The past cannot be forgotten, the present cannot be remembered. 

― Mark Fisher 

This interdisciplinary practice-based research project, titled How can a curatorial toolkit for sound art excavate historical sites of cultural resistance? synthesises the theorist Jacques Attali’s idea, that sound is a medium for knowledge exchange and social commentary, with the theorist Mark Fisher’s insights into the fallibility of memory, and its impact on contemporary perceptions of the past. Synergising theoretical and practical methods within curatorial context, the aim of the research is to examine and accentuate the capacity of sound art to capture and represent the particular historical activities of underserved publics or marginalised cultures in specific locales. The curatorial toolkit I developed for this study serves as both method and methodology in this research output. It has been critical in exploring how sound art can excavate and amplify the narratives of two historic sites on Cox Street in Coventry’s St Michael’s ward, which are adjacent to the A4053 Ring Road—a significant component of the city’s Post-War rebuilding effort. 

The sites serve as the genesis of two commissioned, site-specific soundworks and are identified as case studies within this project. They were composed and developed using the curatorial toolkit, with an emphasis on culturally significant events unique to each site—events that were previously overlooked in wider public narratives. The toolkit is employed as a strategic guide, designated not only to assist this research but also to equip future curators and practitioners in the sonic arts with the means to discover, discern, and interact with the intricate spatial qualities, shared histories, and the specific contingent contexts of a particular location. 

Ordenance Survey. (2021). Coventry. Co-ordinates 433981, 279196.

The first case study investigates the 1978 Poetry Festival organised by the Indian Workers Association (IWA) at Sidney Stringer Centre for School and Community Use and features a soundwork by the artist Paul Purgas. The second case study, by the Ex-American rhythmanalyst DeForrest Brown Jr, examines the sonic activities of The Eclipse, UK’s inaugural legal all-night rave club, active from 1990 to 1992.[2] The audio materials informing the two case studies are gathered from established and non-established sources using ethnographic methods, comprising oral histories, spoken word, poetry, field recordings, broadcast media, and music. Additional to the two case studies this study includes an “active listening” workshop led by artist Vivienne Griffin, which explores how sound might capture unique qualities that evoke memories and create new meanings of specific places. This combined research output challenge visual art as the principal method in the preservation and dissemination of cultural heritage, proposing sound art and multi-sensory experiences as alternative methods. 

timandbarry. (2012). The filming of I’m Tryna Tell Ya, Chicago. Image courtesy of timandbarry.

The acts of cultural resistance that occurred at the two sites on Cox Street during the last two decades of the twentieth century illustrate the type of cultural heritage that this research seeks to elevate. By acknowledging the often disregarded or misrepresented self-organised communities involved in these acts, this research promotes the integration of alternative narratives and marginalised voices into the practice of curation. This approach has been essential to my work as Head of the Programme and Senior Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London from 2010 to 2017 and at the Camden Art Centre since 2019, coupled with my role as Creative Director at the International Project Space (IPS) at Birmingham University. Some of the professional highlights relevant to this project include launching Radio IPS, a local community radio station, in 2010; initiating the ICA Associates residency programme between 2012-16 in collaboration with various organisations including, among others, NTS Radio, Boiler Room, and Just Jam; namely the 2014 footwork documentary I’m Tryna Tell Ya with cultural practitioners Tim & Barry, which presents an oral history of the influential Chicago-based dance and music genre; and orchestrating the Masāfāt music festival across Cairo and London with the music organisation 33-33 (formerly St John’s Sessions), which fostered cross-cultural dialogue with artists and professionals from the Middle East, North Africa, and the UK. In my current role at Camden Art Centre, I oversee public programmes, including the launch of Public Knowledge, a platform dedicated to knowledge exchange through expanded forms of publishing. Recent initiatives include hosting a 2022 podcast with DeForrest Brown Jr, Assembling a Black Counter Culture, (2022), and collaborating with the writer Emma Warren for a workshop and roundtable discussion about the impacts of post-pandemic social restrictions. This research actively supports and puts into practice facets of Warren’s manifesto from her manual, Document Your Culture, (2020), which is committed to ensuring that grassroots spaces of cultural resistance are neither further overlooked nor erased.[3]

The use of gender-neutral pronouns throughout this thesis mirrors the overall non-binary framework, which aims to cultivate knowledge production, create shared reference points, and encourage collective action outside of traditional and oppressive systems of categorisation. Assimilating the complex elements of this project and the curatorial toolkit necessarily includes an analysis of the terms and methodologies pertinent to the research question, beginning with the term “curation” as it relates to what the theorist Miwon Kwon calls “site-specificity”.[4] It also traces “sound art” as a medium, specifically its interactions with distinctive acoustic environments and “sonic ecologies”, expanding on conventional listening practices to also engage with the spatial complexities of sound.[5] Also key to the development of the curatorial toolkit are the concepts, “cultural resistance”, “marginality”, and “incompleteness”, qualifying a convergence of sound-making and curating to navigate and articulate some aspects of space, place, and social dynamics, ultimately to position them within mainstream discourses.[6] 

The Curatorial in context: the expanding role of the curator in art and society 

Curation originates from the Latin “curare”, implying care or preservation. The curator’s role has evolved significantly since the late twentieth century, from “preserving and archiving art” to “selecting, evaluating, displaying, and framing pieces”.[7] The expansive body of academic literature and specialised education programmes which have proliferated globally since the turn of the century mark the transition to a professional, theory-based approach, and historical figures or “star curators” like Harald Szeemann and “super curator” Hans Ulrich Obrist have redefined curatorial practice as an art-form in itself.[8] Presently, curating not only aims to display art, preserve heritage, and forge connections with art history, but also to engage audiences by presenting various art forms in a manner that cultivates immersive experiences. 

Nevertheless, the term “curated” has been recently co-opted by retail and hospitality services, perhaps reflecting a shift driven by market trends. In this project, I reaffirm the critical role curating plays in making complex narratives accessible, clarifying the origins as well as the potential of the term, and therefore rejecting its reduction to consumerist interpretations. I also build on the innovative legacies of the curators Seth Siegelaub and Lucy Lippard, whose unprecedented methods established the rigorous discourse that guides continued engagement in the field of curating and informed figures such as Julie Ault, a founding member of Group Material, who pioneered and developed collaborative models that interact with the social fabric of art. Contemporary curators and theorists like Lars Bang Larsen, Maria Lind, and Irit Rogoff have developed distinct curatorial methods termed “social aesthetics”, “the curatorial”, and “events of knowledge”. These concepts collectively echo and support Beatrice von Bismarck’s “curatoriality” and Maura Reilly’s “curatorial activism”. However, due to the brevity required in the literature review, their theories are not explored in depth.[9] 

The research also recognises the curatorial practice of Paul O’Neill at Publics in Helsinki, Finland. Their consistent engagement with participatory and multi-sensory methods re-position’s location and geography at the forefront, challenging the limitations of traditional physical display spaces. While O’Neill’s programme at Publics aligns with this study’s situated geographical and contextual scope, it is not wholly anchored in sound.[10] Similarly, the curatorial project Kanon-Fragen, (2016-2019) at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin, Germany shares the ethos of this study since it creates research-based programmes that broaden curatorial discourse by incorporating non-Western perspectives, challenging Eurocentric narratives, and reconsidering the canonisation of modernity. This ethos address the need to correct historical colonial appropriations and exclusions, and to widen curatorial practices that critically assess the related structures. Its emphasis on the reconfiguration of museum collections, however, it diverges from the site-specific concerns central to this project.[11]  

Mark Blower. (2019). Installation view, Mark Leckey, O’ Magic Power of Bleakness, Tate Britain, London. Image courtesy of the Artist and Cabinet.

It is also important to note that artists have historically assumed the role of curators, shaping the presentation of their own work. In the twentieth century, this extended beyond the personal to encompass artists curating other artists’ work and “found objects”. The curator Elena Filipovic attributes the origin of this curatorial method to the artist Marcel Duchamp, who famously showed “readymade” objects.[12] Artist Mark Leckey’s exhibition O’ Magic Power of Bleakness, (2019-20) at Tate Britain, London, applies Duchamp’s method as outlined by Filipovic in that Leckey transforms the exhibition space with a life-size replica of a motorway underpass on the M53. Leckey in this way disrupts the established spatial conditions of the gallery and transforms the viewing experience. Although Leckey’s video, Under Under, (2019)—depicting the nocturnal activities of a group of kids in black and high-visibility sportswear—arguably reinforces popular UK media biases by portraying working-class male youths as either a nuisance or threat.[13] Apart from this, there are significant parallels between Leckey’s work and this project’s spectral hauntological analysis, which scrutinises post-war modernist infrastructures, their associated publics, and sonic expressions. 

