a song of resistance

i’m reading about some interesting aspects of music and politics lately – namely music and torture.

thanks to a link from the urban adverturer in rotterdam , i found out about about a great project investigating enforced listening – specifically the music of torture and resistance in auschwitz, i’ve also been checking out songs from sesame street used at guantanamo bay and abu graib, trying to find out if headphones are permissable in prisons and thinking about the music of resistance.

defiance through song is not new – the whole of modern pop music is basically a descendant from songs sung by slave chain gangs in america. and i suspect that it’s true power comes through its collective and unifying effects, as much as the musicality and aesthetics.

but can music defy torture, or give a resounding sense of freedom, on ones own? if i was forced to sit in solitary confinement, or was being arrested, or tortured for my political beliefs, what song would i sing to raise my spirits and/or to show that i could not be beaten? would that even work?

can sound-based resistance be such a lonely, singular experience?

and what would your song of resistance be?

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kony. rhymes with sony.

i’ve tried to stay out of it, because i feel like not adding to the debate will better separate me from those in the debate. but today, for some unknown reason, i felt the need to at least mention the kony2012 debàcle (said with the most frenchy accent you can muster).

only a few people know how much of an interest in african politics i have taken over the last five years. but i guess you guys all know too now.

back in 2007, living in a suburb of london that has a high population of the african diaspora, it was pointed out to me that i knew nothing about the rwandan genocide, something that killed almost a million people. that’s shocking.

i borrowed a book from a friend and read the first-hand account of a young tutsi woman who hid in a hutu minister’s bathroom for seven months as the rest of her countrymen and women were systematically killed and raped by hutus and tutsis alike. it was a fucking mess and it was heart wrenching.

and, as a white girl from the ‘burbs of melbourne, it made me realise that i actually know fuck all about fuck all.

so i stepped up my focus on world politics. keeping a particular an eye on africa.

since then,  i have researched the disaster that is the stateless somalian war/famine/war and the ongoing battles of mogadishu and suicide blasts

i continue to read about the the sudanese civil war, south sudan’s independence, the ongoing torture and corruption in khartoum and the genocide in darfur.

i’m keeping an eye on the withdrawl of shell from the niger delta, the big payout and watching the incitement of sectarian violence between christians in power and islamist rebels boko haram (let’s keep the people occupied while we fleece them of their resources).

i did clicktivate for uganda to reverse its barbaric treatment (ie torture) of gay and lesbian ugandan adults and was fucking relieved that it seemed to have made a difference a couple of years ago (i’m not against the weight of taking action by clicking an email signature).

i’m very proud of senegal’s recent committment to democracy. at all costs. their clear message to abdoulaye wade and his wacky dictator-esque consitutional changes have kept them at the forefront of political stability in africa, a continent that is still wrestling with post-colonialism.

i know the extent of AIDS/HIV infection and death rates in southern african (average of 15% adult populations across the region are infected with HIV. 15%!!) and am particularly aware of the difference between the access to treatment here and there.

i have a pretty good sense of african geography (well, i know the difference between countries in east and west, north and south and central and the congo) and i can even name capital cities in a fair few key african states.

i’m not saying all those things to show off, because really, it’s not much*. but i really try to understand, i take the time to educate myself. and even then i know that i have no fucking idea what it’s like.

which is my point.

unsurprisingly, i don’t think i can say this about the stack of peeps sharing the Invisible Children garbage over the last couple of weeks.

i’m not even going to really talk about what’s in the video, and the ‘issue’ behind the ‘campaign’**. but i doubt that most people who shared that video have a clear idea how it fits into the context of uganda, african politics, their dictatorships, who the fuck the LRA actually are and where their danger lies (most recently seen in sudan ahead of south sudan’s birth as a nation in 2011).

they have no fucking idea.
and even worse, they have no idea that they have no fucking idea.
oh, and the call to arms by a white guy about the dangers of a black guy in a country they’d never sought to enquire about before? i mean, really.

please. look up the word colonialism and then tell me what you really think about joseph kony.

we’re all so fucking desperate to be part of something meaningful, without doing anything to actually be part of something meaningful.
how about educating ourselves for a start?

