Talk: Sonic Agencies
Brandon LaBelle and Rachel O’Dwyer in conversation
Wednesday 15 May 2019, 6.30pm–8pm


Garrett Phelan has described radio as ‘sculpture that moves through you’: “Terrestrial radio exists as a sculptural form for me. It travels out into the abyss forever, into the otherness. It goes through our bodies and the walls of the gallery and becomes symbolic for many things.” (1) At the core of Phelan’s current exhibition at the DHG, FREE THOUGHT FM, has been a live radio broadcast from the gallery over 30 days (25 March–23 April 2019). Speakers on FREE THOUGHT FM are called ‘free thinkers’, and the broadcast itself is free of the usual markers of standard radio, such as jingles, ads and music. In between the live conversations, what is broadcast is the ambient sound of the gallery. FREE THOUGHT FM has explored the possibilities of radio as a medium for transmitting free expression and free thinking, and offered a platform to voices often excluded from mainstream media, with conversations focusing on social inequality in Dublin and inequality of access to education.

As part of a series of talks exploring the themes of FREE THOUGHT FM, the gallery is delighted to host Sonic Agencies, a conversation between Brandon LaBelle, artist, writer and Professor at the Bergen Academy of Art, Norway, and Dr Rachel O’Dwyer, lecturer in Digital Cultures at the National College of Art & Design, Dublin. The conversation will focus on the politics of sound, the possibilities of radio as an art form and on LaBelle’s recent book Sonic Agency: Sound and Emergent Forms of Resistance (2018).

This talk is free to attend and there is no need to book a place. All are welcome!

This event is generously supported by CONNECT, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications, headquartered at Trinity College Dublin.

About the speakers
Brandon LaBelle is an artist, writer and theorist working with questions of social life and cultural agency, using sound, performance, text and sited constructions. He develops and presents artistic projects and performances within a range of international contexts, often working in public and with others. This leads to interventions and performative installations, archival work and micro-actions aimed at the sphere of the (un)common and the unlikely. He is also an active lecturer working with institutions around the world addressing questions of auditory culture, sonic and spatial practices, the voice and the politics of listening. Since 2011, he is Professor at the Bergen Academy of Art, Norway. Current research projects focus on citizen practices, sonic agency and auditory knowledge, and the aesthetics and politics of invisibility. He is the author of Sonic Agency: Sound and Emergent Forms of Resistance (2018), Lexicon of the Mouth: Poetics and Politics of Voice and the Oral Imaginary (2014), Diary of an Imaginary Egyptian (2012), Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life (2010), and Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (2015; 2006). He is also the editor of The Invisible Seminar (2017) and co-editor of The Magic Block (2016) on contemporary Chilean art. Through his work with Errant Bodies Press he has co-edited the anthologies Site of Sound: Of Architecture and the Ear, Volumes 1 & 2 (1999, 2011), Writing Aloud: The Sonics of Language (2001), Surface Tension: Problematics of Site (2003) and Radio Territories (2007), along with a series of monographs (Critical Ear series) on sound and media artists. He has various audio releases on international experimental labels, and regularly produces works for radio, notably Documenta / Savvy Funk, Berlin (2017), Radio Reina Sofia (2016), Kunstradio in Vienna (1999, 2001, 2007, 2009) and Deutschland Radio (2009). He received a Masters degree from Cal Arts, Los Angeles in 1998, and completed his PhD at the London Consortium in 2005. Following his doctoral work he undertook post-doctoral research at the University of Copenhagen from 2006 to 2009, in Modern Culture and Sound Studies. In 2008-09 he worked as Guest Professor at the Copenhagen Art Academy and at the Free University in Berlin, holding seminars on acoustic territories, spatial practice and the male voice. From 2012-16 he organised The Invisible Seminar addressing questions of appearance and practices of the unseen, which resulted in a number of related exhibitions and publications. In 2014-16 he initiated The Living School, an experimental pedagogical project (in collaboration with the South London Gallery), and The Imaginary Republic, a collaborative framework focusing on art and questions of social solidarity. In 2018 a final exhibition of the project will be presented at Kunsthall 3,14 in Bergen. He is currently co-directing the artistic research project, Social Acoustics, in collaboration with Klub MaMa, Zagreb and the OFF-Biennial, Budapest.

Dr Rachel O’Dwyer is a lecturer in digital cultures in the School of Visual Culture in NCAD. Her research is at the intersection of digital cultures and cultural economies with a particular focus on money, algorithms and art. Previously Rachel was a research fellow in Connect, the SFI Research Centre in Trinity College Dublin and an IRC research fellow in the sociology department of Maynooth university. In 2018, she was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship to visit UC Irvine, California and research blockchain technologies, crypto-art and art markets. She was also a recipient of the Royal Irish Academy Charlemont Grant in 2018 to do research on art markets, freeports and new technologies. She is an editor for Neural magazine of critical digital cultures and media art and the founding editor-in-chief of Interference, a journal of audio culture (2009 – 2017). Rachel has published extensively on digital cultures, digital value (money, payment, cryptocurrency) and digital art in both academic and public scholarship contexts (MIT Press, Journal of Cultural Economies, Convergence, Fibreculture, Spheres Journal of Digital Culture, Institute of Network Cultures) and public scholarship contexts (London Review of Books, Circa, World Economic Forum, Longreads, UnDark, the Atlantic). She is regularly invited to present her work internationally (most recently at Moneylab, Institute of Network Cultures, Transmediale and Re:Publica). She is currently completing a book for MIT Press, Leonardo Art|Science Series on the ownership of the radio spectrum.


(1) Interview in Totally Dublin with Jack O’Higgins, April 2019 issue.

Image: Brandon LaBelle, The Human Strike, live performance with Marc-Antoine Cloutier, Stéphanie Letarte, Fanny Levy and Emmanuel Delly, at L'Anti Bar, Quebec City, 2018.