What is the sound of the border?

What is the sound of the border? is a sound investigation that interrogates conditions, experiences, solidarities and possibilities for organising at the border- started by members of the political sound art collective Ultra-red together with asylum-seekers, and collaborators from Ecoversities Alliance, as those in Free Home University (Italy). The investigation welcomes anybody living the conditions of displacement and those who struggle with them. 

Since the initial group living at the Esplanade Hotel in Paignton, Devon, was dispersed by the UK’s asylum system to various locations, included aboard the infamous Bibby Stockholm prison barge moored in Portland Harbour, Dorset- the investigation moved online. Yet, in one occasion some of the participants could meet again in London, where they also visited together Infoshop 56A, a great archive of the struggles and of self-organized knowledge. 

Our investigation in the first instance seeks to develop our own language and terminology to talk about the border on our terms. How can we talk of migration, displacement, (be)longing and our struggles at, through and across the border if we only have access to the language of the repressive apparatus of the state, the xenophobic media and the bureaucratic machinery of exclusion?

We are in the process of developing a glossary, taking on a different letter of the alphabet to collect words that reflect our experiences. The contributed words are all in some way responses to the framing question what is the sound of the border? There is no default language. The investigation is multilingual. Therefore contributions can also be made on a phonetic basis i..e the A sound in Tigrinya ኣ.

When we say ‘border’ we do not mean exclusively the geo-political frontier, rather the bureaucratic, social, political and cultural apparatus of exclusion, screening and control which fixes the displaced in the liminal margins of society. The central device of the investigation is primarily the act of collective listening. So in addition to the spoken and written contribution of these border words we also invite investigators to make “sound objects” relating to one or more of their words. A sound object is a brief audio recording of approximately one minute which in some way ‘encodes’ a situation, a place, a ritual, a tension which a particular word embodies. This sound object, in a process of collective listening is then ‘decoded’ by the listeners and brings us into dialogue around particular tensions or provocations which might might help to deepen our understanding of what the border means to us and how we can organise – together –  to dismantle it.

We have the dream that this work could lead to the creation of a newly germinated ecoversity, maybe a translocalversity, a migrantversity, a refuversity where we can find refuge and frame our refuse, and reclaim our shared knowledges in our own terms.

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