how about taking a little bit of time to cultivate some understanding? how about accepting that perhaps you know nothing about the world and that’s as equal a crime as committing children to guns and genocide. ignorance is dangerous.

so you want to make a difference in african children’s lives?
find out about them first, for scooby’s sake.

a few links
i know that the heady high of participating in viral activism might have left you dregged on the couch. but in case you’d like to actually know and care, here are some of the things i have read.
which not all that much, even:

africa, general: 
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/ ***

the kony debate: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/konydebate/
uganda: http://www.aljazeera.com/category/country/uganda
sudan: http://www.aljazeera.com/category/country/sudan
somalia: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14094503

a few books:
what is the what by valentino achak ‘dachi’ deng (transliterated by david eggers) – sudanese civil war
left to tell by immaculee ilibagiza – rwandan genocide
the heart of darkness by joseph conrad  – the colonisation of africa in the 19th century

oh, and talk to africans. you know, about what’s happening in their home countries. they are actually politically aware and quite like to talk about it.

*although it’s pretty good for an australian white girl, so i’ve been told.
**UPDATE: this is what prosecution for using child soldiers looks like with due process.
*** i know, it’s just wikipedia and al jazeera, but that’s what i’m trying to highlight. it doesn’t take a masters degree to get a bit of a jist of how it all fits together.

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Please don’t cut ABC Arts programming


To the ABC Board,

I never beg. But I’m begging you to reconsider the decision to cut ABC arts programming.

The media landscape in Australia has never looked so grim – there is so little quality, interesting, thoughtful or relevant content on most of the commercial/SBS bandwidth and the ABC makes that just a little brighter.

The arts division of ABC is such a core part of the ABC and as an artist I need it to continue. Its features, documentaries, mini-series and news support our art production and inform our audiences so that we’re not having to dumb down to Murdoch-reading standards.

When John Howard was fixing to scrap the ABC, it was the arts community who really got behind the cause – playing gigs, making works, organising articulate public argument and designing those beautiful “I <3 the ABC and I vote” stickers that harrangued the politicians.

Please. Don’t forsake Australia’s right to have intelligent, interesting and relevant content about beauty, creativity, innovation and collaboration. The encroachment of trite, mindless, commercially sullied content is already overwhelming and ABC Arts has been the last line of defence against a nation of imbeciles.

Kind Regards,

Lauren Brown

lauren brown

thinker-in-residence at CIA studios || http://facebook.com/CIAStudios
artist-in-resident at AURA project ||  http://auraprojectresidents.blogspot.com
electrofringe listener-in-resident || http://electrofringe.net

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dancing in the streets again.

dancing in the streets_0010

today i spent the afternoon pretty much back at the start of my masters research: in a silent gig in public, dancing to music with a bunch of people in headphones. public/private/public.

the first time i did it was at ars electronica 2007 and it kickstarted my investigation into sound in public, the role/symbol/place of headphones in public and the ensuing 2 years’ masters degree on all things related.

today was a silent parade for climate change, organised by 350 org and it was mad-fun.

what better a place to dance on the streets as part of political action but in berlin! berliners LOVE their electronic music and LOVE dancing (i should know, my club-induced sleeping patterns are getting ridiculous). it was awesome.

dancing in the streets_0026_web

the vibe itself was fantastic – i dipped in and out of different shared experiences with it, giving it a diversity of engagement that really floated my boat, and made for an even more enjoyable and thought-provoking afternoon.

of course, each of these points of together/alone with the parade had slightly different aspects of public/private/public politics:

through the media
i had to join the parade halfway through. so with twitter and their hashtag, i connected with the parade halfway through. connecting as an outsider to the crowd using social media + political engagement, easy – media studies 101.

full engagement
then, i joined the party. i danced my arse of for a while in a group of others all dancing and enjoying themselves with a cracking soundtrack and lots of clapping, w00ts and smiles. we were all in this together, for a common cause and enjoyment. and we were surrounded by a bunch of people who weren’t sharing, but engaged with curiosity – watching and wondering and maybe feeling a bit like outsiders. [more on the ‘outsider’ aspect of such a situation in a minute].

