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Decolonial Hacker
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ABOUT

Decolonial Hacker critically examines cultural institutions, their alliances, interests and behaviour. Born of a desire to entrench more consistent and collective engagement with institutional critique, Decolonial Hacker operates through a web browser extension that “hacks” institutions’ URLs with commissioned criticism, and an online platform that archives these texts. The extension activates when a user logs onto an institution’s website, dissolving their webpage to reveal an article that analyses certain problematics of that place informed by decolonial politics at large – for instance, pillaged colonial objects, funding sources and labour conditions.

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Decolonial Hacker critically examines cultural institutions, their alliances, interests and behaviour. Born of a desire to entrench more consistent and collective engagement with institutional critique, Decolonial Hacker operates through a web browser extension that “hacks” institutions’ URLs with commissioned criticism, and an online platform that archives these texts. The extension activates when a user logs onto an institution’s website, dissolving their webpage to reveal an article that analyses certain problematics of that place informed by decolonial politics at large – for instance, pillaged colonial objects, funding sources and labour conditions.

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Instagram
Twitter

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. We acknowledge the ongoing violence and dispossession which characterises the so-called settler-colony of “Australia” and pay full respects to First Nations peoples past, present and emerging.

Archive
SHOBUN BAILE — TRUST STUDY #1 (2020)
Screening: 28 JUNE 2022 - 12 JULY 2022
SHOBUN BAILE — TRUST STUDY #1 (2020)
Screening: 28 JUNE 2022 - 12 JULY 2022
SHOBUN BAILE — TRUST STUDY #1 (2020)
Screening: 28 JUNE 2022 - 12 JULY 2022
No items found.
Shobun Baile, Trust Study #1 (2020), video still. Courtesy of the artist.

On Shobun Baile’s Trust Study #1 (2020)

28 June 2022
Decolonial Hacker
Xoom
Xoom
Wise
Wise
World Remit
World Remit
Remitly
Remitly
Ofx
Ofx
Azimo
Azimo
Words
Nora N. Khan
28 June 2022
Decolonial Hacker
Xoom
Xoom
Wise
Wise
World Remit
World Remit
Remitly
Remitly
Ofx
Ofx
Azimo
Azimo
Words
Nora N. Khan

Editor's Note: This text was commissioned as part of Decolonial Hacker's online screening of Shobun Baile’s Trust Study #1 (2020), which occurred between 28 June—12 July 2022.

contents

The secrets of sending money home, of redistribution, starts as an urgent whisper in another room: your father is on the phone, thinking that no one is around. He’s sending money home again—out of guilt, you’d imagine—as one of the older sons. A house is being built, somewhere, one he’ll probably never see until he stops working, which is probably never. You hear careful pauses, a script unrolling, subtle phrases unlocking new branches of a long tree. Somewhere, a network is accessed. Maybe you’ve heard it running in place despite each decade’s new developments: a war, or two, banks commandeered, or, new tactics of neo-colonial hegemony. Maybe the cost for him matches the sacrifice of coming from a world away. You wouldn’t leave everything you know for anything less than this redistribution. There is always a bypass around the center.

In the last few years, we’ve heard these ideas called new: finding a way around banking regulations; cutting through bureaucracy, and sidestepping laws. Like so many technological innovations, the ideas are ancient ones rebranded. What was a threat to the state becomes a promise of liberation.

The vernacular of your father’s calls have their own simple rhythm. It almost sounds like nothing is happening. On paper, it is equal to nothing being transferred at all, not in any way that can be traced. The affect of the call is breathtakingly casual, considering it extends over a distance of two solid days by plane with a person he’s never met. The sums entrusted to this stranger seem improbable. The tenuous delicacy seems too much of a risk. But the system rests on a mutual double bind: the stranger is trustworthy because they’ve not been revealed to be otherwise, that they’ve established trust through this script many times before. If the chain is broken, word will get back. The stranger will be out of commission.

