OpenLab The Witness
OpenLab The Witness asks, can conscious listening spark radical change? The project is inspired by the work of legendary electronic composer Pauline Oliveros, who coined the term “Deep Listening” to describe the embodied practice in which we intentionally and actively tune into, versus tune out, the sounds around and within us.
Founded and curated by Julie Beauvais, this expanding multidisciplinary and collaborative project is creating a living archive of a life on the brink. Around the world, transdisciplinary groups of artists, scientists, and activists in collaboration with their local communities, are listening to our imperilled planet’s messages around potential collapse — or hope for rehabilitation. Their research, which incorporates audio, video, text, and other creative platforms, implores us to witness what may disappear forever, as well as build, with great urgency, new networks of caregiving for the earth.
Openlab The Witness shares this research through an interactive global map that highlights the relationship between humans and our non-human kin. And in keeping with the open and collective ethos of the project, anyone anywhere is invited to contribute.
The multi-year project is co-supported by Pro Helvetia and is evolving annually in chapters focusing on specific regions of the world: South America, North America and Europe (2021); Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (2022); and East Asia, Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa (2023).
SUB-SAHARAN AFRICAN PROJECTS
Turkana and her team are using music production, sound and video recording and storytelling to engage with South Sudanese refugees in Kakuma, Kenya to understand the slow movement of people and their rituals and traditional knowledge.
In Uganda, Suzan Kerunen and her team are archiving the endangered music and dance of the Batwa tribe, “conservation refugees” forced off their land to make way for national wildlife reserves.
For the Chopi people in the Inhambane province of Mozambique, the mbila percussion instrument symbolises a harmonious relationship with nature. Matchume Zango and his team are documenting how the Chopi’s strategies for mitigating socio-environmental change are reflected in their music and oral culture.
Jill Richards and her team are excavating the historic sounds of Johannesburg, unearthing layers of sound at significant locations including the Cradle of Humankind, rock gongs in the Kalahari desert, caves with rock art, and Iron Age sites.
Yao Bobby and Simon Grab and their team are listening to and recording the fishermen’s chants and local storytellers in Agbodrafo, a small fishing village on the coast of Togo in West Africa.