separated engagement
as the parade moved, i grabbed my bike, headphones still in range and rode on ahead, physically separate from the crowd, but still sonically and technologically engaged [wirelessly]. it was pretty special – i was riding in my own space, listening to music on my own, unable to see/hear others, but just knowing that they were there. i think this experience is exactly why the internet works.

and i had the fuckin’ coolest extra little public/private/public moment –  i’m riding away from the crowd, passed the polizei van escorting us and one of the officers has the headphones on (so he can keep track of what’s happening, i guess). and HE’S DANCING TOO!! i gave him a mega smile + bodacious wave and kept riding.
private citizen + public representative togetherness moment. swoon.

dancing in the streets_0038_web

separated, but with one other
another lone bike-rider with headphones caught up with me and together we were riding, dancing, w00ting and throwing our hands up in the air, having our own little private/public/private dance party. in fact, i think that confused people outside the ‘gig’ even more – just two crazy girls dressed in black, on bikes, wearing headphones, dancing like maniacs with each other. but it was another one of those moments of sharing an experience with another person, as part of a wider crew, that was just priceless.

i decided to do a part of my listening to the city project as part of the parade, so once the crowd stopped at the park on spandauer straße, i turned the radio headphones off and became an observer. my observation was largely based on what i could hear (which is hilarious when you’re hearing what everyone else cannot), but it was still as an outside observer. there were lots of people also observing what was going on – some knowing a little bit about it, some not knowing and quiet alienated, others unknowing, but fascinated, or nonplussed. interesting levels of understanding and public engagement.

one thing i noticed is that having ‘outsiders’ is an important dynamic to an event like this. it generates curiosity, a point to engage, thought and ‘difference’. the alienation is not didactic, or perhaps even intended, but i did notice that because people couldn’t (or didn’t have to) engage, they stood around and watched, thought and perhaps envied the process. i know that the advertising peeps crave that juicy experience a lot, but as an artist and activist, it was the first time i understood how it could be used for good.

full engagement again.
and, right at the end, i put the headphones back on and danced with the crowd for another little while. the level of dancing reduced by the time we got to the park, some just opting to lay back in the glorious autumn sunshine and listen, but the sense of common and einheit was still very strong, without a harsh word, or forced action in earshot. brilliant.

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listening to the history of listening


yesterday sarah mosca and i went on a mission to teufelsberg in berlin – to the old NSA listening station. a proper structure for sound/listening in the public realm.


and oh my god, it was fucking amazing.


we had a string of excellent luck: the weather was great, we found our way ok, dodged fences, security and ticket inspectors.


we were like two of the famous five off on ad adventure. we even had a packed lunch – a thoroughly modern version of ‘slices of ham and lashings of ginger beer’.


the station was unbelievable – visually and acoustically.


sarah and i did an impromptu quasi-performance of sorts, fucking around with the zany acousitcs of the listening dome – something that both blixa bargeld and alice hui-sheng chang would have been proud of.


i then tried to squeeze in a quick listening project of the lift shaft before die sicherheit arrived. fingers crossed i can go back soonish.

here’s wikipedia’s history of the place, just to put it into perspective.

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boomtown rats

Dubai Marina Bldgs 2

when i was in dubai a few years ago, i had an amazing time – such a mind-opener for me. the excess and excessive development was fascinating. and the polarity between rich and poor, ruling minority and voiceless majority was powerful.

on the way to visit the sharjah biennale, my friend and i drove past some of the labour camps and the workers walking home in 50º heat (no public transport there, darling). their accommodation was abysmal – fibro, prefab saunas dumped in the desert. you could see from the number of coveralls hanging on the rails how many people were crammed in.

it was desolate.

i was super sad and angry to read this article on al-jazeera english that speaks of the decreasing conditions for these people in the financial crumble. the rich developer skips out, no problem, of course.


it’s all very well to speak of the amazing creative output of dubai architecture and the boom of the architects’ playground, but it disgusts me to see an industry treating their labour workers as ‘collateral damage’.

policy that protects the most vulnerable in any system is exactly for this purpose – not to spoil the fun and excitement of business risk and entrepreneurship. but to account for the reality of life when shit hits the fan and the oxygen masks drop down.

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