Here, to move and exchange outside a system is bound up in relational methods and social tokens: in understanding that monetary exchange is, somehow, just a surrogate for what can be better equalized through a fairer system, or a more distributed global exchange of capital. There’d be, ideally, corrections for war and colonial pillage, the coffers of nations restored. Gold stores replenished. Certain treasuries reconstructed. Certain invasions undone. The rebalance that would make for a system that didn’t require finding so many workarounds.

Shobun Baile, Trust Study #1 (2020), video still. Courtesy of the artist.
Shobun Baile, Trust Study #1 (2020), video still. Courtesy of the artist.

In place of this fantasy reform in a hyper-capitalist world that only recreates and intensifies the methods of the past, cash-based reparations become interpersonal proposals for an iterative, modest form of correction the state doesn’t provide. The coins of remittances sent from work sites abroad become a way to balance the scales. Broken up into billions of piecemeal transactions, their methods cannot become one hero’s story of innovative change. Still, they remain defiant. Defiance is a way to think of these microsystems in terms of belief and trust, instead of fraud and danger and illegitimacy. What is illegitimate in relation to an illegitimate state?

Hawala, then, as a nearly illegible practice, shows a real warmth to its exchanges that take place below, beneath, and outside, on lines gone dead. Its precarious methods amount to billions of dollars. With its own guidebooks and coded languages, it forms minor ecologies of collaboration which replicate structures very close to an ancient peer-to-peer network of sharing information. Not a blockchain in the mix, but exchanges necessary for asylum seekers, for refugees, for migrant workers, for soon to be climate-change exiles, for digital nomads of all kinds, for precarious app-labor. Hawala serves their sovereignty over their own lives, their own communities and families, and it will continue even as servers churn and heat under the banner of Web3.

Just as Web3’s claims and abstractions must be tied to a material analysis, so too should a system like hawala. Any decentralized system should have its claims to be outside the center—and its own possible reestablishment of a center—examined. To understand the politics of the current moment through the history of hawala is to demand more of Web3’s wildest utopian propositions. What are today’s decentralized governance models doing to dismantle inequity through the whole system? What do they do to reinforce the center and perpetuate inequity? What would a true decentralized system do to the center?

When your father calls the hawaladar, they become a unit that defies probability; they make a calculus and art of producing belief. A tiny miracle. They establish an understanding. Faith, suspended. Pressure falls on the nuanced inflections of their conversation, an equally ancient art form of establishing conspiracy between two strangers. When I meet you, strange client, I coax you into believing I will ferry your funds to their destination. My reliability as a hawaladar rests on your trust in my reputation; to betray it is to lose my only currency. This decentralized exchange, taking place in illegible quiet backchannels, suggests a distribution contingent upon weird intimacy.

The transaction becomes as unlikely as the reason for it. The client left a village and is now situated with an address and a name a world away. Here is a system that, when unlocked and decoded, allows a transfer without record, held only in the mind. The memory of a former home that will soon be referenced in statements and asides like, “I haven’t been there in ten years.” “I haven’t been there in twenty years.” “It’s been ... oh [a beat] thirty years?” “Yes; I missed my mother’s funeral. I missed my father’s funeral, too.” And still, he picks up to call, to reestablish the node, the groove, nothing traced or encoded or made eternal; only memory stores. The memory maintains a sense of self moving across time across the traumatic break, away from a war, a crisis, a reason to leave, an idea that drew one away. Life elsewhere that would be better, a mirage substantial enough to hurtle oneself at it. Shotput.

A decentralized model moves to dismantle the logic of extraction and oppression that made it necessary in the first place. By localizing exchange in a highly accountable network where agents are ethically bound, the agents are accountable to one another, and further to the community flung around the world that depends on them. Having neither a ledger nor a trace strengthens the distributed trust. Trust in common, the commons established by the script, its double and triple meanings, encodings. Hawala holds traces of rangier, more fractal, modular, re-composable, evolving technologies of belief, exchange, and distribution, that are rooted in context, in the realities of inequity. A reciprocity that just sounds like two people passing time, doing something of no note, a minor happening on one day, a little call about a thing he has to take care of.

