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STRP Festival 2023 theme: The Art of Listening

6 min read
15 Sep 2022

In a time when speaking is dominant, STRP asks how we can learn to revalue the art of listening. What would an environment for active and empathetic listening look like? How can we train our ears and hearts to be more receptive to our fellow human beings, to plants and animals, to nature? And how can we learn to listen more carefully to our own bodies and intuition?

Schermafbeelding 2022 06 08 om 14 48 48
Erratic Weather - Maotik
Sight and seeing have prevailed for centuries, not just since the advent of the web, cinema, or the advertising industry. Western philosophy has always favoured what can be seen over what must be heard. Besides seeing, we prefer speaking to listening. Self-expression is what drives thought, science and our social media worth. Since social media have become the megaphone for the masses, the question of who is listening takes on a new dimension. Although the appreciation of sound has been slowly changing in recent years, with the growing popularity of sound-based social media, streaming services, and, of course, podcasts, active listening seems to be becoming a fading skill.

Behind rules and tips for learning to listen lie thorough methodologies. One is 'deep listening', in which time, ecological awareness, embodiment and togetherness are important aspects. Other forms of listening come from religious and non-Western philosophical traditions, where sounds, voices, and their vibrations in the body are important. And listening can be a way of giving space to that which is suppressed. Being quiet - if only for a moment - to leave your preconceptions behind and voice what has been ignored until then. What can we learn from this for the future of listening?

A careful and critical understanding of the ethics of listening seems even more important when we consider that we are not the only ones increasingly focused on listening. Machines are becoming eager listeners as voice recognition devices invade our houses and (home) workplaces. They track our voices, record our conversations, and have other people or artificial intelligence listen to us as we search for information. We should not forget that sound, silence, and the act of listening have far-reaching political dimensions. Can we still use machine listening for good?

Listening as a counteraction is not about seeking and finding useful or valuable information, it is about opening ourselves to the other and to the world around. What can happen when we really listen - not just with our ears, but with our whole body? During STRP Festival 2023, artists and thinkers will explore listening as a method. We give a platform to sounds, soundscapes, voices, and nature. We listen to misbehaviour and oppression in the past and present. And we question how digital technologies support and hinder listening, and experiment with new forms of dialogue.