Literature Review
Intersections of Theory and Practice – Devising a site-specific curatorial toolkit for sound art. 

(No photographer). (1976). Aerial View of Coventry City Centre. Image courtesy of Alarmy.

This literature review aims to illuminate the diverse interdisciplinary theories, curatorial writings, and artistic methodologies that have underpinned the methods outlined in the Curatorial Toolkit (full version unabridged version available in the Appendices), shaping the evolution and delivery of this practice-based research. It intentionally integrates conceptual and practical elements from reconnoitred sources to validate their role in both the research and creation of the curatorial toolkit. Additionally, it aims to demonstrate how the interdisciplinary intersections of knowledge within critical theory, curatorial praxis, and artistic work can converge and be customised to provide new perspectives on sound art as a medium for articulating cultural heritage. It also emphasises the significance and potential of excavating, amplifying, and disseminating historically marginalised cultural narratives through established cultural institutions and the processes advocated in the toolkit. 

Curatoriality, Rhizomatic Models, Situated Knowledges, Curatorial Activism and the Undercommons 
The term “curatoriality”, as introduced by curator Beatrice von Bismarck, suggests that every “curatorial situation unites elements to foster the public presentation of art and culture. Each generates a fabric of interrelations among all the various human and nonhuman participants —the exhibits (exhibitions), artists, and curators, as well as critics, designers, architects, institutional staff, recipients, and publics. This includes display objects, mediating tools, architecture, spaces, sites, information, and discourses. As these elements connect, the becoming-public of art and culture always implies change: exhibits find themselves in new juxtapositions, relating to changed spaces and varied social, economic, and discursive contexts, encountering diverse humans and nonhumans“.[50]  

Von Bismarck’s concept of “curatoriality” centres on object-based exhibition-making by artists within mainstream institutional contexts. While this description aligns with my experience as an institutional curator, it does not address site-specific concerns, marginalised cultures, the intangible and viral qualities of sound, or the distribution methods explored in this study. This omission highlights the need for this curatorial toolkit and emphasises the importance of this research in producing new knowledge insights. Crucially, in the context of my research, von Bismarck’s “curatoriality” is also influenced by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s concept of the “Rhizome”, which is a way of thinking that disrupts conventional growth patterns and established hierarchies and subverts traditional knowledge systems. The Rhizome views knowledge and culture as fluid and interconnected entities across multiple dimensions. This perspective is pertinent to the often-unpredictable nature of curation, demonstrated in the selection and the gathering of information for each respective Case Study and the corresponding digital Data Set, disclosing the interconnected and cyclical dynamics between curator, knowledge, research, medium, process, output, and distribution. While I initially intended to approach the material objectively, the arbitrary and sometimes unreliable nature of the collated information provided only a limited and “incomplete” insight into the complexities, contingent factors, and societal attitudes inherent to each site at the time of cultural activities investigated. Hence, instead of aiming for an objective transposition of the information gathered in each Case Study Data Set, it was crucial for the commissioned artists to adopt a speculative approach when interpreting the diverse materials catalogued.[51] 

Donna Haraway’s widely referenced concept of “situated knowledges”, opposes universal principles and supports a fusion of perspectives that emphasises the interconnectedness of knowledge systems. By applying the concept of “situated knowledges” to the curatorial toolkit, the research facilitates the recognition of multiple perspectives beyond established information learning systems, promoting a decentralised, multi-centric exploration of data, championing diversity across disciplines, challenging top-down binary structures, and accentuates the transformative potential of knowledge exchange.[52] Haraway asserts that all “knowledge”, and, by extension, “truth”, originates from a positional perspective and that the creation of knowledge is intricately tied to its context with a subjectivity shaped by specific historical, societal, cultural, personal, bodily, and embodied circumstances. Contending that “the only way to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in particular” and that “all perspectives are equally interesting, and no particular one can be uniquely better. Thus, objectivity turns into parody, and the impartial and knowing subject becomes a dream of death“.[53] For Haraway, and this research, context shapes knowledge, positioning every opinion as a node in a network and destabilises binary and hierarchical oppositions. This approach advocates for a transformative understanding of knowledge that endorses an intersectional model of knowledge production and redefines the “site” beyond visual representation. Incorporating human geography and integrating multifaceted social, cultural, and theoretical dimensions into art practice and curatorial pedagogy.[54]  

Incorporating situated knowledge as a theoretical framework into the curatorial toolkit process may unintentionally introduce subjective or unconscious biases that could manifest in political ways. For instance, a curator’s selection process undeniably subjective, favouring certain voices, perspectives, or artefacts over others, potentially side-lining underrepresented groups or, more likely, polarising conservative opinions. This common position, which artist and curator Svetlana Mintchev observes, is a result of the fact that many of today’s curators and museum directors have “grown professionally alongside artists who are also political activists” and “have cut their professional teeth at artist-run and artist-focused spaces, where they developed an interest in experimental and socially engaged forms of art”.[55] A consideration that relates closely to my personal transition from a trained and practising artist to an institutional curator, this experience led me to adopt an “adaptive curatorial practice”, a reflexive form of curation that considers the socio-political characteristics of a site as well as encourages collaboration with stakeholders and practitioners. Stressing the need for inclusive language when addressing sensitive issues with artists and stakeholders, and as a preventative measure to minimise potential public misunderstandings.[56] The emphasis on language specificity in this research also draws from Michael Warner’s concept of “publics” and “counterpublics”, who argues that “a public is a space of discourse organised solely by discourse itself”, identifying its role in facilitating collective dialogues that intrinsically possess hierarchies, hence the importance of attending to specialised terminologies. Additionally, Warner views "counterpublics" as alternative spaces, similar to those in each case study and the online sites, where marginalised or suppressed groups convene to exchange counter-discourses, thus enabling them to express their identities and challenge prevailing discourses and power structures.[57] 

Academic and curator Maura Reilly uses the term “curatorial activism to designate the practice of organising art exhibitions with the principle aim of ensuring that large constituencies of artists are no longer ghettoised or excluded from the master narratives of art. It is a practice that commits itself to counter-hegemonic initiatives that give voice to those who have been historically silenced or omitted altogether—and, as such, focuses almost exclusively on work produced by women, artists of colour, non-Euro-Americans, and/or queer artists“.[58] Nonetheless, mainstream organisations continue to face criticism for perpetuating stereotypes and often pigeonholing non-Western artists or artists of colour, expecting them to “display their identity” as a form of commodification within prevailing contemporary capitalist structures. As a result, efforts to incorporate underrepresented cultures become overshadowed and can often, justifiably, be dismissed as “tokenism” in an effort to mask the actual lack of social change. Furthermore, that the adoption of revisionist approaches can, paradoxically, bolster existing power dynamics, inadvertently supporting “white, Western, male-dominated” perspectives.[59]  Analogous to Reilly's approach, this research strives to develop and promote a conscientious curatorial method that repositions marginalised discourses at the forefront, while preserving the authenticity of the original participants' intentions.[60] 

