an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the relationship between art and politics. SFSIA originated in Saas-Fee, Switzerland in 2015 and migrated to Berlin, Germany in 2016, where it is currently hosted by Spike. Additional programs have been hosted by Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and Performance Space New York. The institute was founded by artist and theorist Warren Neidich. Sarrita Hunn is the assistant director.

Since its first edition in 1949, sonsbeek has significantly contributed to and helped redefine international contemporary art exhibiting. The 12th edition of sonsbeek takes place under the auspices of artistic director Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung and his team of cocurators: Antonia Alampi, Amal Alhaag, Zippora Elders, and Aude Mgba. In this new, more sustainable form, sonsbeek will abandon the usual rhythm of contemporary art production and exhibition, and instead stretch out in a continued public process until 2024, thereby consolidating and encapsulating two editions. This means that sonsbeek20→24 will be a platform in which various activities like exhibitions, discursive programs, residencies, publishing, radio, and more can emerge throughout its time frame.


Preview image: Oscar Murillo, disrupted frequencies, 2013–21. Installation view, sonsbeek2024: "Force Times Distance," Arnhem, the Netherlands. Courtesy of the artist and Frequencies Foundation. Photo: Django van Ardenne.

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