What kind of infrastructure does listening need?

Stefan Hilterahus

Stefan Hilterhaus has worked between choreography, curating and directing arts-led urban development project such as PACT Zolleverein, which he has founded. In his practice, he addresses urban landscape through performance, while collaborating with designers and architects, sociologists and anthropologists to enrich the urban community through the arts. In 2017, together with Benjamin Melzer, PACT established Werkstadt - an urban laboratory in Katernberg, south-Essen, demonstrating how art institutions listen to and work to support their local communities.

Everything is already there is essentially also an invitation to think about what constitutes or could constitute urban space in terms of social places, constructed physical spaces, or the community of human and non-human actors.

We would like to enter into a conversation around how we can engage with and approach these inextricably interrelated factors to learn to perceive what already exists.
In order to identify what is already there and how it can potentially lead to interactions of service to the common good, listening, in the sense of active listening and perception, presents itself as an important basic practice.

“People often listen with the intent to respond rather than the intent to understand. This means that they are relying more on hearing than listening,” Kelly Workman
But how might active listening and perception be possible, desirable or even beneficial? Patient, receptive, non-judgmental, non-assumptive listening that doesn’t call for lending advice or solving problems but can rather embrace and sustain open-ended questions about what surrounds us, and slowly reveal other forms and sources of complexity and knowledge.

If we address ourselves to the practice of active listening and perceiving, it is worth exploring and questioning the framework conditions and strategies needed to develop it. We would love to do this in collective action.

Who listens to whom, why and with what intention? Besides the voices of heterogeneous human society, how can we also listen to our other ‘co-inhabitants’ in order to build meaningful and free relationships with the non-human that are based on solidarity and cognitive diversity.

Luckily, we are becoming more aware of the overlooked ‘roommates’, who have shaped and influenced our environment and social world in the past, today, and undoubtedly will continue to do so in the future. Those ‘others’ who pose us with existential questions about the range and credibility of our interactions, our perspectives, knowledge, understandings and responsibilities.

Animals, plants, things, natural systems or supernatural entities – be they gods, angels, demons or ancestral spirits – or the new actors of our perpetually advancing technologies such as artificial intelligence, computer viruses, voice assistants, bots, avatars, etc., all belong to what already is. Actively listening to these forces can potentially further connect and develop the possibilities and agency of urban curation.

Furthermore, we would like to engage in speculating about how practices of listening can influence discovery, learning, interaction and change in everyday work in the public domain; in fields of social action, practices and encounters, in empowerment, negotiation methods, conflicts and political inclusion.

In addition to the conditions for necessary developments, we’ll also consider how advocating and activating practices of open listening and action can have a positive impact on current institutional, economic, political and structural situations and hurdles.

In the common interest, we are looking forward to exploring glimpses of a holographic wavefield of perception, around and beyond everything that’s already there.

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