The threat of potential pitfalls or uncertainties associated with this project, including the aforementioned risk of “tokenism” and the tendency for superficial gestures in the arts, is addressed by art historian Claire Bishop in the 2006 Artforum article The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents. The article outlines the “creative rewards of collaborative activity—whether working with pre-existing communities or establishing one’s own interdisciplinary network”. This approach is presented as a positive method to counter tokenism, requiring an appreciation and application of Bishop’s strategic guidelines through active engagement with community stakeholders to maintain a collaborative dialogue. Essential to this process is the sharing of the creative journey and the inclusive decision making guided by the respect of diverse cultural, political, and socio-economic backgrounds and contexts. Combined with attentiveness to maintaining a discursive space where artists are encouraged to reflect on their intentions and methods, this ensures the avoidance of perpetuating stereotypes or inequalities and institutes a form of self-reflection throughout the duration of the production of the soundwork. Fostering critical dialogue, prioritising authenticity, and empowerment over basic representation, continuous consultation with stakeholders was required, maintaining a spectrum of perspectives, ethically and socially conscious, significantly lowering the risk of tokenism. 

Bishop also asserts that the increased visibility of socially engaged practices “began in the early 1990s, when the fall of Communism stripped the Left of the remnants of the revolution that once connected political and aesthetic radicalism” and artists created “social situations to produce dematerialised, anti-market, politically engaged projects that echo the modernist call to blur art and life”. A description fitting of the working philosophy of the New York artist collective Group Material, (1979-1996), and resonates with my own practice.[61] Although, their activities date back to the 1970s, Group Material “gathered contributions from diverse groups, ranging from their artist community to non-professional artists and those beyond the art world” with the objective to showcase a series of socially engaged projects. Group Material pioneered “curatorial strategies” with the intention of “working collectively, politically, and within specific cultural contexts”. Their aim, much like the aim of this research, was to identify and establish “not a space, but a place—a laboratory” for artistic experimentation that emphasises “participation, inclusion, and self-criticality”. This was done to elevate the profile of underrepresented cultural activities within their locality. While Group Material primarily engaged in forming or engaging with “counter-institutions”, some members of the group, notably Tim Rollins, transitioned their practice to commercial and mainstream cultural settings. This strategic move was meant to sustain and expand the collaborative work with the Kids of Survival (K.O.S.) and to offer financial support and opportunities to the young collaborators involved in the project.[62]  

Group Material. (1982). Group Material, DA ZI BAOS, Union Square, New York.

Furthermore, the ethos of this research embraces Stuart Hall’s belief that “cultural identities have origins and histories. However, instead of being fixed in an essentialised past, they are influenced continuously by history, culture, and power” this study re-contextualises perspectives that manifest in “art, music, fashion, and graffiti”. These expressions serve as conduits for “values, norms, and beliefs” fostering discourse around “subversive ideologies that challenge prevailing beliefs”.[63] However, it is crucial to acknowledge the difficulties in preserving an unconventional cultural viewpoint in the context of financially robust private and public mainstream cultural organizations. For instance, almost 30 years ago, Julie Ault, a founding member of Group Material, poignantly asked in the exhibition essay for Cultural Economies: Histories from the Alternative Arts Movement (1996), Where have the alternatives gone? Ault suggests that “generations will grow up fully realising there is no outside” and highlights the challenge of conceptualising an alternative to “the centre“.[64] The situation already suggests a limited alternative to dominant narratives, further complicated by the emergence of new technological and fiscal challenges. These concerns encompass problems with counter-progressive terminologies and the algorithmic biases maintained by social media platforms, which substantially influence the representation of marginalised cultures. While both proliferative and restrictive aspects emerge from various research findings and discussions with digital practitioners, the adoption of online platforms and the ubiquity of smartphone technologies have led to the decision to present and stream the sound commissions through a dedicated website and digital radio platforms. Despite concerns over technology’s pervasive impact and its potential to diminish tangible forms of embodied experience, the project prioritises reaching broader audiences to elucidate and amplify awareness of historical events.[65] 

Additionally, it builds on theorist bell hooks’ concept of “marginality”, which redefines the peripheries not as a site of oppression but as a space of resistance and possibility. A “site of creativity and power, an inclusive space” and “not as a site of domination but as a place of resistance”. This perspective emerges from pushing against boundaries established by race, sex, and class domination. It empowers those within the margins to embrace a “radical standpoint, perspective, and position in the formation of counter-hegemonic cultural practices”.[66] In The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, (2013), Fred Moten and Stefano Harney define the “Undercommons” as a communal space for marginalised communities which is intentionally positioned outside conventional environments to challenge traditional modes of thought. Operating as an “elsewhere”, to engage with and interrogate conventional narratives, which is termed as a form of “fugitivity”, where underrepresented communities search for their own spaces. Although originally aimed at educational centres, which the authors label as “neoliberal institutions involved in systems of oppression” the “undercommons” advocates for a radical reimagining of what these facilities can and should become and urge people to think beyond the boundaries of traditional institutional structures.[67] This research converges the concepts of “marginality” and the “Undercommons” to reposition knowledge beyond the strict boundaries of educational environments, cultural institutions, and other traditional infrastructures. Adhering to this approach, this study acknowledges and interprets the unique contexts of Cox Street, home to UK’s inaugural all-night rave club and the Sidney Stringer School for Community Use as sites that host and embody cultural forms of resistance. Positioning these spaces as locations that have sustained and developed new creative principles, they hold a relevance that spans from the past into the present, maintaining their significance. Interpreting the sites as spaces for “fugitive planning”, which amplifies alternative social and creative expressions outside of mainstream infrastructures. This shift not only challenges and critiques established institutions but also encourages a re-evaluation of conventional perspectives and seeks to acknowledge the richness of cultures and the embedded knowledge in these peripheral areas, which dominant narratives often ignore. 

