Immaterial and Sonic Bodies: affect, audition and automaticity

Thursday Club, Thursday 7th March 2013


Lisa Blackman and Julian Henriques, Goldsmiths, Department of Media and Communications

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This talk explores two examples of immaterial communication. One is sound waves, as the energetic disturbance of a medium. The other is automaticity as the sense a person has of being directed by someone or something else, human and non-human. Popular conceptions of the immaterial suggest that the imperceptible, the invisible and the ethereal are often aligned to the occult, supernatural and haunting. Ideas about sound are associated on the one hand with embodied affects, drives, entrainment, rhythmic compulsion, as well on the other the sublime and the ethereal. The session is presented as a dialogue between Julian Henriques’ work on sonic bodies (2011) which draws on the ways of knowing of the Jamaican reggae sound system engineers and Lisa Blackman’s work on voice hearing, suggestion and telepathy (2001; 2012) which draws on imaginary media such a telepathy and hypnotism at the turn of the 20th century. In line with the turn to affect, the talk will purpose the idea of the immaterial for a discussion of voicing, hauntings, the virtual, atmospheres, the subliminal, or even transliminal.

Dr Lisa Blackman is a Reader in the Department of Media and Communications. She works at the intersection of body studies and media and cultural theory. She is the editor of the journal Body & Society (Sage) and co-editor of Subjectivity (with Valerie Walkerdine, Palgrave). She has published four books: Immaterial Bodies: Affect, Embodiment, Mediation (2012, Sage/TCS); The Body: The Key Concepts (2008, Berg); Hearing Voices: Embodiment and Experience (2001, Free Association Books); Mass Hysteria: Critical Psychology and Media Studies(with Valerie Walkerdine, 2001, Palgrave). She teaches courses which span critical media psychology, affect studies, embodiment and body studies, and experimentation in the context of art/science. She is particularly interested in phenomena which have puzzled scientists, artists, literary writers and the popular imagination for centuries, including automaticity, voice hearing, suggestion and telepathy. She is currently collaborating with two cognitive neuroscientists on a project called, ‘Creative Experimentation: Affect, Automaticity, Mediation’ – an arts, humanities, science collaboration.

Dr Julian Henriques is a Reader in the Department of Media and Communications. He is a filmmaker and convenor of the MA Scriptwriting programme and the Music as Communication and Creative Practice BA and MA courses. Before Goldsmiths, Julian ran the film and television department at CARIMAC at the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica. His credits as a writer and director include the 1998 feature film Babymother, a reggae musical and improvised short drama We the Ragamuffin. Julian researches street cultures, music and technologies and is interested in the uses of sound as a critical and creative tool. In addition, he is also exploring in how some of the mathematics concepts of topology can be used in the understanding social and cultural change.  Julian’s professional practice has recently turned to sound sculpture, with Knots & Donuts installed Tate Modern, in 2011. His publications include the jointly authored Changing the Subject: Psychology, Social Regulation and Subjectivity (1984) and he was a founding editor of the Ideology & Consciousness journal. Sonic Bodies: Reggae Sound Systems Performance Techniques and Ways of Knowing was published in 2011.