Notes on an evening of sounding provocations at the Stedelijk

Sunday 23 February 11:44

Sonic Acts Academy 2020 opening night at Stedelijk Museum
by Laura Cabiscol “Listening requires positioning the body in space. Also commitment, repetition and curiosity.” This quote from Anja Kanngieser's lecture Listening to Ecocide at the Sonic Acts Academy on Saturday 21 February, stayed with me and made me reflect on the previous evening and the central role my physicality played on my experience. Not only during the opening of the Sonic Acts Academy at the Stedelijk Museum visitors were surrounded by sound; the act of listening was a central part of the weekend. A jammed packed programme of lectures, concerts and DJ sets required lots of curiosity and commitment – late nights with curious and provoking sounds and early mornings with challenging concepts and ideas. Below are some impressions of the first evening of Sonic Acts at the Stedelijk, based on the notes I took on my phone. If you venture inside Carlos Amorales' solo exhibition, The Factory, you eventually enter a series of rooms completely covered with black butterflies. I happen to do so as Felicity Mangan plays flickering, delicate, layered sounds which arrive amortized by the various walls between us. This immediately gets me totally immersed in Amorales’ piece, and there I am, surrounded by delicate, fluttering black butterflies. Coming out of it, Malibu and Judith Hamman have taken to the stage and draw me to a calm place, by the ocean. Malibu is playing wave sounds that come and go, in and out, in and out. Everybody is still. People standing, people sitting on the floor. Some also with their eyes closed. Is there anyone at the sea, like me? I wonder. I walk down the stairs, to the right, then until the end of a corridor and I enter a room flooded in a sea of Klein Blue light. This is not a calming experience; the sounds and pulsating lights are not at all soothing, rather they evoke chaos and confusion. Ex Continent’s installation prompts thinking. The text outside the room raises questions of the individual and its place in society, and how this affects and shapes our human consciousness. I wander around, ruminating on those ideas, and notice how a bunch of people are lined up on each side of the stairs, as if waiting for something. Curious, I take a place too. I look up and Cõvco has just taken her spot in the centre of the staircase and starts singing, right in front of me. Together with two graceful dancing individuals, they transport us to a ballroom of sorts. Slowly, they make their way down the staircase into a space set up with a banquet table, with a certain air of decadence. A brief moment of hesitation and people start to follow. Some even take a seat at the table. “Do you love me now?” she keeps asking us. She has an overpowering presence, as she struts around the space and starts feeding the public grapes and pastries. One of the dancers, seated at the table, is going at it with a cake. This performance has snapped me out of my hazy mind wanderings and ocean daydreams to bring me straight back to the present: Amsterdam and the reality of a cold and windy February. I start thinking about leaving, I have a cold and I want to get some rest in face of the weekend ahead. While slowly making my way out, I manage to catch a glimpse of Tomoko Sauvage’s performance. I stay for a while, staring at the wave-like shapes on the wall behind her, made by the water in the bowls that she uses to create her sound landscapes. Now I feel like I’m undersea, a feeling which is reinforced by the sounds and the echo they make because of the walls. Could also be that my ears are actually clogged due to my cold, I can’t tell at the moment. Time to go. A small group gathers, we get our coats and go outside. They are debating which bar to go to, playing with the idea to go to OT301 later. They aren’t sure just yet, 'maybe just one beer' they say. I don’t know this now, but tomorrow I will hear about the wonders of the bar they ended up going to, which turned out to be a spontaneous meetup point after the opening, where quite a few unexpected drinks and many thoughts about the opening performances were exchanged, all culminating in a fun, long night at the club.

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