Institutional Critique, Comparative Relations, Militant Sound Investigations, Tape Echo, Sonic Meditations and Broadcast 
The curatorial toolkit, as outlined in the introduction, augments the aforementioned methodologies for developing, producing, and distributing immaterial artistic outputs. It also draws inspiration from the site-specific practices of artist Michael Asher, the sustained collective community activism of Ultra-red, and the adaptive listening concepts of Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Pauline Oliveros. Collectively they forge socio-political and intimate connections with place, mirroring other discourses or forms of cultural resistance. Rooted in traditional conceptual strategies they challenge commodification, transitioning art from tangible mediums to idea-centric formats that democratise knowledge. The ethos of the curatorial toolkit (full unabridged version available for reference in the Appendices) builds upon, integrates, and develops shared practices, incorporating non-Western methods from various cultural and geopolitical backgrounds.[68] 

Michael Asher’s practice consistently examines the material, conceptual, and hidden aspects of art infrastructure, as well as the associated social, economic, and political issues. Asher’s rigorous immoderate methodology guided the compilation of information for each of the Case Study Data Sets and subsequent transposition for the two sound art commissions in this research. The Data Sets (accessible via offer an in-depth, situated, and time-based insight into each location. Moreover, the collation of functional and diagrammatic elements of the visual language from Asher’s practice has influenced the aesthetic design of both the digital platform and the printed media used to disseminate the soundworks. How this project diverges from Asher’s approach, is in the negation of the stipulation that the works produced were “contingent upon strict display conditions; moving it would make it cease to exist…leaving no object that can be re-exhibited, preserved, circulated, or commodified”. Unlike Asher, this study does not dismiss the secondary representations of the documentation that were accumulated and adapted for the soundworks and is reliant on dispersion. The approach adheres to Asher’s perspective that sites are knowledge repositories and challenges the “modernist myth of the work of art as an autonomous entity whose meaning, and identity are self-contained and can be moved around from here (studio) to there (museum/gallery/market/living room) without substantial consequence to its integrity”. The soundworks, being immaterial and digitally distributed, circulate in non-physical forms, unlike traditional artworks. A further connection with Asher is that the research advocates for an alternative “free-floating art practice” that is nomadic in nature, moving between location-specific contexts. This shift from engaging with art's social and institutional contexts to non-institutional spaces within specified sites evidence “the spatial, material, temporal, social, and discursive contexts”.[69]  

Asher’s observational and systematic approach signals the importance of probing into the overlooked contexts of each site. By gathering information for the Data Sets and engaging with stakeholders, archivists, and practitioners, this research, like Asher’s, unveiled hidden dimensions of each site that surpass existing records, fostering new dialogues and reflections on the actions of the various publics and counter-publics frequenting these sites.[70] In addition to this, Asher’s artistic methods build on the significant contributions of Seth Siegelaub, a curator, collector, and former gallerist, who pioneered the use of sites in exhibitions and publications starting in the late 1960s. Siegelaub aimed to “find different facets—different contexts or different situations–that bring out the principal aesthetic concerns in an artist’s work”. Curatorial tactics that predated Miwon Kwon’s critique of public and site-specific art in One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity, (2002), who regards the site primarily as a social entity and an intersubjective space that positions the conceptual framework as the focus and medium of artistic exploration. This research engages and propagates Asher and Kwon’s methodologies and sensitivity to location-specific artworks, prioritising a phenomenological understanding over a formal one, connecting with the rhizomatic and situated models of knowledge employed throughout this investigation. In doing so, it prioritises the affective potential each site reveals and recognises the material influence on the sounds, which modifies them as a distinctive medium for the interpretation of a place with the potential to elicit or configure new collective memories.[71]  

Giorgio Colombo. (1973). Installation view, Michael Asher, no title, Galleria Franco Toselli, Milan.

Adopting Asher’s perspective that the site serves as the artwork’s “object”, an approach that casts the artist as “author of the situation, not of the elements”, parallels the methods of a criminal or forensic investigator or an archaeologist who excavates a site to uncover and piece together information about a historical event. This method was employed in both case studies of the research project and was expanded to encompass audio documents and field recordings, capturing the dynamics of each situation or acts of “cultural resistance” through a combination of sound, text, and visual or diagrammatic representations. Furthermore, introducing listening as an analytical tool deepens sensory experiences and enriches the study, advancing Asher’s exploration of the “involuted phenomenon”. Rather than simply assembling “unrelated texts”, the integration of sound advanced the interpretative process, resonating with Andreas Huyssen’s depiction of cities as “living archives” and “urban palimpsests”. This auditory inclusion allowed different elements to merge, blending the past and present, providing a layered approach conveying Huyssen’s portrayal of cities not just as “inert” memory vessels but as perpetually evolving “living” entities. This view is further developed by this study, which actively highlights the influential power dynamics within cities and their ability to shape collective memory and historical understanding, a factor that was evidenced in the archival and field study conducted at the designated sites in this research endeavour.[72] Moreover, Asher’s firm stance against adding new elements to a site established the foundation in this research to apply a diachronic method of site-specificity. Utilising the data sets as tools, it examines and illuminates a site’s historical functions, overlaying them with “realities, representations, decors, and settings... a dense mesh of semblances”.[73]  

Asher’s investigative approach to the archive also predates Hal Foster’s An Archival Impulse, (2004) and connects with Jacques Derrida’s exploration in Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, (1996). Derrida asserts that archives are not repositories of events but play an active role in shaping them and “the technical structure of the archive also determines the nature of the archivable content even in its very coming into existence and in its relationship to the future”.[74] Analogous to Asher and Derrida, this research scrutinises the impartiality of archives, viewing them as intersections of memory (formation), history, and power. It critically examines existing archival content when generating new Data Sets to counter dominant narratives and unveil the “ghosted” voices—those in a liminal state, “neither present nor absent, neither dead nor alive”—that haunt established archives.[75]  

The recognition and the metaphorical use of palimpsests in both case studies implies a layering and partial erasure of history at each location, which is also conversant with Derrida’s concept of the archive. Palimpsests, albeit “sonic” palimpsests, combined with Derrida’s concept of Hauntology, first discussed in Spectres of Marx (1993), are central to the analysis of each site. Both concepts explore how sites have an embodied history and can function as sonic repositories, speculating on how spectral elements influence and shape the present. They question ontological certainties and offer a Hauntological framework that critiques political realities while also reimagining time, presence, and reality. It proposes a universe beyond binary oppositions, where spectres of the past and potential futures continuously interact with the present akin to a palimpsest, establishing a dialogue with notions of history and memory. This suggests that the past doesn’t remain fixed or erased, but rather lingers, reminiscent of an “angel being blown backwards into the future”.[76] Observing Derrida’s analysis of the archive casts doubt on the objective historical representation of existing archival materials due to potential inherent biases. Which is reinforced by the declaration that archives inherently reflect the perspectives of those in power, claiming, “there is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory”.[77] However, the inclusion of documents and audio recordings from non-established archives that evidence overlooked or unheard cultures in the Data Sets prompts a re-assessment of the relationship between existing archival materials, history, and identity. The assembling of these materials creates a progressive foundation for the research and signifies a development in curatorial practice that employs sonic documents to audibly challenge and reframe the historical narrative of these locations, repositioning them as cultural “sites of resistance”. This process relocates and empowers historically marginalised discourses to challenge Derrida’s claim by shifting these previously unrecognised narratives to the centre of art and cultural discourse.[78]  