Mike Kelley. (1995). Educational Complex (detail). (Synthetic plymner, latex, foam core, fiberglass, and wood).

Conversely, Natures Mortes, (2021), a group exhibition curated by the artist Anne Imhoff, who embraces the post-industrial aesthetic instituted by the architect Rem Koolhaas at Palais de Tokyo, Paris. The exhibition features work that stresses the disconnect between the utopian aesthetic ideals of late Modernism and the pervasive implementation of state-sponsored neoliberal policies. A disjunction that has culminated in societal attitudes of disillusionment and subsequent acts of resistance. These themes are prominently replicated and absorbed by a range of artists who, whether consciously or unconsciously, continue to uphold, dissect and propagate capitalist ideologies via various performative actions. Leckey and Imhoff’s curatorial projects both owe a debt to the artist Mike Kelley’s curatorial undertaking, The Uncanny, (1993), centred around Sigmund Freud’s concept of the uncanny. This exhibition examines the psychological processes that transform ordinary objects into sources of unease within the context of the early 1990s, a time marked by growing disillusionment with the American Dream and a re-evaluation of societal norms. Illustrating the discomfort of a society facing its own underlying issues of dysfunction and inequality.[14] Kelley’s comprehensive subsequent work, Educational Complex, (1995-2008), directly informs this research project with its exploration of the concept of architectural sites infused with memories retained from youth. These memories are hidden or suppressed within “voids” in civic buildings and connect with architect Peter Eisenman’s conceptual principles, emphasising the importance of architectural ideas beyond physical forms.[15] Kelley’s multifaceted work consists of architectural models of various educational institutions drawn from partial memories, evidencing the relationship between memory and repression. Audiences are encouraged to interpret the gaps within them—elements Kelley could not recall—that signify “repressed memories” or “collective trauma”. Educational Complex critiques the educational system’s impact on societal roles and its ability to disseminate social and political ideologies, thereby shaping neoliberal economic structures.  

Simon Sheikh, academic and curator, relates “conceptual history” to a focus on underlying ideas rather than stylistic or chronological categorisation. Sheikh suggests a method of institutional critique that scrutinises infrastructural systems outside of art institutions to identify the distinctive characteristics of a place. Combining theoretical and artistic methods was essential in developing the curatorial toolkit and the individual data sets. First and foremost, I am informed by the artist and educator Michael Asher’s practice, they interrogate the interconnected relationship between art and socio-political infrastructures and reimagines sites as repositories of knowledge, challenging the production of conventional art objects to broaden the definition of art to transcend tangible boundaries. But also, Ultra-red’s collective practices, which re-conceptualise spaces as dynamic and charged, fostering dialogues that challenge established power structures and promote community participation have been crucial in establishing the framework for the toolkit. Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s forensic investigative techniques that uses recorded sound and audio artefacts to interpret socio-political conditions, along with Pauline Oliveros’ deep listening practices. Together, these methods enhance immersive reflection on the complex sonic identities of locations, forming a holistic understanding of places by attuning to the complex interplay between acoustic environments and historical resonance. 

Auditory Imprints: The Socio-political Resonance of Sound Art   

Sound art as a domain engages in a broad spectrum of sonic experiences and expressions addressing political and philosophical dimensions within practices of public art, online environments and site-specific artworks often transgressing music and visual arts as genres. As the artist Brandon LaBelle notes, “sound art challenges the representational capacities of sound and emphasises its materiality in relation to space, body, and time”.[16] It exhibits versatility that enables the exploration of various themes, including spatial acoustics, socio-political implications of noise, the influence of sonic cultures and publics on public spaces, the psychoacoustic and vibrational potential of sound, and reflections on listening and dissemination methods. The following passage introduces key historical and contemporary practitioners, alongside theories crucial to the evolution of sound art and this study. 

Led by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the Futurists advocated fervently for technology and modernity. This movement sought a stark separation from historical traditions, elevating speed, velocity, and noise as catalysts for cultural evolution and the establishment of sound art. Luigi Russolo, an instrumental figure in the avant-garde Futurism movement, transformed music by integrating industrial sounds into compositions. Russolo’s manifesto L’arte dei Rumori or The Art of Noises, (1913), expanded musical engagement to include atypical sounds, asserting that “every manifestation of our life is accompanied by noise. The noise, therefore, is familiar to our ear, and has the power to bring us back to life. Sound, alien to our life, always musical and a thing unto itself, an occasional but unnecessary element, has become to our ears what an overfamiliar face is to our eyes”.[17]  

(No photographer). (No date). Maryanne Amacher. Image courtesy of Blank Forms and the Maryanne Amacher Archive.

The manifesto “precipitated a whole range of musical and aesthetic notions that formed much of the avant-garde thought” including “Musique Concrète”, a term largely associated with Pierre Schaeffer. It advanced the idea of using recorded sounds made by non-traditional instruments as material for composition, and asks, “How can we forget meaning and isolate the in-itself-ness of the sound phenomenon”, since Schaeffer purports that “as long as meaning predominates, and is the main focus, we have literature and not music”.[18] Schaeffer introduced innovative editing techniques, such as looping, splicing, and tape manipulation, which enabled the creation of musical works from everyday noises, challenging traditional definitions of music and sound, foregrounding timbre and texture, and shifting the focus away from harmony and melody.[19] 

In addition to Schaeffer, John Cage, a key figure in 20th-century music, dismissed standard musical structures such as harmony, presenting an alternative philosophy of sound, profoundly reshaping the conceptual framework of sound art. Cage’s approach was deeply influenced by Eastern philosophies, particularly Zen Buddhism, and was characterised by an embrace of all sounds, including noise and silence, as valid musical elements. For example, the iconic composition 4’33, (1952), where performers remain silent, draws the audience’s attention to ambient sounds, thereby highlighting the omnipresence of noise and the elusiveness of silence to contend that “Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating”.[20]  

Composer and artist Maryanne Amacher sought to “explore sound and the environment in terms of acoustical and architectural space, as well as the direct use of environmental sound” via her extensive project City Links, (1967-80) with the goal of bridging “the split which now exists between these two worlds–that of musical language and environmental sound”.[21] For the duration of the project Amacher installed microphones at “different sonic environments, harbours, steel mills, stone towers, flour mills, factories, airports, rivers, open fields, utility companies, and with musicians on location” to capture live field transmissions “from one or more remote environment (in a city, or several cities) transmitted in real-time to the exhibition space, as an ongoing sonic environment”.[22] During this period, Amacher developed the concept of “sonic telepresence” and pioneered the “use of telecommunication in sound” and attentively “learned about the perception of dimension in sound to create a temporal space invested in the “experience of “synchronicity”, hearing spaces distant from each other at the same time”, to evoke a “sense of being there”, distinguishing the varied sounds in the environment.[23] 

Amacher’s work relates to Cage’s definition of sound as being omnipresent and their pursuit in inclusive, active listening that values all sounds as legitimate aural experiences. Urging a redirect from visual to auditory attention, in pursuit of new modes of perception. One such alternative mode of perception is “Deep Listening”, introduced by academic and composer Pauline Oliveros’, it calls for intensified aural awareness and presence amid unfolding sounds. Oliveros explains that “Deep Listening is a way of listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what you are doing. Such intense listening includes the sounds of daily life, of nature, of one’s own thoughts as well as musical sounds”, therefore, “listening to space changes space. Changing space changes listening”.[24] Similarly, as Jonathan Sterne writes in MP3: The Meaning of a Format, (2012), the auditory experience is deeply intertwined with memory and imagination, as sounds can evoke personal and collective histories, stirring emotions with nuanced familiarity. Sonic experiences, akin to the visual, possess a distinct capacity in conveying the intangible, the essence of atmospheres, events, and emotions otherwise opaque to the eye.  

