Author: Aurélie Lierman
Curator: Saout Radio
Premiere: Feb 2014
Venue: Im Klangtheater, Radio 1, ÖRF, Vienna
Performers: Francisco Couto (trombone), Momoko Noguchi (prepared piano), Aurélie Lierman (prepared piano, voice, electronics)
Text: Politics Of The Nose by Rwandan poet David Mwambari
Genre: radio composition
Technical specifications: 43min38sec – stereo 2.1 speaker set up
Anosmia is an abstract reflection on the absurd fact that a tiny part of the body, the nose, played a key role in the Rwandan Genocide (1994). In the early 90’s Hutu extremists started broadcasting hate messages via public radio, against Tutsi people. Millions of Hutu moderates got manipulated and in April ‘94 the whole propaganda machinery escalated in a bloody civil war. Four months long a whole nation was haunting ‘the enemy’, while often the enemy had to be found within oneself or one’s relatives. Distinguishing a ‘real Tutsi’ from a ‘real Hutu’ is anyhow difficult due to intermarriage. So during this period of war and terror tough decisions had to be made, often in no time: e.g. What if you were married to a Tutsi and had children with ‘enemy blood’? Back in ‘94 brutal killings within one family or household were countless! The length of a nose was decisive to classify the enemy. Even if your passport said that you were ‘Hutu’, if you had a long and thin nose you were considered a Tutsi, so you’d had to hide or run for your life. Nowadays it is by law forbidden to use the word Tutsi or Hutu…
Anosmia won the 1st prize at Monophonic 2014, Brussels
Could radio be a medium of resistance? Resistance to the economic system? Resistance to politic discourses? Resistance to taboos? Resistance to main tendencies and aesthetics? But over all what does it mean to resist?
The starting point of Fearless radio is Foucault’s concept of “fearless speech” also defined as parrhesia, considered as “a verbal activity where the speaker has a specific relation to truth through frankness, a certain relationship to his own life through danger, a certain type of relation to himself or other people through criticism (self-criticism or criticism of other people), and a specific relation to moral law through freedom and duty.”1
Focusing on radio language, artists could integrate the verbal activity but they could also embrace the possibility of electronic sounds, noises and soundscapes to propose a sonic fearless speech. What happens then if we replace in Foucault’s definition of parrhesia, “verbal activity” with “radio language”? The possibilities of telling personal truth without fear multiply. We articulated our proposal inviting 5 artists to become “true tellers”, “fearless speakers” using radio as a way to express parrhesia, “using freedom and choosing frankness instead of per- suasion, truth instead of falsehood or silence, the risk of death instead of life and security, criticism instead of flattery, and moral duty instead of self-interest and moral apathy”2.
– Each artist uses the radio slot given by Kunst Radio preparing a specific fearless radio show, presenting new productions but also older works relevant to the main intent of the series.
• Lawrence Abu Hamdan, whose research is mainly focused on the relation between voice and juridical listening and speaking, focuses here on the relation between voice and the act of telling the truth. In “Aural Contracts Audio Archive mix” he proposes for Kunst Radio a sonic narrative based on audio extracts from his archive. The listener is invited to immerse in a reflection about the relationship of listening to politics, borders, human rights, testimony, truth and international law.
• Aurélie Lierman (born in Karago, Rw in 1980) tells her truth through a fearless score, which goes beyond taboos and classic aesthetics. Using spoken word, field recording, instrumental improvisation she sonically responds to the poem ‘Politics Of The Nose’ written by David Mwambari (Rw), echoing the Rwandan genocide in 1994. In her new production “Anosmia”, listeners can follow her voice and her body in different acoustic spaces, they can hear the risks she took in recording in public space in Rwanda and listen to her duty to discuss the actual law in Rwanda which even forbids to use the word “Tutsi” and “Hutu”.
• Meira Asher (born in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1964) proposes for “Fearless Radio” the new work “refuse: military (01)”. Again in this work there is a voice, this time a computer voice representing the voice of Noam, who recently refused to serve in the Israeli army. Fragments of clashes in occupied Hebron are juxtaposed with those of an electroacoustic prepared typewriter. Listeners are transported in a violent space in which the intimate voice of the artist arises with some political questions around militarism and minors. Could the sound of the typewriter be interpreted as the intimate voice of the artist’s truth? Could this work be considered as a letter from the artist to the listener?
Fearless Radio could also be interpreted as a way of proposing “fearless aesthetics” in telling the truth, experimenting with sonic languages. This is what the audience can find in Magdi Mostafa’s narrative of noise (born in Tanta, Eg in 1982). The artist keeps a conceptual approach in investigating the dialogue between sound and space, sound and memories. His radio show soni- cally investigates his surroundings, mapping the affects of globalisation on local traditions, the phenomenological experience of the individual in the city, and interpersonal relationships, as well as the notion of public space.
• Simohammed Fettaka (born in Tangier, Ma in 1981) started from the statement that personal is political. In his feature he explores the politics of sex in a choral work based on interviews and soundscapes made in Paris.
In the Fearless Radio series, the medium itself is interpreted as a space of negotiations of meanings, an ephemeral plaza or a “sonic agora” in which each time an artist launches his or her truth in search of listeners. According to Foucault’s definition of “fearless speaker”, this person is someone who opens his mind and his heart to other people; but what is demanded of the audience in order to understand his or her truth? The potential of dialogue is in the process of listening.
Anna Raimondo, Fearless radio, www.saout-radio.com
1 – Michel Foucault, Fearless Speech, edited by Joseph Pearson, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 2000
2 – Idem.