Academic Simon Sheikh describes institutional critique as a movement in contemporary art that confronts the biases, frameworks, and politics of art institutions. This includes mainstream galleries and museums, especially regarding their historical treatment of underrepresented artists and, more recently, museum staff.[79] A pivotal historical example is the exhibition Mining the Museum (1992-93), in which artist Fred Wilson points to instances of institutional discrimination by displaying works from the gallery’s collections, exposing historical prejudices upheld by the museum and its cultural gatekeepers. Whereas a recent example is the longform essay After Institution (2020) by curator and writer Karen Archey, advocates for a revitalised form of Institutional Critique as a potent tool to demonstrate how contemporary art can drive societal reform. Particularly relevant in the aftermath of events like the 2008 recession and movements such as Occupy Wall Street, #MeToo, and Black Lives Matter, Archey underscores the importance of artworks for critiquing various institutions, from healthcare to education, to bring about meaningful change. Proposing an expanded approach to Institutional Critique as a “praxis of care”, reimagining art's role in assessing and reforming state governance to ensure the well-being of all citizens, while advocating for critical self-reflection to unveil the pervasive influence of institutions.[80]  

In addition to the above considerations, Sheikh puts forward the critical notion that institutional critique should not be limited only to cultural spaces, promoting its use as an analytical tool or as a means of spatial and political criticism and articulation relevant to wider civic spaces and institutions.[81] This research, specifically the toolkit, absorbs and puts into practice Sheikh’s expansion of Institutional Critique to public spaces and incorporates Asher’s 1990s conceptual shift to “comparative relations” as methodologies to address the “phenomenological or experiential, social/institutional, and discursive” aspects of a site in both case studies. Expanding its scope beyond the spatial and contingent elements found within art organisations, mirroring Asher’s broadened reference points. The research applies a conceptual examination of local economies, constructed environments, infrastructural systems, and a site’s historical context into the theoretical framework of a work generated via the application of the curatorial toolkit.[82] Incorporating socioeconomic, political, cultural, environmental, and geographical contexts as foundational material in each of the Case Study Data Sets absorbing Asher's methodology. However, this project diverges by not creating temporary ephemeral works that solely exist for the period of a given project. Instead, it focuses on elaborating on archival materials representative of specific periods, creating immaterial audio works intended for indefinite digital access, which serve as speculative records of each case study.[83] 

The collective Ultra-red, described as an “art collaboration” representing a “dynamic exchange between art and political organising”, further augments the design of the toolkit.[84] Ultra-red was founded in Los Angeles in 1994 by musicians and ACT UP activists Dont Rhine and Marco Larsen. The collective integrated “social researchers and educators” and partnered with individuals involved in immigration rights and housing to support the “collective struggles for racial, gender, and economic justice”. Since its inception, Ultra-red has focused on its “Militant Sound Investigations”, comprising “collectively produced radio broadcasts, performances, recordings, installations, texts, and public space actions” that “explore acoustic space as enunciative of social relations” to map “contested spaces and histories using sound-based research (termed Militant Sound Investigations) to engage with political struggles”–a further methodology important to this research project, augmenting the design of the curatorial toolkit. 

Furthermore, Ultra-red’s activities provide this research with a curatorial model that deliberately resists institutional norms through a method of “organising” or curation using “protocols” to “build relationships” via “analysis and strategic actions”.[85] This method aligns with cultural theorist Mark Fisher’s description of a “quest to build a version of the public without homogenising”, which encapsulates this study’s aims.[86] However, Ultra-red’s praxis diverges from this study by avoiding fixed goals or outputs and favouring intentional detachment from the centre. In contrast, the curatorial toolkit’s aim is to transcend the margins and provide broader access to underrepresented voices and activities. Ultra-red’s established process of using “protocols”, inspired by Paulo Freire, a “transformational educator, pedagogical thinker, and radical practitioner”, providing a functional framework that also serves as a reference point in the conception of the curatorial framework. Freire’s writing proposes an educational method that links the identification of issues to positive change and action for development. Supporting hooks’ notion of “marginality” and Moten and Harney’s concept of the “Undercommons”. Originally designed for adult literacy, Freire’s method inspires society to “read” their environment. This process underpins the research in reassessing Cox Street’s history, prompting a shift in focus beyond material conditions to explore its acoustic qualities and situated settings. Within the study’s context and the utilisation of each Case Study Data Set, Freire’s process frames education and public spaces as being “never neutral”. It places value on dialogues contrasting the “other” with the “self” and promotes a “dialectical self-world exchange”, as demonstrated in this study through the diverse content of the Data Sets and sustained engagement with stakeholders and artists.[87] Consequently, participants of Ultra-red’s militant investigations are prompted to voice their experiences, a method that echoes Freire’s ideals, who believed that individuals confronting systemic challenges have “the opportunity to use their words in observing and naming their world”, thus asserting their identity amidst community struggles, which draws comparisons with the socio-political and cultural activities of the Indian Workers Association (IWA) addressed in the first case study.[88]  

(No photographer). (2010). Listening Session led by Robert Sember (Ultra-red), Vogue’ology, Vera List Centre for Art and Politics. Image courtesy of the Vera List Centre for Art and Politics from Public Listening Session.

As a proponent of Ultra-red’s curatorial approach and their emphasis on process over outcome, which is underlined by the assertion that “the terms of analysis condition the terms of intervention”, it is important to recognise that extensive strategies can strain resources and relationships, especially in socio-economically challenged areas if not carefully managed. While an extended process fosters trust, deepens investment, and challenges established narratives, sustainability without significant funding can compromise project independence and create complexities around authorship and exchange. Hence, the establishment of agreed milestones in developing the sound art commissions and their integration into the curatorial toolkit distinguishes this study from the work of Ultra-red.[89] 

Ultra-red’s Vogue’ology, (2010) (which documented New York’s House and Ballroom culture) and the second case study of this research (which spotlights the influence  of hardcore techno and rave music in Coventry) are comparable in that both projects focus on less conventional of forms of culture. Nevertheless, Vogue’ology is a positive illustration of the repositioning of a historically marginalised cultural form into the mainstream—on this occasion, via an exhibition at Parsons’ Aaronson Gallery accompanied by a “multi-phase curriculum”. This initiative was executed in collaboration with entities like the Ballroom Archive & Oral History Project and notable figures such as Arbert Santana Evisu (House of Evisu), Carin Kuoni from the Vera List Centre for Art and Politics, as well as Ultra-red’s Robert Sember, a veteran of the scene for 25 years.[90] It portrays voguing as both a “methodology of gender performativity” and an “epistemology” influenced by racial, economic, gender, and sexual systems. Examining the House/Ballroom lexicon and Hardcore activities of The Eclipse stimulates critical discussions on biases and the nature of knowledge gained through experience, often countering mainstream norms. This knowledge, experiential and practical, is integral to subcultural identities and practices, valuing personal and communal insights from countercultural movements. It grants that knowledge extends beyond the abstract to include the tactile, emotional, and intuitive, anchored in the lived experiences of individuals and groups. Presenting voguing as more than just a dance form, and rave as more than a commodified cultural output, enables investigation into their societal influences. It also underscores the necessity for inclusive, culturally sensitive archiving practices and the use of terms authentic to the community.[91] For example, Randall C. Jimerson in Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice, (2009) recognises the intrinsic value of archives, asserting that they “offer a documentary record of human activity and are indispensable for understanding and interpreting the past”, regardless of their establishment stature.[92] 

