The Listening Post, 2003, 2004 and 2007

The 4th appearance of the Listening Post was in September 2007 at the K2-Contemporary Art Centre. It’s new context being Turkey, which harbors huge internal conflicts on the questions of what constitutes Turkishness. It was placed in Izmir with the Turkish text:

DINLEME NOKTASI – Burada Türkleri dinleyebilirsiniz – Lütfen noktanin amacina saygi gösteriniz, ve dinlemenin disinda herhangi bir sekilde baskalariyla iletisim kurmayiniz.

Translation: LISTENING POST – Dedicated to the Turkish people – Please respect the task of listening and do not engage in any other conversation while using this post.

Quote from Organizers: “The Unmarked Categories exhibition open in K2 Gallery in İzmir between 11 september and 11 october 2007. Project attends to question current dominant power structures from the perspective of the powerless.”

Turkish politicians favor nationalist rethoric as a means to rally together the nation on the Kurdish question, not to speak of the unsettled relationship to Cyprus, which is a huge problem in terms of the country’s possibilities for joining the EU. The Post is an attempt to create a neutral position on this socio-political battlefield.

The Listening Post was on show inside the K2 at the opening, but was later moved to the street.

K2 1

2004

The Listening Post was introduced in a different context for a show in Domus Felix, Lejre, Denmark and later the same year at Minority Report – Challenging intolerance in contemporary Denmark, Århus. This time the post asked its users to listen to the Danish People. The Danish government, dependent on The Danish People’s Party, has since 2001 conducted a proto-fascist policy towards Danish citizens and refugees of Muslim/Arab origin. The politicians depend on a concept of Danishness according to which Danish culture is under siege from outside forces and inside traitors. In this paranoid conception, the Danish People’s identity is a key issue. Allegedly this is not about blue eyes and blond hair, since that would evoke memories about ethnic cleansing in fascist and Nazi regimes. Instead they talk about cultural difference. The outcome remains the same… Of course there is a huge opposition to this reduced and paranoid concept of Danish culture. The Government is well aware of this, and one of their main politics was – from the beginning – to wage a cultural war, in order to roll back the culture radicals in favor of a cultural conservatism. I doubt that they will win this war in the long run, since that would mean that cultural producers gave up the tradition of critique as a means of development. In other words, to eliminate the main force that has driven the Western societies since the renaissance, and especially since the introduction of Modernism. The consequences being cultural fundamentalism and cultural fascism.

However, to get to the point. The Listening Post was introduced in Denmark during this cultural war, as a neutral listening post on this cultural battlefield.

Lejre 1

During the Domus Felix show, I sat on the post one full day of every week. The post was located outside the gallery, next to an central intersection in the village of Lejre.

Later the same year, the post was moved to Århus, where it was mounted at the square in front of the City Hall. Here it took part in a couple of demonstrations, was used by passersby, and was eventually damaged by unknown perpetrators. This appearance was a part the program of “Minority Report – Challenging Intolerance in Contemporary Denmark”. For this show I also organized the public conference “Normer for Medborgerskab” (Norms on Citizenship), which is described in detail elsewhere on this site.

Århus 1

The Listening Post in Århus with flags from a recent demo in support for Christiania

2003

The Listening Post was first shown at Enter Intercessor, Raid Projects, Los Angeles in 2003. It was 1 month into the Iraq war, and in the light of the blind- , and deaf-ness, not to say mindless behavior of the US lead coalition, I found it necessary to construct a listening post to be used for contemplation of the relations between the “we” and ”the others” at an inter-cultural as well as inter-state level.

The post was also the stage for my performance at the opening of the show. During the opening I sat in one of the chairs, obeying the rules of the post, as they are printed on it. Thus, the Post, being dysfunctional at the outset, since it has no listening equipment directed at ”the Iraqi people”, became twice dysfunctional in that communication was disturbed rather than enhanced. It turned out, that it is a provocative act to make an effort of ones presence, while demonstratively refusing any participation in the social activities.

The post was introduced with the following catalog text:
Art is communication. All communication requires a sender, a receiver and a media that carries information. Meaningful communication requires that the involved parties exchange not only information but also identities. That is to be a listener as well as a speaker.

In hindsight I would change the initial sentence to: “Communication is an art form…”. In the light of the current political development, the definition of art itself seem less important than the ruling politicians’ failing communicational skills. They seem perfectly capable of speech, but as they are unable to listen to their supposed enemies, be they terrorists or just Arab people living in Iraq, they keep bringing wood to the Middle East fire. They only pretend to communicate, and if anything, this is a way to upset your opponent.

A text printed in vinyl and mounted on all four sides declare the purpose and the rules of engagement:

LISTENING POST – Dedicated to the Iraqi people – Please respect the task of listening and do not engage in any other conversation while using this post


Enter Intercessor 2

Photo from the opening performance at Raid Projects, 2003