Morality of the invisible, ethics of the inaudible

Morality of the invisible, ethics of the inaudible

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Keynote at Sound, Ethics, Art and Morality conference, Tel-Aviv University's Faculty of the Arts, Israel.


This presentation will consider the invisible mobility of sound and discuss how listening to its unseen processes might contribute to the articulation of a contemporary morality, and how it might be able to bring the unheard understood in the sense of Rancière’s ‘les sans-part’, ‘those that have no part’, into an ethical framework not as a simple inclusion but, as Étienne Balibar suggests as ‘an enunciation of the principle of radical democracy as the power of anyone at all.’ (Balibar, Equaliberty, 2014, p297) Sound, as material and as concept, illuminates the unseen processes of the world and invites us to see things in a different light. Listening we can experience the possible slices of this world, what might be and what else there is, to hear the construction of actuality and tune into other possibilities. A sonic sensibility grasps the invisible mobility of sound and hears the world as a possible world: a world that exists as a formless and radical plurality not defined by multiple factions and opposing shapes, but produced from the variants of this world and the practice of what they are together. I will argue that the formless fluidity of this possible world gives articulation to the transitory personhood and virtual materiality of neoliberal economics and politics; and makes visible the destruction of the welfare-state, its social responsibilities and identities, and the loss of its traditional morality. Neither a sonic possible world nor the contemporary fluidity of personhood and materiality can rely on pre-existing moral principles, shared emotions, or God. Instead they must engage the responsibility of each through an ethics of participation and thus they must make the invisible count as a voice in a formless world, rather than as the terror of a fragile and uncertain thing without citizenship, determined through and legitimising a divisive and totalitarian governance. And once we are attuned to the invisible we can lend our attention to what as yet remains inaudible: those ‘that have no part’, the erased and overheard voices, that cannot make themselves count in the constitution of a current actuality or its possibilities. The inaudible is the possible impossible of this world. It is its socio-political horizon beyond which we pretend not see anything even once we start to hear it rumble. Listening to work and sounds I aim to debate the morality of the invisible and consider the ethics of admittance into its audibility, to draw conclusions on a sonic possible impossible world that does not pluralise into fragile and opposing factions but collaborates in serendipitous formlessness ‘as the power of anyone at all’.

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Voegelin, Salomé

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