The British-Lebanese artist and researcher, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, examines the politics and aesthetics of listening. Using a variety of techniques, including audio recordings, forensic architecture, surveillance technologies and explores the performative manifestations of speech restrictions in specific contexts. They investigate how sound influences both social and architectural spaces, navigating the interplay between “music, acoustics, and sound”, to encourage listeners to engage with a “political sonic imagination”.[93] Abu Hamdan’s works, Tape Echo: Gardens of Death and The End of Every Illusionist, (2013-14), capture the unique sounds of Cairo post-Arab Spring. Combined they present an auditory tapestry, woven into the fabric of the city’s residents’ lives, exploring the interplay between sound, recording techniques, and the socio-political implications of auditory experiences.[94]   

Lawrence Abu Hamden. (2013). Tape Echo. Image courtesy of Lawrence Abu Hamden.

Abu Hamdan uses a “series of methods and devices” to explore “how voices disperse and the intricacies of listening within the city’s sonic environment”. The collation of audio cassette sermons, as non-established sonic and social documents, draws connections between the layered voices on magnetic tapes and historical annotations on ancient manuscripts, treating cassette tapes as modern palimpsests. The process engages with identity and history to articulate a “highly political Islamic ethical discourse”. This investigation expands on Abu Hamdan’s use of “versioning” to create montages from various original audio recordings to highlight overlooked events and communities like the IWA. By fostering extended dialogues with the commissioned artists, experimentation was encouraged to promote innovative forms of sonic information that communicate with neoteric listeners. A process that echoes Hal Foster’s insights in An Archival Impulse, (2004), in which artists and curators combine various archival materials to unveil stories that might be hidden, forgotten, or displaced. Foster describes the archival impulse as a collecting practice and a desire for connection, with a tendency to link elements that align less easily into sequential or causal relationships, with the aim to conceptually transpose historical information commonly neglected by mainstream narratives. It seeks to understand what is elusive, questioning why certain voices or documents remain overlooked and exploring ways to make them more accessible, interpretable, and usable.[95] What differentiates this research from Abu Hamden and Foster is that the outputs are distributed outside of traditional museum contexts, but by using digital methods of distribution it widens audience access and visibility at the corresponding sites. Additionally, this study also employs the principle of Rhythmanalysis, as introduced by Henri Lefebvre in Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time, and Everyday Life, (1992). An approach used by DeForrest Brown Jr. to interpret the audio documents in the relevant Case Study Data Set, intersecting various disciplines, including human geography and philosophy. In doing so, Brown Jr. highlights the complex interplay between space, time, and societal rhythms, demonstrating that each space possesses its own distinctive rhythm, influenced not only by the progression of time but also by the distinct features of its spatial surroundings.[96] 

As the research progressed, the act of listening became an essential facet of the curatorial toolkit, emphasising reflection on the audio materials within each Data Sets and the artists’ initial interpretations, as well as considering audience interaction. Pauline Oliveros, an experimental musician and academic, championed embodied forms of listening in relation to space and time, significantly influencing sound art practice and theory. Oliveros developed a unique philosophy of sound, promoting transformative listening through “sonic meditations” and “Deep Listening™” techniques. beginning with Sonic Meditations, (1971), featuring eleven scores with instructions, which later expanded to 25 scores by 1974. These scores present various strategies for attentive listening, highlighting principles such as “non-judgmental perception”, and foster egalitarian dynamics in music that are entirely inclusive and do not require specialised expertise. In doing so listening is framed as an act of political and cultural resistance, especially when seen through the lens of feminist discourse. For example, in Sounding Out: Pauline Oliveros and Lesbian Musicality, (2007), Martha Mockus identifies feminist themes in “sonic meditations” and views Oliveros’ work as a platform to challenge dominant musical perceptions. She advocates for somatic and feminist principles that highlight the importance of non-verbal communication, a concept demonstrated in the Critical Listening Workshop led by artist Vivienne Griffin, which integrated Oliveros’ scores as a foundational component of the research. The workshop emphasised attentive listening as a means of resistance and pinpointed the body as a primary conduit for sonic interpretation and sensory knowledge transfer—a method consistent with sonic theorist and practitioner Brandon LaBelle, who views listening as a transformative act that alters one’s comprehension of space. LaBelle and Oliveros both perceive active listening as a communal activity, binding individuals through common experiences, fostering “empathetic resonance”, and enabling a form of non-verbal communication through sound or music that strengthens ties of community identification. This version clarifies the connection between the observation and the participants’ actions in the workshop, evidencing the formation of a sonic public amongst individuals who had never previously met.[97]   

(No photographer). (1970). Pauline Oliveros and the ♀ Ensemble performing Teach Yourself to Fly from Sonic Meditations, Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego, California. (Foreground to the left around: Lin Barron, cello, Lynn Lonidier, cello, Pauline Oliveros, accordion, Joan George, bass clarinet. Centre seated foreground to the left around voices: Chris Voigt, Shirley Wong, Bonnie Barnett and Betty Wong). University of California, San Diego: Mandeville Special Collections Library. MSS 102.

It is important to acknowledge that John Cage pioneered the active role of listeners, emphasising their fundamental role in shaping the sonic experience. Cage advocates for a re-evaluation of what constitutes noise and encouraged embracing life’s diverse range of sounds and experiences. By extending Cage’s ideas, this research project adopts Pauline Oliveros’ listening practices, which involve interpreting field and environmental recordings as sonic representations of a site’s context. Additionally, it draws upon Michael Asher’s concept of sites as information repositories and Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s perspective on sound as social-political documents. These influences enrich and solidify the project’s overarching approach, which includes Ultra-red’s procedural curatorial inquiries and engagement with stakeholders and constituents.  

In summation, the literature review demonstrates the convergence of theory and practice in the design and modeling of a site-specific curatorial toolkit for sound art. It integrates a diverse range of interdisciplinary theories, curatorial writings, and artistic contributions, advocating for the inclusion of critical concepts that inform the toolkit. When in operation, it provides a range of methods that can be combined to disrupt conventional hierarchies, promoting a decentralised exploration of cultural resistance beyond fixed infrastructures or alongside progressive institutions to counter historical forms of exclusion. Advocating for communal spaces outside traditional structures that avoid the trappings of tokenism, to promote collaborative dialogue and inclusive approaches to decision-making alongside an understanding of the importance of continuous consultation with participants and stakeholders to guide and deliver authentic forms of representation. While emphasizing the necessity of digital platforms for broader outreach, it also addresses concerns about technology's impact on embodied experience and repositions knowledge beyond traditional boundaries. Engaging with Institutional Critique, Comparative Relations, Militant Sound Investigations and Sonic Meditations as methodologies for mapping contested spaces, it treats the collation and transposition of audio recordings as sonic palimpsests, promoting embodied listening, re-evaluation of noise, and embracing diverse sounds inherent to everyday life, particularly in an inner-city context. Overall, the curatorial toolkit provides a comprehensive framework to enrich engagement with socio-political issues via the excavation and amplification of historically marginalised voices, challenging norms, and foster communal forms of listening experiences as a novel method for knowledge exchange.  

