Review of “Hearing Now” by Lesley Suzanne Dean, aka Alfred Ladylike
The women of Late Nights in Squat Bars, Dafne Della Dafne and Shanti Suki Osman, have been collaborating for over a decade, releasing feminist indytronic music and videos which are often as thought-provoking as they are infectiously danceable. In addition to this, LNISB have also been actively bringing female artists together in festivals, group exhibitions, and installations, including the current sound art installation, Hearing Now, which is on display this month at the O.T. Projektraum in Neukölln, Berlin. I visited their artist talk/performance last Sunday to get the low-down on their latest venture.
Inclusivity was a feature of the installation that jumped out at me immediately, as a ramp had been placed at the entrance, which is not normally there. The artists also have Braille and large print text available, the latter in both English and German, as well as tactile and visual art by Zara Morris accompanying some of the pieces. In the future, they intend to make aspects of their sound art even more accessible to people with disabilities by working palpably low vibrating frequencies into the design.
In honor of the exhibition, the O.T. bartender poured me a delightfully refreshing drink, the Pink Sonic, made with Gordon’s inexplicably “pink” flavored gin. Next I was treated to another cocktail, in which a vibrating cell phone was placed in a scotch glass and stirred with an active microphone, then garnished with some Ableton effects – delicious! This portion of LNISB’s live performance was inspired by Roswitha von den Driesch. I had actually come expecting the usual mirthful disconnect between a cerebral, experimental installation in one room and playful, dancey electrobeats in the other…but no, this time they left the colorful wigs at home and blurred the distinction between musician and sound artist.
For Hearing Now, Dafne and Suki produced the main body of work themselves. It comprises five newly created sound pieces inspired by and responding to feminist artists active in Berlin in the 1980s and 1990s, including Sylvia Hinz, DJ Ipek, and Christina Kubisch. Four pieces are meant to be listened to on headphones, while the fifth piece, Zimmerstärke, is projected into the room, alternating between subtle ambience and jarring noises. At one point, a loud, high-pitched signal from this piece caused everyone on headphones to look up and make eye contact with one another, wondering what the alarm was for. We then caught on to the artists’ intent, exchanged reassuring glances, and resumed immersion in whatever we had been listening to previously. This sonic layering, in addition to the temporal fluidity of Fast Forward – Rewind and the interactive element of the Beat Station, ensures that each visitor experience will be completely individual.
The pieces are a blend of fresh recordings, samples of the researched artists, and interview and archival material, such as classical Indian singing lessons and works from Dafne’s and Suki’s previous projects – before they were Late Nights in Squat Bars. They used a mix of modern and retro instruments, styles, and sound mediums, on which familiar melodies collide with avant-garde soundscapes. This tactic illustrates how feminist art has changed over time while some of the underlying problems have unfortunately stayed the same.
As a part of the ongoing installation, there are three further performance/talks to check out (see latenightsinsquatbars.org/events for details). At these events, female artists from various disciplines will be contrasting sound with silence and/or vision. I urge you to meet the artists on one of these evenings, or visit the O.T. Projektraum on your own by June 28th, and get an earful of motivation to make, appreciate, and promote feminist art from your own unique perspective!
To quote one of the pieces, “Destroy the patriarchy with dissonance!” (From an interview with the multitalented Sylvia Hinz, who currently plays bass in the math metal band Coma Cluster Void…it’s really awesome to hear both women and men performing guttural/scream vocals together. That’s my tangential two cents!)
Lesley Suzanne Dean is an award-winning translator and hobby blogger, whose blog is currently inactive due to a hacker attack on her site, but she’s so focused on writing lyrics these days that she hardly noticed…her former ukulele rock band Donut Heart recently released a feminist song called Dude Band, and currently she’s working on her nerdy, queer solo project, Alfred Ladylike.
Watch Donut Heart’s funny feminist uke rock song, Dude Band: https://youtu.be/92Wz_lr3EB8
Flyer design by Zara Verity Morris, copyright 2018.
Press photo by Helin Bereket, copyright 2018.
Exhibition photos by Katie Lee Dunbar, copyright 2018.