In Noise: The Political Economy of Music, (1970) Attali examines how music and noise profoundly reflect and influence society and politics. Attali argues that sound acts as a mirror to, and predictor of, societal structures. Central to Attali’s thesis is the significance of noise, defined as unassimilated sound symbolising disorder and the potential for new orders. Attali asserts that “noise is the source of power and the prehistory of music”, suggesting that disruptions in musical norms are indicative of and influential in broader social transformations, including sound reproduction. Thus, introducing a fresh auditory experience that alters the audience’s perception of reality, “noise does in fact create a meaning: first, because the interruption of a message signifies the interdiction of the transmitted meaning, signifies censorship and rarity; and second, because the very absence of meaning in pure noise or in the meaningless repetition of a message, by un-channelling auditory sensations, frees the listener’s imagination…”.[25] 

The study also considers how audible sound reflects the human body’s capacity to absorb aural information, with the ear functioning much like a sponge. Composer Pierre Schaeffer notes that, “…hearing is a special sense; it is a way of touching at a distance, and the intimacy of this sense is fused with sociability whenever people gather together to hear something special…”.[26] The sonic impact, or its “affect”, is visceral, as frequencies physically impact the body, eliciting instant and instinctive reactions.[27] This bypasses orthodox cognitive processes involved in visual perception, conveying significant cultural and symbolic meanings that often resonate with the listener’s identity and transcend visual symbolism.[28] Additionally, the absence of visual cues in sonic documents minimises preconceptions and distractions. Comparing sonic to visual experiences reveals that aural experiences constantly immerse us and are essential to primal survival instincts. Sound transcends boundaries, arriving from a 360-degree perspective, while closing one’s eyes halts visual perception. However, closing one’s ears does not stop auditory experience—vibrations from the ground and one’s own body sounds persist. As Schafer observes, “the sense of hearing cannot be turned off at will. There are no earlids”.[29] Plus, sound’s temporal unfolding crafts a narrative that evolves over time, dynamically engaging the listener’s emotions in a manner akin to musical or linguistic narratives.[30] Furthermore, the holistic engagement with “the auditory then may lend dynamic appeal to the historical imagination to not only fixate on archival pages, but to supplement such reading with a sense for what is buried within, for history is also made concrete through initial articulations, interactions, frictions, and the vibrations of bodies, voices, movements, and their expressiveness”.[31] 

Cultural resonance: sound, space, and resistance in marginalised communities 

The convergence of spatial practices with auditory elements redefines architecture and human geography, fostering a sensory perception of space influenced by societal constructs. For example, Juhani Pallasmaa advocates for a multisensory approach to architecture in his work, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (1996), challenging the primacy of the visual by arguing that sound profoundly shapes a space’s ambiance and character, thereby influencing emotions and behaviors. In The Corporeality of Listening: Experiencing Soundscapes on Audio Guides (2013), Holger Schulze extends Maryanne Amacher's creative exploration, particularly with City Links (1967-80), to elucidate the complex interplay between individuals and their sonic surroundings. Schulze suggests that the experience of sound, particularly within an exhibition, is intimately connected to the environment and the state of the listener, underscoring its dual nature as both corporeal and immersive. Schulze stresses the significance of spatial, temporal, and narrative elements in listening, advocating for a focused consideration of a site's architecture and the movements of the audience. By applying the sociological concept of “spacing” within the auditory realm, listener engagement is enhanced within complex acoustic environments.[32]  

The introduction of soundwalks for auditory exploration serves to strengthen the connection between listeners, their environment, and the impact of sound on spatial perception. In his work Corpus In Flux: The Sonic Persona (2019), Schulze examines the interplay of sound, architecture, and art within museum settings, introducing “sonic affordances” to scrutinise how auditory experiences in arts organizations are influenced by historical context, technical infrastructure, and security protocols. Critiquing the prevalent “non-specific body” model of sound, which mirrors the general human auditory and vocal systems, Schulze advocates for a non-anthropocentric approach through the concept of the “sonic persona”, emphasising sensory experiences in everyday life. Driven by shifts in culture and technology, especially digitization, Schulze argues for dismantling established hierarchies within cultural institutions. Employing the metaphor of “Disassembling the Lectern”, Schulze invites a decentralised, multi-layered approach to communication in the arts, envisioning reimagined cultural spaces that prioritise sensory engagement over traditional, fixed structures, fostering a dynamic interplay between sound, technology, and human interaction.[33]  

Andra McCartney's Listening to Traffic with Guts and Antennae (2019) explores the intricate role of traffic sounds in daily life, extending beyond the confines of museums. McCartney maps the auditory ecology of metropolitan spaces, treating traffic as an ecotone—a vibrant threshold where diverse habitats and travelers intermingle. Brandon LaBelle’s Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life, (2010) further compounds this thinking by introducing Federico Miyara’s concept of “acoustic violence”. LaBelle portrays the invasive quality of certain sounds, recognising their potential to oppress, yet also recognises the connective muscle of sound, which connects with Emmanuel Levinas’ thought on the ethical resonance of human interactions within inner city contexts. It is also important to note Doreen Massey’s For Space, (2005), which frames space as an emergent property of interactions, a stance that stresses the importance of auditory elements in crafting the “throwntogetherness” of a place, thereby contributing to its unique identity. This builds on Henri Lefebvre’s analysis, The Production of Space, (1974) and Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time, and Everyday Life, (1992), identifying rhythms—specifically auditory rhythms—as essential in the lived experience of space, and is prominent in its social creation. The amalgamation of these academic voices reinforces the critical yet transient role of sound in the experience and construction of space. For instance, within architecture, it enriches the sensory and emotional resonance of structures, whereas in human geography, sound informs our physical interactions with and spatial constructions of environments, as a manifestation of “sonic materialism” significantly influencing the social and cultural dynamics of space.[34]  

Assessing the activities at the site of each case study through the lens of Hannah Arendt’s “Spaces of Appearance” first presented in The Human Condition, (1958) is relevant to this study in that central to Arendt’s thesis is the understanding that the essence of the public realm, or “polis”, resides not in a fixed geographic location but manifests within the dynamic interplay of individuals engaging through speech and action. By gathering, debating, and voicing opinions, individuals enact political action, thus creating a “polis” that transcends physical spaces. Although this may seem at first glance to contradict this site-specific study, Arendt acknowledges that transient existence—appearing when people convene for a collective purpose and dissipating upon their departure—is applicable to the digital dissemination of the soundworks. This impermanence, does not diminish their significance, instead Arendt suggests that the capacity for action and speech to conjure a “polis” at will reinforces the notion that these spaces, and the interactions they foster, can materialise “anytime, anywhere”—a testament to the enduring potential of communal political life, and that ‘“wherever you go, you will be a polis”.[35] This study is allied with Judith Butler’s critique of Arendt’s thesis in Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, (2015), which contends that Arendt’s “spaces of appearance” overlooked individuals who deviate from “societal norms”. Butler questions Arendt’s criteria for participation in these spaces, asserting that “the speaking subject emerges through this chain of performances and is, therefore, a social and temporal phenomenon”, supporting a more inclusive framework that validates diverse sites, bodies, and forms of resistance, which is a central consideration in this research.[36] 

The research also considers Stuart Hall’s theory of cultural studies, which analyses resistance within a social context to determine power dynamics, stating that “cultural power” is what sets cultural studies apart, interpreting cultural resistance as the action through which individuals or groups counteract dominant societal standards via cultural means. Hall states, “cultural identities have origins and histories. However, they are not fixed in an essentialised past but are shaped by ongoing historical, cultural, and power dynamics”, justifying why cultural resistance manifests not only in forms like art, music, fashion, and graffiti but also through the less tangible domains of values, norms, and combining the cultural practices people engage in daily and the artefacts created by artists, extending cultural resistance beyond physical expressions to include ideological challenges of established models.[37] 

Invoking bell hooks’ concept of “marginality”, which reinterprets the margin or periphery—predominantly perceived as an oppressive space—as a “site of creativity and power, an inclusive space”, underpinning how this research project interprets Cox Street and each case study. The application of hooks’ concept within a curatorial framework challenge established notions of dominance and repression, positioning the margin not only as a site of resistance but also as a space where novel ideas and actions can emerge. Occupants of these spaces, by “pushing against the boundaries set by race, sex, and class domination”, can adopt a “radical standpoint, perspective, and position”, contributing to counter-hegemonic cultural practices. This research acknowledges that recognising the margin as an actively resistant and creative space is vital for redefining power dynamics and cultural representation. It enables a fresh understanding of the activities in each case study, diverging from historically dominant narratives.[38] 