2021 and beyond

In line with the Government’s COVID-19 roadmap to re-opening the country, the doors open on 17 May 2021.

 

Almost all of the Barbican’s casual staff don’t show up for front-of-house shifts. They have moved out of London or found employment in places that value them more. The Barbican’s creative upper class have to become hosts and invigilators to open the centre.

Barbican Stories is published.

 

Barbican employees are shocked at the stories and recollections of racism in the book. They can’t believe that this is all true and so they dive into their minority workforce to find out for themselves, once and for all. Unconvinced and under mounting public pressure, the Barbican hires an external consultant (a friend of a director) to publish a public race report that concludes that whilst the Barbican could do better, there is no systemic issue.

 

2,000 workers across London’s cultural sector create a picket line in solidarity with Barbican workers. The demands of the protest are impossible and necessary.

 

During the Barbican’s opening concert, as the conductor enters the stage to fill the auditorium with music, it is instead filled with the sound of 400 people standing up and leaving the orchestra on stage with no audience. A violinist cries.

 

All the employees of colour evacuate and the Barbican is left with a purely white workforce. There is a palpable sigh of collective relief: If there’s no one but white people, then we can’t be racist! 

 

Artists stop aligning themselves with backward institutions so cultural producers at the Barbican have to become artists to fill the programme.

 

Whiteness clings to the walls like moisture. Visitors are too ashamed to cross the picket line.

Coffees go undrunk, B R U T A L tote bags collect cobwebs, the conservatory grows wild. The ducks leave the lake in solidarity. Old Barbican guides litter the foyer. The orange carpet turns grey with dirt.

Eventually, audiences don’t need a picket to stop them from coming to the centre. A primed and ready-to-pay cultural audience now reflects the fastest growing demographic in London. Now, these younger and more diverse audiences that make up the city’s landscape find different and better cultural spaces that actually care about them and reflect their lives without skirting around the ugly facts. Why see another token diversity event when there are now whole institutions dedicated to the complexity of the diaspora?

One by one, lights are cut from the Barbican’s many rooms and offices, as they grow dusty in the absence of people. Moss grows between the cracks in the concrete.

 

The only room that remains open is the directorate office.

 

The directors maintain a throne of old catalogues, leaflets and newspaper clippings, in a never-ending meeting where the only thing on the agenda is to dust. 

 

One unremarkable day, the Barbican ruins collapses in on itself. The debris blows away to reveal an ON SALE sign.

 

The only thing worth anything at the Barbican is the land it used to occupy (and even that won’t cover the debt left behind by the brutal beast).

 

Blitz Property Developers find EC2Y 8DS and they love a bargain.

 

Once again, the site is raised by the Blitz.

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II. Listening

Today, the Phonogramm-Archiv’s collection of wax cylinders reside in an annex of the Ethnologisches Museum in Dahlem, a building constructed in the style of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) during an expansion in 1973. Before entering the building, we register ourselves with a security guard and await the arrival of the collection’s archivist. Brought through catacomb-like corridors, doors of mountainous weight and stairwells painted white with pale green lacquered handrails, we arrive at the resting place of Jaap Kunst’s wax cylinder.


Not dissimilar to other institutions, the depot we found ourselves in is an environment of conditioned circumstances. It has a temperature of nineteen degrees celsius and a relative humidity of fifty percent, a syncopated soundtrack of humming neon lights and murmurs from an air conditioner, all of which when taken together attempt to mimic a neutral space. Here, in this performatively coy room are musical instruments from gamelan orchestras, whose only emitted sounds are those of silence. Originating from the Southeast Asian islands of Bali and Java, these instruments are accustomed to a climate of high temperatures and humidity. Their primary functions were spiritual: to be played at religious rituals and ceremonies, as well as traditional performances. Now, however, the ensemble is attuned to a spiritual decay—conservational poison is used to ‘preserve’ their function for archival purposes only—inside storage within the depot of Berlin’s Ethnologisches Museum.