[50] Bismarck, B. V. (2023). The Curatorial Condition. (London: Sternberg Press). 

[51] In the influential work, More Brilliant than the Sun, (1998), Kodwo Eshun presents the concept of “Sonic Fiction”, with a focus on the artistic aspirations and ideologies of renowned African American musicians like Sun Ra and Drexciya. Departing from conventional theoretical models, Eshun captures the artists’ intentions by merging elements such as album visuals, and musical nuances to weave narratives hinting at alternative futures. 

Sonic fictions draw from cultural narratives of African American experiences, confronting dominant Western “othering” dystopian motifs, captured in phrases like “You are the alien you are looking for”, employing Afro-futurism to underscore Afro-diasporic stories. 

Eshun believes these narratives use extra-terrestrial metaphors to articulate the complex evolution of Black identities and transform auditory elements into stories that counteract the colonial remnants found in mainstream academic discourse. Sonic fiction’s offer a conceptual space for metamorphosis, it allows marginalised voices to share unique perspectives, whereby “Producers are already pop theorists”. Furthermore, it questions hegemonic structures of universally accepted Eurocentric musical and cultural scholarship. Instead, it invites the academic community towards a more inclusive expanse, accommodating diverse perspectives. 

[52] Haraway, D. (1991). ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’ in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. pp. 149-181. (London: Routledge). 

It is also important to note that Donna Haraway highlights the positive aspects of digital devices in A Cyborg Manifesto, (1985). They introduce the cyborg as a symbol that challenges rigid distinctions, especially between “human” and “animal” and “human” and “machine”. Haraway promotes a vision beyond traditional gender concepts and fixed identities, advocating for connections based on affinity. Through the cyborg metaphor, Haraway encourages feminists to transcend gender and political boundaries. 

[53] Haraway, D. (1988).’Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’ in Feminist Studies.14(3). pp. 575-599. doi:

[54] Doherty, C. (2006). ‘New Institutionalism and the Exhibition as Situation’ in Budak, A. & Pakesch, P. (eds.). Protections: This is not an Exhibition. pp. 172-8. (Graz: Kunsthaus Graz).

[55] Mintchev, S. (2020). ‘SMART TACTICS: Toward an adaptive curatorial practice’ in Marstine, J. & Mintcheva, S. (eds.). Curating Under Pressure: International Perspectives on Negotiating Conflict and Upholding Integrity. pp. 211-225.  (London: Routledge).

[56] Bates, D. & Sharkey. T. (2020). [Online]. ‘Politically Engaged Artistic Practice: Strategies and Tactics’ in Tate Papers. 34. Available at:

[57] Warner, M. (2002). Publics and Counterpublics. (New York: Zone Books). 

Hardt, M. & Negri, A. (2004). Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. (New York: Penguin).  

Hardt, M. & Negri, A. (2009). Commonwealth. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).  

The book, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, (2004), written by political philosophers Michael Hardt and Antoni Negri, proposes that the “multitude” represents a new understanding of social organisation and resistance in an interconnected and globalised world. It advocates a plurality within the public sphere instead of a “people” or a “mass” unified under a single authority or power. Their notion of “multitude” comprises a heterogeneous collection of individuals, a networked community connected by shared interests and common values, characterised by its diversity and individual identities, and a capacity for collective action. It presents a democratic alternative to the dominant forms of political organisation, identifiable by hierarchy and centralised control. Hardt and Negri argue that the “multitude” is capable of self-organisation and can operate “horizontally” without needing top-down authority. 

It is also important to note, that in the book, Commonwealth, (2009) that Hardt and Negri offer a compelling re-thinking of the “commons”. The core of their argument is that the commons should not merely be understood as shared physical resources but should extend to cultural products and intellectual resources.56 A concept foundational to this research project and its relationship with the said understanding of communities echoed in their theory of the “multitude”, a term they employ to describe a varied, networked community of individuals engaged in the collective production and management of shared resources. Furthermore, Hardt and Negri’s speculations on alternative societal infrastructure invested in democratic power and social transformation have informed the progressive characteristics of the curatorial toolkit and the conditions it would be employed, which opposes pre-existing centralised structures of state or corporate power. 


[59] Revisionism in contemporary art refers to a critical approach that challenges established narratives, norms, or interpretations within the field. It generally involves a re-evaluation of historical events, ideologies, or cultural practices, often with the aim of offering alternative perspectives or uncovering overlooked aspects of history. Revisionist artists may employ various strategies such as appropriation, deconstruction, or subversion to interrogate existing frameworks and provoke reconsideration of commonly accepted beliefs or representations. This approach not only prompts a reassessment of past events or cultural phenomena but also fosters dialogue about the complexities of interpretation and representation in contemporary art.

[60] Sutherland Harris, A., Khan, D., Martínez, R., Morineau, C., Reilly, M. & de Zegher, C. (2021). [Online]. ‘Feminist Curating as Curatorial Activism: A Roundtable’ in On Curating. (Fall 2021). Available at:

[61] Thorne, S. (2010). Group Material: A History of Irritated Material. Available at:

Group Material's formative inspiration came from Joseph Kosuth's tutelage, with whom Tim Rollins and fellow early members studied at the School of Visual Arts in the mid-1970s. Kosuth advocated for an art that actively engages with communities and individuals. Rollins reflects in his essay "What Was to be Done?" that such work “transformed the situation that was the impetus for the work”, embodying a political art cantered on dialogue and collaboration with the community, rather than mere representation or reporting.

[62] Green, A. (2011). ‘Citizen Artists: Group Material’ in Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry. (26). pp. 17-25. 

Group Material was a collective of artists based in New York City, known for their collaborative work that combined art with social activism. They worked on exhibitions, installations, and public projects that addressed socio-political issues such as democracy, consumerism, AIDS, and cultural representation. Group Material’s members changed over the years, but some of the core members included Doug Ashford, Julie Ault, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Mundy McLaughlin, and Tim Rollins, among others. There were many collaborators throughout the years. The collective was founded in 1979 and formally disbanded in 1996. However, their influence on the intersection of art and activism continues to be felt and studied in contemporary art circles. 