An interpretation that aligns with Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, (2013), which explores themes ranging from academic labour to blackness, aesthetics, and the broadening of sociality beyond conventional study’s confines. The work disputes the concept of meritocracy, which they critique for its latent racism and exclusivity. Instead, Moten and Harney advocate for “incompleteness”, a nuanced critique of social, political, and academic structures, as a collective and subversive counter to individualism and authoritarianism. They argue that by eschewing full articulation within these systems, marginalised groups preserve autonomy and combat assimilation, thus challenging the quest for complete, objective knowledge by underscoring that the production of academic knowledge is intrinsically flawed and often an accomplice to structures of power and oppression. They posit that genuine understanding is invariably partial and context-dependent, placing value on the unknowable and marginalised, promoting epistemological humility, and recognising the worth of that which defies complete expression in conventional academic dialogue. Here, incompleteness is not a shortcoming but a domain of possibility, encouraging new modes of understanding and sociability outside the limitations of mainstream institutional constraints. This argument has been applied to my research as a method to initially address the physical state of each site and subsequently the compilation of data for each case study. “Incompleteness” thus becomes a palpable reality in both the sites’ unresolved elements and the data collection process, as compiling a comprehensive record of all historical activities is unfeasible due to the sheer number of participants and the diversity of their perspectives.[39] 

Also, at the heart of Moten and Harney’s preceding concept of the “undercommons” —central to this research project—is the view of each site as both a metaphorical and physical space where marginalised groups partake in alternative social organisation and knowledge production. For this project’s purposes, it is conceived as an “elsewhere”—a space that actively engages with and challenges dominant narratives. It is “a way of being in the world that is also a way of not being in the world”, and a locus of “fugitivity”, symbolising the creation of autonomous spaces by underrepresented communities, often in peripheral areas like clubs or streets. These spaces give rise to “fugitive planning”, nurturing alternative social organisations and forms of creative expression that defy established norms and recognise the significant culture and knowledge found in areas often overlooked by mainstream discourses.[40] 

Phoenix Rising: The post-war reconstruction of Coventry and retracing Cox Street 

Ministry of Information Photo Division official photographer. (1989). Part of the model prepared to the plans of Donald Gibson (Coventry City Architect) for the post-war rebuilding of Coventry's bomb damaged city centre (1945). London: Imperial War Museum. Catalogue number: D15518. Ministry of Information Second World War Official Collection.

Cox Street, located in the St. Michael’s ward of Coventry, serves as the site for both case studies and the source of the soundworks. The street runs beneath the Ring Road, a crucial logistical infrastructure built post-war to circumnavigate Coventry’s city centre. It extends from Primrose Hill Street in Hillfields at the Ring Road’s outer edge to the junction with Gosford Street located in the civic area of the city centre. The City Architect’s Department strategically planned this area, with guidance successively from Donald Gibson (1938-54), Arthur Ling (1955-64), and Terence Gregory (1964-73) during both the city centre’s reconstruction and the Ring Road’s development.[41] The Sidney Stringer Centre for School and Community Use, located at the intersection of Cox Street and Primrose Hill Street in Coventry, was constructed in 1972. It succumbed to a fire in September 2007 and was subsequently reopened as Sidney Stringer Academy in October 2012.[42] This site is significant for hosting the Poetry Festival on 11 February 1978, organised by Ajmer Bains on behalf of the Indian Workers Association, and serves as the origin of the first case study. The second case study centres on The Eclipse, situated at the intersection of Cox Street and Lower Ford Street beneath the Ring Road. Active from 1990 to 1992, The Eclipse hosted weekly raves and emerged as a pivotal counter-cultural landmark before the city council demolished it to build a car park. Adjacent, at the Delia Derbyshire School of Art and Design, also located on Cox Street, artist Vivienne Griffin led a critical listening session followed by a soundwalk to each of the case study sites.  

Ernest Ford, the City Engineer, and Gibson drafted plans to modernise the city in the 1930s. Yet, the bombings during the Second World War Blitz offered a blank canvas, enabling Gibson to realise their distinctive vision for a regeneration project, to transform Coventry into a modernist utopia. By the 1960s, experts lauded this strategy as the “most enlightened system of professional city government yet observed in Britain”.[43] Collectively, politicians and the local authority envisioned a city that catered to people’s perceived needs, placing culture and arts at its heart in the civic area. They also recognised the growing need to prioritise cars, leading to the construction of the Ring Road (A4053) and the addition of other logistical infrastructure, embodying a “mid-twentieth-century sense of a modern planned economy and society”. The city’s planners championed these changes, believing  they would draw major corporations and financial institutions to Coventry and solidify its identity as a city open to globalisation.[44]  

The Ring Road continues to operate as a dual carriageway circumnavigating Coventry’s city centre. Initially, it was conceived to include a linear park featuring green spaces, cycle paths, and walkways. Yet, the reality, because of budgetary challenges and restricted space deviated from Gibson’s initial design, transforming into an elevated, motorway-like barrier, physically disconnecting the city centre from its outlying districts, requiring the addition of underpasses and footbridges. These structures were subsequently described by residents as “wasted, uncomfortable spaces”, which discouraged use and accelerated the economic devaluation of these areas.[45] As a consequence, Coventry’s post-war reconstruction, while ambitious, bypassed inner-city areas such as Hillfields in favour of more prominent projects like the shopping precinct and the Ring Road. This led to Hillfields lacking funds for housing improvements, while also being severed from its historical industrial employment centres that were demolished to accommodate the Ring Road’s construction, which then relocated to the outskirts of the city. As a result, Hillfields became a residence for economically and socially marginalised groups, including migrants and the unemployed—a reality corroborated by census data, as evidenced in each of the Case Study Data Sets (accessible via password at  

These conditions perpetuated the area’s history of poverty and stimulated the resistance and activism of its migrant communities, who were initially recruited to fill labour shortages in the automobile industry but ended up being relegated in the labour market. Despite anticipations that industrial wealth would eradicate poverty, the socioeconomic divide remained, especially as the car manufacturing industry departed and contracted, leaving Hillfields and its residents in a worsening socio-economic situation.[46] 

Coventry’s planned central area redevelopment (1945). London: Imperial War Museum. Catalogue number: 43501. Ministry of Works Official Collection.

This prompted the introduction of Britain’s inaugural nationwide endeavour to address inner-city impoverishment via the Community Development Project (CDP), initiated under Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson and operationalised by Edward Heath’s Conservative Government. Identified in 1970, Hillfields epitomised the CDP’s mission to empower local residents through the enhancement of neighbourhood associations and housing. Yet, as the CDP’s five-year term unfolded, it became concurrent with Coventry’s sharp economic downturn due to the impact of de-industrialisation. By 1975, Hillfields had transformed from a discrete troubled district to a stark emblem of the city’s intensifying difficulties.[46] 

This prompted the introduction of Britain’s inaugural nationwide endeavour to address inner-city impoverishment via the Community Development Project (CDP), initiated under Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson and operationalised by Edward Heath’s Conservative Government. Identified in 1970, Hillfields epitomised the CDP’s mission to empower local residents through the enhancement of neighbourhood associations and housing. Yet, as the CDP’s five-year term unfolded, it became concurrent with Coventry’s sharp economic downturn due to the impact of de-industrialisation. By 1975, Hillfields had transformed from a discrete troubled district to a stark emblem of the city’s intensifying difficulties.[47] Accordingly, the spaces highlighted in each case study have emerged as critical centres for social integration, civic engagement, and activism, thereby challenging established norms.[48] Although, historically, the cultural outputs from these activities are often overlooked or undervalued due to the lack of formal documentation and preservation. My research aligns with Emma Warren’s advocacy for acknowledging and preserving cultural narratives that diverge from conventional models. This approach advocates for self-documentation and the establishment of non-traditional archives as essential means of protecting cultures that have been largely marginalised.[49] The application of the curatorial toolkit ensures the heritage of these spaces—key to fostering and showcasing cultural innovation—is sonically preserved and contributes to the democratisation of storytelling. This process addresses historical biases by challenging the misrepresentation of marginalised communities by dominant narratives, thereby bridging the gaps and correcting misconceptions in our collective understanding. 

It confronts the misconception that culture from youth or marginalised groups is fleeting and subversive. Although such cultures are often recognised as influential retrospectively once perceived risks subside, this delayed recognition can lead to a loss of original context. Therefore, the project emphasises the need for a curatorial toolkit that provides guidance for documentation, archiving, and the speculative bridging of knowledge gaps using sound. The flexibility of the toolkit is intentional to allow for adaptation to factors such as geography, demographics, and technology, ensuring a thorough understanding of the condition that instigated these historical acts of cultural resistance. 