Neighboring the gamelan storage room, the first audio recording of a Balinese Sanghyang resides here. An inventory of empty, ‘silent’ wax cylinders necessary to capture this event had been allocated to Kunst by the Phonogramm-Archiv’s then-director Erich von Hornbostel in exchange for his act of sonic collecting. These cylinders embarked on an extended journey—from Berlin to the Sunda Islands and back—as Kunst went on to produce 300 or more recordings on his trips to Indonesia, documenting musical performances and rituals. We seek arrangements for listening to this performance, and attempt to move as close to its recorded event as the wax cylinder allows.

In Bali, times where it is forbidden to play gamelan are rare. One hundred years ago, however, deadly pox epidemics repeatedly infected villages on the island, forcing the inhabitants to close all temples and lock the gamelan instruments up. No rituals and ceremonies were permitted, the kinds that were believed to hold power in halting the spread of precisely such deadly disease. And though the temples fell silent, abandoned by their priests, village communities gathered at them each night to create a cacophony of noise, orchestrated through the quotidian: buckets, bamboo and wood. Noise was believed to be the only medium left to banish the demons of disease and cast the people’s fears away. According to the renowned dancer and sculptor I Made Sija from the village Bona, during one of these dark nights a man became possessed by the familiar rhythms of the gamelan. Yet the sounds he was enchanted by did not originate from bronze cymbals and gongs, but rather, human voices.

cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– –––
––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak –––
cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak –––
––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak
––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak
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––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak
cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak –––
––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak
––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak ––– cak
cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– cak ––– cak ––– cak ––– cak ––– cak –––
––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak –––
cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak –––
––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak
cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– –––
––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak –––
cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak –––
––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak
––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak
cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– cak –––
––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak
cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak –––
––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak
––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak ––– cak
cak ––– ––– ––– cak ––– cak ––– cak ––– cak ––– cak ––– cak –––
––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak –––
cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak –––
––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– ––– cak ––– cak

From that moment, disease began to ease as death and illness were overcome by sheer oral percussion. To this day, the people of Bona believe that the chanting and dances in trance outside the temple walls saved the village from the epidemic. This moment also marked the emergence of Bali’s most popular dance performance: the Kecak.

In its history from a sacred to a secular chant, the most famous Kecak dancer is I Wayan Limbak from the village Bedulu. When interviewed in the 90s about the origin of Kecak, he recalls a story with a similar arc. Already in the early 19th century, before the Dutch colonization of Bali and in the era of Bali’s kingdoms, Kecak dances accompanied trance rituals, the so-called Sanghyangs. These Sanghyangs were held every year to prevent the cholera pandemic, a rite of prayer performed every night around the village that was believed to ward the disease away.

No items found.

Inside the Phonogramm-Archiv, the room we’re in is just large enough for three. Monochrome, ethnographic photographs from a non-European continent decorate otherwise plain walls, while drawers are labeled by geography: ‘Afrika’, ‘Asien’, ‘Amerika’ and 'Ozeanien’. On the table we’re led towards, a Hi-Fi receiver is connected to a pair of speakers and a myriad of playback devices for a variety of mediums—vinyl records, magnetic tape, analog audio cassettes and compact discs. We immerse ourselves into Kunst’s recording of the Kecak via the wax cylinder’s digitized successor, a DAT cassette tape.

Every transferred sound begins with a short, customary introduction which signposts from which cylinder and collection the listener is about to hear:

Es folgt die Übertragung der Walzen der Sammlung “Kunst, Bali”. Es folgt Walze 1. 
[Coming up the transfer of the cylinders of the collection “Kunst, Bali”. Coming up, Cylinder 1.]
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Additional materials of correspondence, provenance and consignment accompany the phonographic recording. Yellowed papers of different grammage, typesets, handwriting and signatures compose together what feel and appear as the past breaking into the present. A watermark shines through one prominent sheet: a mark which signifies the longing of its maker, towards the distant islands the sounds of these cylinders were first captured on. Another sheet of paper reveals terse descriptions of all fifteen wax cylinders recorded by Kunst in Bali: 

Abridged from numbers five and six: “Sanghyang dedari. Male choir (at the end gaggling [Schnattern])”, “mostly gaggle [Geschnatter]”.

