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Capture All: A Sonic Investigation

We are happy to share the publication of a special issue of Disclaimer, co-edited by Laura McLean and Mehak Sawhney, with a focus on sonic creative practices from India and Australia. It has been collaboratively published by Liquid Architecture, Melbourne, and Sarai-CSDS, Delhi. The collection of artworks can be found here:

This collection of writing and artistic works was conceptualised as part of a broader project called Capture All: A Sonic Investigation, initiated as a collaboration between Liquid Architecture and Sarai in the midst of the pandemic. Capture All responds, albeit indirectly, to this crisis experienced in asynchronous waves across the world that closed borders, isolated individuals, and radically reconfigured patterns of life and death — conditions which prompted an acceleration of the mediatisation of interpersonal relations, and a consequent, curious collapse in subjective experiences of time and space.

It was under these circumstances that that we first came together from four different time zones with six artists and writers for a series of intensive online workshops, to consider how experimental practices of sound and listening may be mobilised as resources for understanding and intervening in forms of capture, extraction, and governance that haunt and influence life in settler- and post-colonial Australia and India.

In the midst of the radical reconfigurations taking place globally, we wondered if this was a moment to critically analyse the recursive colonial patterns and infrastructures that permeate contemporary life across contexts. Could we use this break in business-as-usual to intervene in and resist perpetual patterns of capture that are increasingly abstracted, automated, and blackboxed beyond reach? Through creative and critical conversations with guest artists and scholars spanning over a year, the workshop intensives focussed on sound as a form of knowledge and expression, as an object that has been archived and datafied, and as a situated sensory experience.

This collection attempts to destabilise any purist notion of sound and sound art, and lay bare the fragmented nature and multi-modality of sonic thinking and making. In that sense, it addresses a foundational question for sonic creative practice — how can artists move away from an object-oriented and unidimensional understanding of sound to create works that reflect the complexity of the spatio-temporal and geopolitical contexts from which they emerge? Scholars of sound studies have delved into the socio-cultural specificities and multiplicity of sonic experiences across questions of race, class, colonialism, gender, and disability. The works collected here, in a parallel and connected artistic endeavour, reveal a variety of formal and aesthetic choices made by the artists to represent sonic situatedness in all its intricacy.

By centering various episodes in Australian and South Asian histories, presents and futures, this issue foregrounds sonic thinking as a fragmented and archaeological process that cannot be tied to a singular and stable sonic object or experience. It presents sound art as a relational medium beyond sound, and as a mode of thinking by blurring the divide between theory and practice. In other words, it demonstrates how sound art can be fragmented and archaeological, non-sonic and multi-modal, analytical and theoretical. All of the aforementioned attributes form the premise of creating situated soundworks that steer away from stable sound objects and universal listening subjects. Each of the artworks is thereby a scaffold, held together through image, text and sound, and woven together to aesthetically perform and reveal the politics of sound and listening in various contexts.