Chapter Overview 

The Literature Review: Intersections of Theory and Practice – Devising a site-specific curatorial toolkit for sound art synthesises relevant interdisciplinary literature. It integrates critical theories, philosophical writings, and artistic contributions, collectively guiding this research and the creation of a curatorial toolkit alongside data sets. The analysis begins with Beatrice von Bismarck’s concept of “curatoriality”, incorporates Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s “Rhizome” concept and considers Donna Haraway’s notion of “situated knowledges”. These ideas underscore the necessity for curatorial practices that are responsive to the complexities of socio-political conditions and emphasise the importance of inclusive language and collective discourse, as advocated by Michael Warner. The chapter also examines Maura Reilly’s “curatorial activism”, which aims to centre marginalised voices in art narratives within institutional settings, and Claire Bishop’s critique of “tokenism” in art collaborations, reflecting principles of Group Material’s community-based, participatory approaches. Furthermore, it explores bell hooks’ notion of “marginality” as a realm of creative resistance and Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s “Undercommons”, promoting spaces—both physical and metaphorical—outside conventional institutional contexts to prioritise underrepresented narratives in cultural conversation. 

The second part of the literature review examines various artistic practices essential to the study. It begins with an examination of Michael Asher’s site-specific works and Ultra-red’s durational curatorial projects that engage communities through sound. The chapter also explores Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s auditory examinations of urban acoustics and Pauline Oliveros’ deep listening practices to affirm sound’s role in interpreting history and culture, and in reimagining archives as dynamic agents that shape narratives and identities. Additionally, it explores Simon Sheikh’s critique of institutional frameworks within the public domain and elucidates the importance of sound art in both academic and applied settings, highlighting sound and listening as tools to connect with and illuminate the histories and cultures of marginalised groups. The chapter concludes by investigating contemporary curatorial methods that employ digital and broadcast platforms to expand audience engagement and to promote a progressive, inclusive, and accessible dialogue in the arts. 

The Methodology: Resonating Histories - A curatorial toolkit for sound art devised to excavate historical acts of cultural resistance through data synthesis and digital auditory platforms, outlines the methods employed in the research, initially acknowledging “patchwork ethnography” as vital for data collection under pandemic constraints. It outlines the integration of theory and practice to promote inclusive participation and foster unbiased critical analysis as critical components of the curatorial toolkit. It accounts for the artist selection; a process mirroring the study’s commitment to diversity and a multiplicity of viewpoints and stresses the importance of rigorous data management and ethical practices to ensure transparency and integrity of participants and resources. It goes on to describe the study’s interdisciplinary method, combining qualitative and quantitative research with theoretical scrutiny. Moreover, the chapter details the reflective and auto-ethnographic techniques used to evaluate biases and incorporates stakeholder interviews and recordings to explore the cultural dynamics of Cox Street during the events. It also elaborates on the website’s development strategy, which safeguards data and the thesis while offering public access to the soundworks via QR codes and digital radio transmissions. 

Subsequent chapters undertake a comprehensive examination of each commission. Chapter 1: This Voice Was Once Spoken by – An audio essay conversant with Case Study #1: A Poetry Festival organised by the Indian Workers’ Association (IWA) on 11 February 1978, at the Sidney Stringer Centre for School and Community Use, Cox Street, Coventry. The focus of Chapter 2: Dismantling The Hardcore Continuum (Futurythmic Dub) by DeForrest Brown Jr. – A sonic fiction conversant with Case Study #2: The UK’s First Legal All-Night Inner-City Rave Club, The Eclipse (1990-1992), Cox Street, Coventry. Chapter 3: Active Listening Workshop by Vivienne Griffin conducted at the Delia Derbyshire Building, College of Arts and Society, Coventry University, Cox Street, Coventry, on 11 July 2023 centres on a location-specific “active listening workshop” led by the artist Vivienne Griffin. These chapters thoroughly survey the curatorial toolkit’s application in each commission and the workshop, which are reinforced by the artists’ final appraisals, stored in the Appendix. This feedback offers invaluable insights, enriching understanding of the project’s development, challenges encountered, and the artists’ reflections at crucial stages. 

The conclusion consolidates the academic and creative elements of and recapitulate key findings, aligning the artist commissions’ outcomes with theoretical insights, and evaluate the efficacy of the curatorial toolkit. Furthermore, it explores the potential for broader applications beyond the scope of this research and clarify the project’s personal, professional, and scholarly significance, especially in the effort to excavate and amplify sites of cultural resistance through sound art and reposition these historically marginal discourses in mainstream curatorial practices. Finally, a glossary of terms reviews practical and theoretical propositions pertinent to this research. The appendix includes the curatorial toolkit, data sets, artist agreements, transcripts of artist appraisals, workshop participant agreements, descriptions, scaled questionnaires, and relevant ethical documentation.

[2] Ex-American is a term used to describe an individual who once held American citizenship and identified with American culture but has since renounced or lost their American citizenship, and no longer identifies with the culture in a primary sense. 

[3] Radio IPS. (2010). Available at:

“I’M TRYNA TELL YA” Feature Length Documentary. (No date). Available at:

ICA Associates 33 33 present Masāfāt. (2016). Available at:

Warren, E. (2020). Document Your Culture: A Manual. (London: Sweet Machine Publishing). 

[4] Kwon, M. (2002). One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity. (Cambridge: MIT Press). 

[5] “In and against an environment”: Dhanveer Singh Brar on the Sonic Ecologies of 21C Black Music. (2022). Available at:

In an interview between Failed Architectures and Dhanveer Singh Bra about the book Teklife, Ghettoville, Eski: The Sonic Ecologies of Black Music in the Early 21st Century, (2021), the term “sonic ecologies” is described as providing a “sense of both a combination of a locationality, and the activities of people within and in relation to a given place, but also the ways in which the sonic experiments that are produced there are of that place because the people are responding to the environment and their situation… But the music is not necessarily fixed, it can obviously travel and move and mutate… “Ecologies” allowed me to begin in a time and place, in a situation, but also to move beyond that time and place. And I think that’s part of the imperative of the music I discuss to both situate and locate, but also not to fix and not to predetermine or prefigure where the music can go”. 

[6] Soja, E. W. (1989). Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. (New York: Verso). 

Edward W. Soja’s Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory, (1989) critically examines the spatial dimensions of social life. It promotes the importance of space in social theory and contends that the spatiality of human life has often been neglected. Soja’s work challenges traditional views of space and place, showing how they shape the social spaces we inhabit. The text delves into the historical development of inner-city landscapes, exploring how social forces and spatial forms interact. Reflecting on Soja’s insights, this research project I adopt an interdisciplinary approach to examine the historical and current spatial practices at various sites and their influence on social interactions. The project investigates physical architecture, cultural practices, demographic trends, and spatial organisation, understanding that these elements collectively determine the social dynamics of any location. To comprehend the nuances of social interaction, one must consider the complex interplay of history, culture, and space that gives a specific site its unique character. 

[7] Jansson, J. & Hracs, B. J. (2018). ‘Conceptualizing curation in the age of abundance: The case of recorded music’ in Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. 50(8). pp. 1602-1625. doi:

[8] Hans Ulrich Obrist: the art of curation. (2014). Available at:

Harald Szeemann’s curatorial work in documenta 5, (1972), is pivotal in understanding the evolution of the “star curator” role and its impact on contemporary art. Rejecting the conventional survey exhibition model, Szeemann positioned art within a broader visual culture, emphasising site-specific and context-sensitive practices. The approach, which caused significant civic controversy, sought to generate an active engagement with the artwork, moving beyond mere representation to create immersive experiences for viewers. This radical shift in curatorial practice highlighted Szeemann’s influence on the art world, with documenta 5 being a definitive statement that reshaped the future of large-scale art exhibitions. Szeemann’s methodology foregrounded the exhibition as a dynamic entity, capable of stimulating discourse and challenging existing power structures within the art world. If considered as a “super curator”, Hans Ulrich Obrist is a pivotal figure who, along with others, has dramatically shifted the paradigm of exhibition-making. Hal Foster notes in What Comes After Farce? (2020), that Obrist draws from the likes of Henry Cole and Sergei Diaghilev to advance the notion of exhibitions as modern forms of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Obrist’s lineage can be traced to transformative figures like Harald Szeemann, and Kasper König, who expanded conventional exhibitions with broad themes, albeit positioned between scholarly curators and exhibition-makers. Foster describes this emergent breed of curators, exemplified by Obrist, navigates the intersection of critical theory and charismatic showmanship, fuelling the post-industrial economy’s demand for curated consumption. While Obrist avoids the spectacle associated with the likes of Klaus Biesenbach, their curatorial approach—geared towards performance and time-based art—reflects a new agency in the digital era, characterised by relentless networking and a “protest against forgetting” even as Foster believes potentially accelerates toward oblivion. 