It is important to note that the term “Counter Institution” is borrowed from Nandini Bagchee’s book, Counter Institution: Activist Estates of the Lower Eastside, (2018). It refers to “insurgent grassroots efforts that provided deliverables and generated alternative forums of empowerment for communities facing challenging circumstances”.

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

[64] Ault, J. (2003). Alternative Art New York, 1965, 1985: A Cultural Politics Book for the Social Text Collective. (Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press).

[65] The collaborative paper by Katy E. Pearce, Amy Gonzales, and Brooke Foucault Welles titled Introduction: Marginality and Social Media. Social Media + Society, (2020) presents social media as a beneficial space for marginalised individuals. It posits that social media platforms offer a foundation to guide theory, methods, and ethical practices tailored to enhance communication for those on society’s fringes. This focus aims to improve the social media experience for all users. In contrast, Rebekah Bastian’s article Why social media Can Be More Toxic For Marginalised Identities, (2021) in Forbes magazine asserts that social media environments can be hostile for marginalised groups. Pew Research findings show that 41% of US adults have encountered online harassment, with LGBTQIA+ individuals experiencing severe harassment at more than double the rate of heterosexual people. This highlights that social media, while facilitating expression and connection, can also subject marginalised individuals to increased harassment risks. Despite these issues, the academic journal Global Policy’s article Is Social Media a New Frontier for Marginalised Communities to Challenge Old Power? The Flint Water Tragedy, and the Power of Place-Based Digital Activism, (2021) recognises social media as a platform where marginalised communities can amplify their voices and confront dominant narratives. Additionally, social media is acknowledged for expanding social networks for marginalised groups, including BIPOC, the elderly, and disabled people, promoting engagement with diverse communities, which may foster greater understanding and allyship. Social media reduces barriers to interaction and enables the activation of identity and social categories, facilitating collective action, particularly for marginalised and disempowered groups. It provides visibility and a basis for association, allowing users to unite and mobilise around shared interests, which can be an effective approach to driving change.

[66] 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”. They 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”. This approach empowers hooks to communicate an alternate understanding of society that sought to condemn the dominant narratives established by “white supremacist capitalist patriarchies”.

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

Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s concept of “incomprehensible incompleteness” is presented as a critical framework challenging conventional notions of totality and perfection in societal structures. This concept posits that every entity or system inherently possesses elements that resist full comprehension or integration, defying the conventional logic of completeness and perfection. Moten and Harney argue that this inherent incompleteness is not a deficiency but a fundamental characteristic that opens up possibilities for alternative modes of understanding and engagement. By acknowledging the limits of traditional frameworks in fully grasping the complexity of entities, this concept invites a re-evaluation of how we perceive and interact with the world, emphasising the value of what lies beyond conventional understanding. It encourages a shift from a focus on perfection and closure to an appreciation of the generative potential found in what remains elusive, ambiguous, or incomplete. This perspective is particularly relevant in critiquing systems of knowledge, power, and socio-political structures, suggesting a more inclusive and open-ended approach to understanding and engaging with diverse aspects of existence.

[68] Berger, C. (2019). ‘Wholly Obsolete or Always a Possibility? Past and Present Trajectories of a ‘Dematerialisation’ of Art’ in Conceptualism and Materiality. Matters of Art and Politics. pp. 15-54. (Boston: Brill).

[69] Kwon, M. (2008). Support and Decoration: Michael Asher’s Critique of the Architecture of Display. (Santa Monica: Santa Monica Museum of Art). 

[70] Baers, M. (2012). [Online]. ‘Michael Asher (1943–2012): Parting Words and Unfinished Work’ in e-flux journal. (39). Available at:

[71] Siegelaub, S. & Gleadowe, T. (2019). ‘Site Read: Seth Siegelaub in Conversation with Teresa Gleadowe’ in Marincola, P. (ed.). Site Read: Seven Curators on Their Landmark Exhibitions. (London: Mousse).

[72] Huyssen, A. (2003). Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. (Redwood City: Stanford University Press). 

Coman., A, Duker A., Geana, A. (2019). ‘An experimental study of the formation of collective memories in social networks’ in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 84. doi:

[73] Baers, M. (2012). [Online]. ‘Michael Asher (1943–2012): Parting Words and Unfinished Work’ in e-flux journal. (39). Available at:

[74] Derrida, J. (1996). Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

[75] Harris, V. (2021). Ghosts of Archive: Deconstructive Intersectionality and Praxis. (New York: Routledge). 

In the book, Harris refers to the individuals ‘ghosted’ by those in power who persist as spectral figures within archives. When investigated, the spectres of the past materialise as remnants within documents that illustrate how those with power monitored and stifled them; the phantoms of the present surface as activists employing these records to validate and prosecute instances of injustice; and the apparitions of the future are envisioned as forthcoming users who will harness these records to forge an equitable society. Consequently, the purpose of archives is inherently tied to justice—championing the causes of society’s silenced voices by opposing those who seek to mute them.

[76] Handelman, S. (1991). ‘Walter Benjamin and the Angel of History’ in CrossCurrents. 41(3). pp. 344–352.

[77] Derrida, J. (1996). Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

[78] Montmannn, N. (2023). Decentering the Museum: Contemporary Art Institutions and Colonial Legacies. (London: Lund Humphries). 

Montmann advocates for a paradigmatic shift in arts organisations to critically engage with historical discourses deeply embedded in the Eurocentric cultural focus prevalent in museums. Highlighting the necessity of critiquing and countering this Eurocentric lens by advocating for an engagement with colonial legacies in specific local and colonial contexts to unveil a more accurate decolonial history. This approach demands a fundamental re-evaluation of museums as institutions. Rather than solely being regarded as bastions of cultural care, museums need to be recognised as entities founded on colonial violence. This recognition compels a comprehensive reassessment of their structures, narratives, and practices. 

Emphasising the importance of embracing decolonial practices within museums, which entails challenging the dominance of Western, Eurocentric, classist, and racially biased perspectives in various aspects of museum operations, including collection policies, exhibition curation, infrastructural development, and staffing decisions. Central to the process of decentring is the active engagement of diverse communities and fostering their participation in museum activities. By initiating a shift in perspective, museums can become spaces where marginalised voices are amplified and where narratives are co-created through inclusive dialogue and collaboration. 

The significance of rethinking collection presentations is further highlighted by Montmann as a means to broaden perspectives, involving the adoption of artist programmes that admit new narratives and interpretations, including intersectional approaches that challenge patriarchal, colonial, and memorialist viewpoints. Finally, Montmann underscores the importance of building transnational networks among museums and like-minded institutions and actors. By fostering collaboration on a global scale, museums can support the decentring process and advance anti-racist practices within the cultural sphere. In sum, Montmann's insights reinforce the imperative for arts organisations to critically examine their institutional histories, practices, and narratives. By actively engaging with diverse communities and perspectives, museums can achieve meaningful decolonisation and contribute to the process of decentring cultural discourses.