It remains uncertain who exactly wrote these descriptions. Scribed in German, the curators of the archive assure us that both the director of the Phonogramm-Archiv at the time Erich Moritz von Hornbostel and his colleague Curt Sachs were diligent in avoiding disrespectful formulations. Whoever it was, these words reprise another compression of the actual acoustic event.

 

Confined to this room at the Phonogramm-Archiv, one’s listening to Kecak is directly produced by the archive’s prefigured auras of hospitality and hostility: the latter feeling affected through the bureaucracies a visitor must face to be given permission to access the collection’s hold. Given the inability to revisit the recording’s original event, any act of listening to its field recording will forever reanimate the conditions in which a colonial gaze captured it. Though, in this space of re-listening, the hands of coloniality and premature technology are easily forgotten. The field recording we listen to operates not only as a narrow range of frequencies, but narrow-minded vectors of power: it comes to represent a recording of an assumed, objective reality. The DAT cassette dislocates the event of Kecak and echoes its sound further away. Is there room for narrative to diverge inside the Phonogramm-Archiv?

No items found.

III. Diverging

In recent years, the act of listening to the wax cylinder had been temporarily transposed outside of the Phonogramm-Archiv listening room—though this public display was only down the corridor.9 In 2013, as part of the Humboldt Lab Dahlem programme the exhibition Seeing Music: Lichtklangphonogramm transformed the optical and mechanical characteristics of the archive’s wax cylinder collection, producing novel installations that facilitated an alternate perception of listening. The artists behind the exhibition—Melissa Cruz Garcia, Aleksander Kolkowski, Matteo Marangoni and Anne Wellmer—produced a mixture of site-specific installations: magic lanterns that visualised a cylinder's textural grooves, self-made ‘gramoscopes’ that hacked a gramophone’s tunnel by transforming it into a projector of light and image, and a multi-body listening booth of selected recordings from collection. Described as an artistic treatment of ethnographic material, the artists facilitated an ocular engagement with an event originally recorded as something purely sonic.10 When asked about the exhibition’s potential to inform the Humboldt Forum’s unconfirmed future display of wax cylinders, Ethnologisches Museum director Lars-Christian Koch appeared skeptical of the presence of artistic intervention within this space:


“As an ethnological museum, we have an educational mission. We are not an art museum. If we want to seriously convey what other music cultures are like, how they treat sound in their processes, how they shape sound, then the question is, how much art or artistic design we require to optimize this conveyance.”11

 

Koch’s hesitancy to open up room for such narratives in the space of the Humboldt Forum is unsurprising given the long-standing aversion between ethnographer and artist.12 His intention to ‘optimize’ artistic interpretation neglects the reality that both the music and cultures recorded were done so on the aforementioned colonial terms. Silencing the noise contained in these field recordings omits its glaring context from the museum’s “educational mission”, not too distant from a former ‘civilising mission’. If Seeing Music’s artistic intervention of re-interpreting the wax cylinder is not welcome at the Humboldt Forum, another means of listening must be sought out beyond the confines of the listening room. By decentering the diegetic sound of Kecak heard within this particular wax cylinder, we turn instead towards the recording’s incidental, underscored noise to listen to its other realities that were present at the time of recording. 


Our ears hone in: the Dutch colonial rule of Bali began in 1849 and reached full control after two puputans (mass suicides) by the royal houses of Badung and Klungkung, in 1906 and 1908 respectively. At this juncture, a cultural policy known as Baliseering (Balinisation) was enforced to prohibit the ‘modernisation’ of Bali and maintain it as a ‘living museum’. Such realities were inaudible, beyond sound and the Phonogramm-Archiv’s collection, and stand to be heard in the noise of Jaap Kunst’s recording.