[9] Larsen, B. L. (1999). ‘Social Aesthetics: II examples to begin with, in the light of parallel history’ in Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry. 1. pp. 76-87.  

Situating the Curatorial. (2021). Available at:

Irit Rogoff: The Exhibition as An Event of Knowledge Production. (2013). Available at:

Lars Bang Larsen’s concept of “social aesthetics” emerges as a form of artistic expression that intertwines acts and transgressions within various economies, diverging from traditional art activism by its use of art-institutional space. Rejecting the ephemeral art label, these practices draw from the legacy of Fluxus and Situationism while defying their boundaries. The examples underscore a collapse of the art-reality dichotomy, challenging art’s insulated cultural role through the osmotic exchange between different knowledge realms, fostering new subjectivities and democratic equivalencies. This osmosis also deconstructs the institutional/non-institutional space dichotomy, with art and institutions serving as platforms for genuine social interaction. Social aesthetics, embodying both utility and engagement, proposes a lasting cultural critique, integrating metaphorical artistic values into diverse professional domains and championing a performative, socially oriented artistic work that is inherently open-ended. 

Maria Lind’s defining “the curatorial”, as a term in essence identifies the interconnections among artworks, other materials, the space, and the specific presentation time. Beatrice von Bismarck, as outlined in the literature review, has similarly highlighted the “constellational mode” within curating, viewing it as a dynamic field where various activities converge to publicise art. Irit Rogoff contributes to this discourse by characterising curated projects as “events of knowledge”, where divergent forms of knowledge intersect to explore new terrains. According to Rogoff, these curated events are more about presentation than representation, pivoting on the experiences and engagements of the visitors themselves. Lind’s interpretation aligns with this, treating “curating” as a multifaceted practice that extends beyond traditional exhibition-making into broader public engagement, encapsulating critique, editing, education, and fundraising. This comprehensive approach, which I refer to as “curating in the expanded field”, adopts the curatorial as a function, method, and methodology. 

Drawing parallels with Chantal Mouffe’s concept of “the political”, which posits the indispensability of opposition and conflict in democratic processes, Lind contrasts “the curatorial” with “curating” just as Mouffe distinguishes “the political” from “politics”. The former, akin to “the curatorial”, represents a pervasive potential that disrupts consensus through dissent, whereas the latter, like “curating”, tends to uphold existing social structures. Therefore, “the curatorial” is about instigating change, creating friction, and fostering new ideas by cultivating significant processes and relationships among objects, individuals, locations, and ideologies. Unlike the status quo-preserving “curating”, “the curatorial” is an active, dissenting force. 

Irit Rogoff articulates a transformative perspective on curatorial practice, emphasising the evolution from traditional exhibitions to dynamic “events of knowledge”. This approach fosters participatory experiences that surpass display, encouraging the production and exchange of knowledge. Rogoff interrogates the roles within the art world, challenging the established categories of curatorial work. Positing that curating, as an act of gathering and presenting art, has expanded into the “Curatorial”—a collaborative effort by curators and the public that transforms exhibitions into knowledge-generating events. This shift prompts critical questions about the nature and participants of these events, their impact, interaction with established knowledge forms, and their role in reshaping the contemporary art landscape. Rogoff’s inquiry aims “to deal with how we understand such an event, who takes part in it, what is ephemeral and what is lasting about such occurrences, how they interact with more traditional modes of knowledge production, and how they work to redefine the world of contemporary art”. 

[10] Info. (No date). Available at:

[11] Kanon-Fragen. (2016). Available at:

[12] Fillipovic, E. (2018). The Artist as Curator: An Anthology. (Cologne: Koenig Books). 

[13] Boys n the hoodie. (2008). Available at:

Cushion, S. Moore, K. and Jewell, J. (2011). [Online]. ‘Media representations of black young men and boys’. (No publisher). Available at:

[14] The Uncanny. (2019). Available at:

Sigmund Freud’s concept of the uncanny refers to the unsettling feeling arising from something familiar yet strange, leading to a sense of eeriness or discomfort. Freud suggested that the uncanny is related to things which have been repressed but then resurface. Examples include the sudden apparent animation of inanimate objects, encounters with one’s doppelgänger, or involuntary repetitions. In art, it often involves blurring the boundaries between the animate and inanimate, life and death. Freud’s exploration into the uncanny is significant for understanding the psychological implications of disquieting experiences or the genre of horror​. 

Van Elferen, I. (2016). ‘Sonic Horror’ in Horror Studies. 7(2). pp. 165-172. doi:

In Sonic Horror (2016), Isabel Van Elferen delves into the multifaceted horror intrinsic to sound, drawing connections with the Freudian concept of “the uncanny” and the layered complexities of the “sonic palimpsest”. Van Elferen posits that sound's inherent invisibility amplifies fear, not through the directness of confrontation but rather through the anticipation of horrific encounters. This anticipatory state is given form through auditory cues—such as footsteps, the creaking of doors, or the whirring of a dentist’s drill—which engage the synesthetic imagination, casting the unseen into the realms of repressed fears and anxieties. 

Sound serves as a pivotal vehicle for “the uncanny” where the anxiety induced by auditory stimuli, particularly in heightened states of apprehension, prompts the imagination to ascribe these sounds to haunting sources embedded in human thoughts and memories. The manipulation of sound within horror leverages auditory effects to cultivate a sense of dread and impending peril, thus steering the audience's emotional responses. The genre's skilful utilisation of sound effects to intimate the presence of invisible terrors plays upon our most profound fears, enriching the horror experience. 

The text introduces the concept of dorsality, relating to sound's connection with the unseen and “the uncanny”. Sound thus becomes a dorsal entity, an invisible yet sinister force that, while not directly observable, is acutely felt, amplifying the suspense and anxiety that are central to the efficacy of horror.  

Van Elferen also probes the immateriality of sound, its separation from any visible source, and its paradoxical ability to invoke physical sensations despite its intangibility. By focusing on ghostly and origin-less sounds, the work explores the horror genre's fixation with sounds that resist straightforward explanation or tangible origin, consequently deepening the terror experienced by the audience. 

The text describes sound's sound’s “unnameable quality”, which beckons for multi-layered interpretations and meanings filled with subjective associations that bridge the gap of sonic signification. This is particularly apparent in the hauntological aspect of music, where interwoven connotations, memories, and emotions resurface, confronting listeners with the spectres of their past, thereby layering the horror experience. Through its investigation of the invisible, unembodied, and unnameable qualities of sound, "sonic horror" employs the concept of the "sonic palimpsest" to forge a multidimensional experience of terror. This approach not only transforms sound into a formidable conduit of horror but also underscores the profound impact of the uncanny on human interaction with the auditory dimensions of fear. 

[15] In the preface to the Idea as Model, (1981) exhibition catalogue, Eisenman posits that architectural models can transcend mere narrative representations of buildings, asserting their own artistic or conceptual identity. This perspective aligns with their broader viewpoint on architecture as an art form, distinct from its physical embodiment. Furthermore, in a 1970 issue of Design Quarterly focused on Conceptual Architecture, Eisenman radically challenged conventional architectural norms. The essay, Notes on Conceptual Architecture—consisting solely of floating footnote numbers over four pages—illustrates a belief in the supremacy of the architectural idea over its physical manifestation. This work underscores the notion that in architecture, as in Conceptual Art, the idea holds more significance than the material object.

[16] LaBelle, B. (2006). Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art. (London: Bloomsbury). 

[17] Russolo, L. (1913). L’arte dei rumori. Manifesto futurista (The Art of Noises. Futurist Manifesto).