[79] Sholette, G. (2011). Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. (London: Pluto Press). 

In this publication, Sholette delves into the realm of artists often overlooked and under-recognised in the art world. These artists, termed “dark matter”, contribute significantly to the art ecosystem despite not frequently being in the spotlight.

[80] Wilson, F. & Halle, H. (1993). ‘Mining the Museum’ in Grand Street. 44. pp. 151-172. doi:

Archey, K. (2020). After Institutions. (Berlin: Floating Opera Press).  

[81] Sheikh, S. (2006). [Online]. Notes on Institutional Critique. Available at:

[82] Gintz, C. & Aminoff, J. (1993). ‘Michael Asher and the Transformation of Situation Aesthetics’ in October. 66. pp. 113-131. doi:

A development curator and art historian, Claude Gintz outlines in the essay Michael Asher and the Transformation of ‘Situation Aesthetics’, (1993) for October magazine, Gintz defines the practice as being directed through increased attention towards the spatialisation of the determinant elements of Asher’s artworks with the inclusion of elements found within and external to the site.

[83] Reizman, R. (2017). Michael Asher: Utility, Power & Authority in the Shadow of Monuments. Available at:  

Renée Reizman proposes in the essay Michael Asher: Utility, Power & Authority in the Shadow of Monuments, (2017) that Asher would describe the process as an attempt ‘to demonstrate one of the most fundamental tools to my own learning and that was an object, and the way of experiencing which could then be used for comparative thought’. Imbuing the work with a broader socio-economic and political fabric to reorient the viewer and assist them in recognising how capitalism has structured the built environment through a spatial organisation to perpetuate existing social hierarchies, economic inequalities, and uneven relations production.

[84] Mission Statement. (2000). Available at:

[85] Sember, R. (2016). ‘Strong People Don’t Need Strong Leaders: Intentionality, Accountability, and Pedagogy’ in Barlow, A. (ed.). What Now?: The Politics of Listening. pp. 70-76. (London: Black Dog).

[86] Fisher, M., (2008). Ultra-red. Published in The Wire (issue 295) September 2008. Available at:  

[87] Freire, P. (2017). Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Penguin Classics. 

Ultra-red (2008). [Online]. ‘Some thesis of militant sound investigation, or, listening for a change’ in The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest. Available at:

[88] Ohslund, P. (2014). [Online]. Digital Storytellers, Ultra-Red and the Pedagogy of Paulo Freire. Available at:

In 1968 Freire published Pedagogy of the Oppressed (translated into English in 1970), which offered an alternative approach to teaching and learning to mainstream education systems, which he believed functioned more like ‘banks’ than schools. Friere believed that conventional teaching methods meant that teachers would deposit knowledge into students ‘empty accounts’, making them feel disconnected from themselves and their respective cultures. Although students could read and write, they needed to recognise themselves as individuals. Otherwise, a sense of alienation would manifest among pupils and instructors. To counter this, he created classroom conditions where students could realise their agency. According to Friere educational infrastructures were intentionally designed by ‘oppressors’ who possess an ideological desire to dominate society and transform it into their domain. To reach this objective, the oppressors needed to dehumanise people via objectification. A procedure that would instigate the dehumanisation of individuals, a premeditated infrastructure designed to restrict the promotion of becoming a fully developed human being, necessitating the suppression of individuals who wish to cultivate human characteristics fully. To avert this, Freire advocated an emancipatory pedagogy designed to aid oppressed communities with a focus on equality and mutual understanding to combat oppression. He referred to this process as ‘problem-posing education’ and believed that learning should be ‘rooted in a love for humanity and critical questioning’, focused on developing a practice that combines critical reflection with action.

[89] Nancy, J. L. (1991). The Inoperative Community. Translated by Connor, P. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). 

In The Inoperative Community, (1991), Jean-Luc Nancy redefines community ontology, introducing ‘being in common’ and ‘being with’ to interpret post-war urban communities’ behaviours. Contrary to the typical view of communities as unified entities, Nancy posits them as ‘inoperative’ or ‘unworking’ (désoeuvrement). He dismisses the idea that communities arise from specific tasks, suggesting they coexist where individual identities and experiences overlap. 

[90] House and Ballroom culture (sometimes called house, ball or drag ball culture) emerged in the late 1960s and early ‘70s in Harlem, New York. Initially, it comprised predominantly of Black, Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities and adopted elements of their corresponding cultures. The modern Ballroom scene also traces back to the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, with drag performances commonplace in Black LGBTQ+ underground venues, such as private parties, speakeasies, and nightclubs.

[91] Ultra-Red, (2014). ULTRA-RED WORKBOOK 01: BALLROOM ARCHIVE PROJECT. (Berlin: Koenig Books). 

Gaboury, J. (2010). [Online]. Elements of Vogue: A Conversation with Ultra-red. Available at:

[92] Randall C. J. (2009). Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice. (Chicago: Society of American Archivists). 

Harris, V. (2007). Archives and Justice: a South African Perspective. (Chicago: Society of American Archivists). 

In short, this text discusses a three-year research project on establishing a queer archive in Arizona responding to anti-LGBTQI sentiments and legislation. The authors highlight the significance of community participation and access in shaping the archives and recognising the importance of queer identities. They critically examine traditional archival practices and investigate naming practices in community-based archives through focus groups and interviews to empower underrepresented communities and establish new historical narratives. 

The authors emphasise the impact of naming practices on mission statements, collection policies, and outreach efforts, underscoring the deliberate selection of terms to shape the archives’ identity. They also address the historical division between institutional and community-based archives, noting how institutional archives often hold marginalised communities’ records and identities ‘captive’. However, they acknowledge the evolving landscape, where communities now demand autonomy and representation in archives. They advocate for relational contexts encouraging engagement with archival origin stories and self-identification. The authors emphasise the importance of comprehending the establishment, naming, and sustainability of community archives in representing marginalised communities.

[93] Abu Hamden, L. (2018). ‘Aural Contract: Towards a Politics of Listening’ in Barlow, A. (ed.). What Now?: The Politics of Listening. pp. 38-48. (London: Black Dog).

[94] Abu Hamden, L & Schöneich, F. (ed.). (2021). Dirty Evidence. (Bonn: Lenz Press).

[95] Foster, H. (2004). An Archival Impulse in October. 1(110). pp. 3-22. doi:

[96] Lefebvre, H. (1992). Rhythmanalysis: Space, time and everyday life. (London: Bloomsbury Publishing).

[97] Osbourne, W. (2000). ‘Sounding the Abyss of Otherness: Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening and The Sonic Meditations’ in Women Making Art. pp. 65-86. (New York: Lang). 

Kapusta, J. (2021). ‘Pauline Oliveros, Somatics, and the New Musicology’ in The Journal of Musicology. 38(1). pp. 1-31. doi: JM.2021.38.1.1