 

In More Brilliant than the Sun (1998), artist and theorist Kodwo Eshun advocates for a methodology that enables another kind of listening. Eshun’s alignment of Afrofuturist frequencies with jazz, breakbeat, as well early techno productions, drove him to propose a means of listening to artistic compositions outside that of Western theory and its canonical methods of analysis. Instead, he carves out an idiosyncratic guidebook for “dense personal narrations of imaginations” that emphasises an auditory experience’s material output: vinyl grooves, record sleeves and liner notes included.13 Sound artist Pedro Oliveira has framed sonic fiction’s potential through its ability to voice previously unheard stories, to modify the perception of sound and its effect/affect, in ways that are as much political as they are aesthetic.14 He writes:

 

“Eshun’s sonic fictions are...a means by which the subaltern speak, sound, and unfold their knowledge as theory and culture. Sonic fictions are the proposal for a radical divorce from so-called universal (metropolitan and/or Eurocentric) theories of musicology and social and cultural studies, to make room for other systems to claim their space.”15

Utilising Eshun’s methodology of sonic fiction onto the colonial artefacts in the Phonogramm-Archiv comes highly charged, however. We must first decouple artistry from artefact, renouncing Jaap Kunst—and any field recordist complicit in the archive’s creation—from the role of artist in their production of the wax cylinder’s recording. Doing so allows us to listen with the noise and not with its producer: a reminder of the place and context through which the cylinder was first inscribed, a reminder of the spatial and temporal distance between listener and event—the listening room and Bali. In other words, we decenter the ethnographer as producer and compose a means of listening beyond their control.


A step further, our interest in sonic fiction is woven and informed by Saidiya Hartman’s notion of ‘critical fabulation’: a discursive practice that deals with representing what the archive deliberately omits. In Hartman's essay Venus in Two Acts (2008), she attempts to tell an impossible story: the account of an enslaved young girl, brutally killed whilst captive on a British slave ship. The personhood of Venus, named only once in the legal documents from the trials that followed, emerges at the very limits of the archive. Hartman's writing is at times autobiographical, leaning into a similar empiricism to that of Eshun’s sonic fiction that reveals her authorship in (parallel to) the story of Venus. As much a counter-history as it is critical theory, Hartman welds the gaps between silence and noise. In our own undertaking, such gaps—marked between Jaap Kunst’s original recording of Kecak onto a wax cylinder and our own act of listening today—establish an opportunity to compose a historical narrative counter to that which was originally inscribed.

Woven together, a sonic fabulation is one that must tell one of many impossible stories contained within the Phonogramm-Archiv. To displace Jaap Kunst’s gaze and mediation, we drum up another imaginary. Widening the aperture for analysis beyond soundwaves alone, a sonic fabulation of the wax cylinder and other, similar objects departs from the depot and listens with the yellowed documents left behind, the broken wax seals of colonial correspondence, and the haphazard commentary made by archivists which are bundled up with preserved recordings. With each act of sonic fabulation, the wax cylinder’s suspension inside the archive might then be slowly loosened.

 

To tell a story ‘against’ the Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv, as Saidiya Hartman might say, is to tell a story of the wax cylinder’s sonic debris. What was once consequential, the unintended and immovable residue of its mechanical recording, is felt out differently as a sense-making tool for critical ways of interpreting the sonic artefact. Turning directly towards this space in between silence and noise, other subjects for listening emerge.

 

Throughout the wax cylinder’s unstable course of living, revolutions may result in death. At a rate somewhere between 80 and 250 per minute, their divergence narrates its own story.

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Shobun Baile is an artist working across film, images, objects, and writing. His work explores technologies and poetics involved in the movement of people, value, and thought. He studied at Städelschule, Frankfurt, received an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art, and was a fellow in the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His work has recently been presented at Salzburger Kunstverein, New York Film Festival, European Media Art Festival, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the 2020 Fotofest Biennal. He has received residencies at Muzeum Susch (Switzerland), Storm King Art Center (New York), and SOMA (Mexico City).

Nora N. Khan is a critic, a curator, and an editor. She is executive director of the Los Angeles–based Project X Foundation for Art and Criticism, which supports publishing of X-TRA.

This text is read by Meghna Rao.