[18] Schaeffer, P. (2012). In Search of a Concrete Music. [Online]. Translated by North, C. and Dack, J. (Berkeley: University of California Press). Available at:

[19] Vendryes, T. (2015). ‘Versions, Dubs, and Riddims: Dub and the Transient Dynamics of Jamaican Music’ in Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture. 7(2). pp. 5–24. doi:

Thomas Vendryes’ Versions, Dubs, and Riddims: Dub and the Transient Dynamics of Jamaican Music, (2015) delivers an insightful introduction to “versioning” in Jamaican music and its critical role in Dub music’s evolution. Vendryes articulates the serendipitous birth of “versions” within Jamaican sound system culture and how these practices actively contest entrenched concepts of musical ownership and authenticity, embodying cultural expression and resistance. The work also sheds light on the technical intricacies of Dub music production, crediting pioneers such as King Tubby, King Jammy, and Lee “Scratch” Perry for their innovative contributions to recording studio technology and techniques. Further, Vendryes positions Dub in a wider sociocultural and historical narrative, connecting it with the Rastafari movement, Jamaican independence, and the global Black diaspora, underlining music’s capacity to forge identities and influence global musical directions, particularly within marginalised communities. 

[20] Cage, J. (1994). Silence: Lectures and Writings (New Edition). (New York: Marion Boyars).

[21] (Author not named). (1974). ‘Maryanne Amacher Interview for Chicago Style’ in Chicago Today. May 10.  

[22] ​Maryanne Amacher​. (2002). Available at:

[23] In their extensive work, Amacher discerned that locations have distinct “sound characters”, with Boston Harbour resonating at about 93 Hz, and New York Harbour at approximately 82 Hz, each harbour possessing its unique tonality. The live transmission of the “Boston Harbour Pier 6 Microphone” to MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory showcased daily acoustic environments reshaped into “performances” through “interventions” of mixing, processing, and synthesis, enriching the sound with new tonal structures. Amacher further refined this approach in the City-Links series for radio, broadcasting environmental sounds during late nights or early mornings, transforming public spaces into acoustic narratives. Significantly, Amacher used “architectural features” as sound sources to craft “intensely dramatic sound experiences”, probing the “noise-related qualities of sites”. Their interest lay in unveiling the city’s veiled harmonies and dimensions, particularly “most magically at night”, setting the stage for sound as a tool to document and transform perception. Amacher perceived people as “resonant bodies”, placing experience and “perception as a social process”, emphasising the transformative potential of “acoustic spaces” in shaping our interaction with the environment. 

[24] Pauline Oliveros. (No date). Available at:,as%20well%20as%20musical%20sounds

[25] Attali, J. (1970). [Online]. Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Available at

[26] The term “aural” pertains to hearing and activities related to ear perception, while “sonic” concerns audible sounds that involve, produce, or utilise sound waves, according to the 2010 Oxford English Dictionary. Unlike sight, this sensory perception is difficult to regulate, as it is pervasive and inextricably linked to the environment. 

[27] Gregg, M. & Seigworth, G.J. (eds.). (2010). The Affect Theory Reader. Duke University Press. (Durham: Duke University Press). 

Brian Massumi’s “affect theory” focuses on the pre-conscious and non-conscious experiences that are continuously at play, affecting our perceptions, actions, and decisions. Massumi believes that feelings are personal and biographical, whereas emotions are social, and affect is pre-personal. Explaining that “affect is most often used loosely as a synonym for emotion”, although emotion and affect “follow different logics and pertain to different orders”. A connection between affect theory and nostalgia lies in the understanding that nostalgia is a pre-conscious feeling in which “affect” can emerge before being consciously aware. It is autonomous action, a triggered emotional response that arises in response to particular stimuli, such as a sound, sight or thought of a situation from the past. When applied to nostalgia, the longing for the past or the idealisation of it comes before any conscious deliberation. Additionally, archival practices can capture and structure stimuli, transforming them into sources of nostalgia. An archive’s power lies in its potential to evoke affective, nostalgic responses rather than its historical meaning. Massumi suggests that this “affect” is an embodied experience, emphasising the physical reactions accompanying emotions like nostalgia, beyond just cognitive recognition. Furthermore, Massumi posits that “image-based late capitalist culture, in which so-called master narratives are perceived to have foundered… Belief has waned for many but not affect. If anything, our condition is characterised by a surfeit of it. The problem is that there is no cultural-theoretical vocabulary specific to affect”. An issue that corresponds with the challenge to articulate or formulate a universal language to describe the convergence of sound art and experience to audiences because the terminology is restricted. Consequently, a range of factors can be seen as either constraints or enablers of affective experiences. For instance, age, gender, ethnicity, and education may influence potential nostalgia triggers. 

[28] Sterne, J. (2012). MP3: The Meaning of a Format. (Durham: Duke University Press). 

Kane, B. (2014). Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Theory and Practice. (Oxford: Oxford University Press). 

Henriques, J. (2011). Reggae Sound Systems, Performance Techniques & Ways of Knowing. (London: Bloomsbury). 

[29] Schafer, R. M. (1977). The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. (New York: Random House). 

Ingold, T. (2007). ‘Against Soundscape’ in Carlyle, A. (ed). Autumn Leaves: Sound and the Environment in Artistic Practice. pp. 10-13. (Paris: Double Entendre). 

Ingold, T. (2011). Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. (London: Routledge). 

In the foundational book, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World, (1977) R. Murray Schafer introduced the term “soundscape” to describe the ‘sonic environment, the ever-present array of noises with which we all live’ within a given location. They called for a mindful, more nuanced interaction within a given sonic environment in response to the mounting concern over sound pollution. Schafer’s thinking, which offered a framework that views the sonic environment as a “society of sounds”, was foundational to The World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University and the subsequent Acoustic Heritage program, dedicated to preserving and enhancing sonic heritage. 

Tim Ingold provides a compelling counter-narrative to Schafer’s foundational ideas in their essays Against Soundscape, (2007) and Four Objections to the Concept of Soundscape, (2011). Ingold objects to the core aspect of Schafer’s term, suggesting that “soundscape” implies a visual-dominant perspective. Ingold’s states, the term diminishes the independent experiential essence of sound, noting that: “The world of sound… Has been turned into a panorama for a non-existent observer”, thus underscoring the potential limitations of consuming sound through a primarily visual lens. Ingold further challenging Schafer’s perspective delving into the nature of sound itself, contesting that soundscapes are purely human constructs. Instead, sounds are naturally emergent products of “ongoing, generative activities”, and that the “soundscape” or acoustic environment “is not an object to be constructed but a process”.  

Furthermore, Ingold critiques the perception of sound as a detached entity, separate from its source. They argue against viewing sound as a fixed point in a landscape, According to Ingold, sound “is not an object but a way of knowing, a path of inquiry”. Although Schafer’s pioneering work in acoustic ecology and their conceptualisation of “soundscape” laid the necessary groundwork in the field, Ingold’s critiques illuminate potential limitations and areas of further exploration that invite deeper philosophical and empirical inquiry into the complexities of acoustic environments. 

[30] Voegelin, S. (2010). Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art. (New York: Continuum).  

Kim-Cohen, S. (2009). In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-Cochlear Sonic Art. (London: Bloomsbury Academic). 

[31] LaBelle, B. (2006). Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art. (London: Bloomsbury). 

[32] In Spacing Identity: Unfolding Social and Spatial-Material Entanglements of Identity Performance, (2018), Marianne Stang Våland and Susse Georg delve into the sociological “spacing” concept within identity and organizational space. They scrutinize the complex interplay between architectural design and spatial-material configurations, observing their influence on identity in organisational settings, revealing identity’s evolving nature as it interacts with spatial and material elements at work. Their framework suggests that identities are dynamic, continuously moulded by interactions with the workplace”s physical and material characteristics. The theory of sociomateriality informs their perspective, arguing that spatial-material arrangements and social ties are interdependent, shaping and reflecting both daily work practices and broader organizational and professional relationships. Våland and Georg’s study illustrates how workspace design interventions significantly impact individuals’ occupational and organisational identity perceptions. Such interventions serve dual roles: they challenge and fortify identities, offering profound insight into space and materiality’s role in identity performance.

[33] Schulze, H. (2019). ‘Corpus In Flux: The Sonic Persona, Its Affordances & The Layers of an Institution’ in Curator. 62. pp. 307-312. doi:

[34] Cox, C. (2011). ‘Beyond Representation and Signification: Toward a Sonic Materialism’ in Journal of Visual Culture. 10(2). pp. 145-161. doi:

In Beyond Representation and Signification: Toward a Sonic Materialism, (2011), Christoph Cox examines the material aspects of sound, contrasting them with conventional semiotic and representational models. They critique existing theoretical frameworks for their heavy reliance on textual and visual paradigms that fail to fully grasp sonic experiences. Cox introduces “sonic materialism” to challenge the cultural theory’s oversight of the tangible and emotive properties of sound, emphasising its capacity to immerse and transform, advocating for a reassessment of the arts from a materialist viewpoint that recognises sound as an essential and dynamic component of our cultural fabric. This perspective resonates with modern philosophical trends towards realism and marks a departure from the anthropocentric focus that has dominated since the linguistic turn in philosophy.

[35] Arendt, Hannah. (1958). The Human Condition. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). 

[36] Butler, J. (2015). Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press). 

[37] Hall, S. (1990). ‘Cultural Identity and Diaspora’ in Rutherford, J. (ed.). Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. pp. 222-37. (London: Lawrence & Wishart). 

[38] hooks, b. (2015). Yearning: RACE, GENDER, AND CULTURAL POLITICS. (New York: Routledge).  

American academic and activist bell hooks examined the connections between “popular culture and race, class and gender”, aiding them to create a “space for education and critical consciousness that could serve as a pedagogy of liberation both in the academy and in the larger society”. hooks advocated for “cultural criticism” to be “approached from a feminist standpoint, to engage audiences more directly by allowing everyone a space to engage in radical critique”, an approach that empowered hooks to communicate an alternate understanding of society that sought to condemn the dominant narratives established by “white supremacist capitalist patriarchies”.

[39] Harney, S. & Moten, F. (2013). The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. (New York: Minor Compositions).

[40] Harney, S. & Moten, F. (2013). The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. (New York: Minor Compositions).

[41] Arthur Ling was a one-time assistant to Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry, and Senior Planning Officer of the London City Council (L.C.C). Ling had gained a wealth of experience regarding the challenges inherent in large scale reconstruction projects whilst working in the East End of London. This knowledge was befitting in Ling’s role as Gibson’s successor because Ling understood that technical skills inherent in good architecture and planning needed to be accompanied with a detailed understanding of the attitudes and needs of its constituents. An expanse that required, between 1945-73, extensive restructuring after the city received widespread bombing during the Second World War - the most devastating campaign, identified as the Coventry Blitz, took place on the 14-15 November 1940, with further significant attacks taking place in April 1941 and August 1942. The radical replanning of the city centre was not entirely a direct result of the devastation caused by air raids. Although, the damage incurred undoubtedly hastened the implementation of the ambitious scheme drafted in the late 1930s by Coventry City Council and pioneering City Architect, Donald Gibson to transform it from a Medieval centre into a Modernist metropolitan complex with the creation of the Upper and Lower Precinct shopping centre, the pedestrianisation of the main shopping street, and the introduction of shopping arcades and elevated walkways and a ring-road to create a “Coventry for Tomorrow”. A new “urban” centre remade with “modern” amenities such as wider streets for cars and buildings using steel, glass and concrete, replacing the cramped and winding medieval thoroughfares and outdated shops and offices. The comprehensive redevelopment changed the function and spatial characteristics of the city centre to create a comprehensible retail and civic experience, significantly altering the behaviours of its citizens when navigating the area. However, according to research conducted retrospectively by Phil Hubbard feelings of “loss” regarding the purging of its pre-war character were expressed among older residents, illustrating a level of disconnect between the intentions of architects and planners with its constituents.

[42] Fire at city school is suspicious. (2007). Available at:

School fire: I felt like crying. (2007). Available at:

Sidney Stringer Centre for School and Community, established in 1972, was among the pioneering inner-city community schools in the UK. It gained a reputation for innovation and success throughout the 1970s and 1980s, due in part to the cultural diversity of its students from the Hillfields and Foleshill areas. Estelle Morris, later Secretary of State for Education, led the school’s sixth form before Morris’ parliamentary election in 1992. Transitioning to a community technology college in September 1995, the school now focuses on mathematics and computing, serving over 1,140 students, with two-thirds from minority ethnic backgrounds. Despite suffering arson attacks in 1987 and 1995, the school was praised by Ofsted for its good performance and the positive attitude of its pupils. It honours Sidney Stringer, a former city council leader known for their long-standing Labour leadership from 1938 to 1967, who passed away in 1969.

[43] Hubbard, P., Faire, L. & Lilley, K. (2003). ‘Contesting the Modern City: Reconstruction and Everyday Life in Post War Coventry’. Planning Perspectives. 18(4). pp. 377-397. doi:

Couperas, S. (2016). ‘Rethinking the “Blueprint for Living Together” Community Planning and Sociology in Coventry, 1940-55’ in Couperas, S. & Ka, H. (eds.). (Re)constructing Communities in Europe, 1918-1968. (London: Routledge).

[44] Collis, C. & Roberts, P. (1992). ‘Foreign Direct Investment in the West Midlands: An Analysis and Evaluation’ in Local Economy. 7(2). pp. 114-130. doi:

Larkham, P. J. & Nasr, J. L. (eds). (2004). The rebuilding of British cities: exploring the post-Second World War Reconstruction. University of Central England School of Planning and Housing.

[45] Gould, J. & Gould, C. (2016). Coventry: The Making of a Modern City. (Swindon: Historic England). 

[46] (Authors not named). (1975). Community Development Project Final Report: Coventry and Hillfields: Prosperity and the Persistence of Inequality. Coventry: The Home Office and City of Coventry Community Development Project. 

Lawson. M, C. (2020). Nothing Left but Smoke and Mirrors: Deindustrialisation and the Remaking of British Communities, 1957-1992. Ph. D. Thesis. University of Berkeley. Available at:

[47] Carpenter, M. & Kyneswood, B. (2017). ‘From Self-help to Class Struggle: Revisiting Coventry Community Development Project’s 1970s Journey of Discovery’ in Community Development Journal. 52(2). pp. 247-268. doi:

After the CDP concluded in 1975, the dedication of its personnel to community enhancement remained steadfast. Two workers and their director, John Benington, established the Coventry Workshop, housed in a modest terraced dwelling close to Hillfields and underwritten by the Cadbury and Gulbenkian Trusts along with proceeds from newsletter subscriptions. The Workshop aspired to incisively tackle the socio-political and economic inequities in Coventry, striving to empower the city’s marginalised populace. The Workshop’s founding charter asserts its mission “to support workers, the unemployed, tenants and residents, and their organisations, in their efforts to gain control collectively over their lives, and to understand the forces which deny them this control”. 

Influenced by cooperative socialism, European co-determination, Alinsky’s community organisation methods in Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, (1971), and Lefebvre’s Right to the City, (1968), the Workshop facilitated union-tenant/housing organisation collaborations. These alliances mirrored the views of the Workshop’s varied subscribers and were instrumental in convincing the Coventry Trades Council to create a housing subcommittee, organising tours for union leaders to assess the dire state of Coventry’s council housing. Rejecting the fatalism of deindustrialisation, the Workshop endorsed Chrysler’s Crises: The Workers’ Answer by the Chrysler Joint AUEW and TGWU Shop Stewards Committee, which argued for nationalisation and autarky as countermeasures to the economic decline.

[48] Demolitions, Housing, and Environmental Justice: A Toxic News Interview with a Community Activist in Hillfields, Coventry. (2016). Available at:

The Hillfields Campaign: Community Resistance and Environmental Injustice, orchestrated by the University of Warwick’s Department of Sociology and administered by India Foster, featured an interview with Andy McGeechan. As a devoted resident of Hillfields, McGeechan championed the area’s multiculturalism and diversity and sheds light on their pivotal role in leading the campaign against the demolition of the high-rise flats in Hillfields, an area stigmatised by poverty and crime, and ranked as the 30th most deprived in the UK at the time of publication in 2006. The Imagine Hillfields project, was an element of their work, and explores the community’s partial victory in the fight against housing demolition, highlighting environmental injustice issues. The developer, Whitefriars Housing, intended to demolish the flats based on claims of unpopularity and discomfort; however, resident accounts of satisfaction, due to the flats’ location and communal spirit, contested this claim. The dispute emerged during a 2002 tenant meeting, where demolition was deceptively presented as refurbishment. Despite the buildings’ structural soundness, they were demolished between 2002 and 2005, amidst concerns about health risks from substandard dust control. 

The Hillfields case reveals a schism between the residents’ bond to their community and the biased intentions of external redevelopment. A retired GP provided a contrasting viewpoint, praising the refurbishment of some flats as “a great success, especially for the elderly”, yet this sentiment emphasises that the residents’ voices were overlooked in the “redevelopment” and “regeneration” efforts, highlighting the feelings of isolation and disconnection. This incident underscores the complex consequences of inner-city redevelopment on community health and cohesion.

[49] Warren, E. (2019). Make Some Space: Tuning Into Total Refreshment Centre. (London: Test Pressing).