Listening as Activism – Sonia Allori

Monochromatic abstract artwork with blocky dark shapes on a light background
Image: “Dada Soup print”, Audrey O’Brien

This is something that first occurred to me during the connect/disconnect theme which formed the question to respond to and ponder for June in the Drake Music Artist in Residence programme.

We are now three quarters of the way through the residency. Time is zooming by, as usual, and in the numerous webinars and symposiums I’ve attended online since March I’ve been practicing the art of “active listening” (i.e. I’m remaining awake and taking notes and having thoughts!). The term “listening” is an interesting term for a deaf person and I’ve never been more acutely aware of my deafness as I have been during the past few months struggling to hear anything at all online through Zoom. The situation is not quite such a grim picture now through using live and auto-captioning and a digital hearing loop, but I’ve also been mourning the loss of my hearing in small ways after mostly trying not to actually think about it consciously since getting NHS hearing aids towards the end of 2018!

I think I’ve always been more of a listener than a talker especially in meetings and symposiums and conferences and the like. From time to time I try and speak more but it always leaves me feeling uncomfortable and wishing I hadn’t. Not speaking doesn’t mean that I don’t care though, and this brings me to the central question set us: “Can listening be a form of activism?”.

It strikes me the further I go on in life that being true to yourself can make you react in more genuine and authentic ways than trying to live your life as someone you’re not. I definitely know that I’m not a natural activist for example, not in the shouty or forthright sense (not that all activists are shouty of course, that’s a sweeping generalisation!). In not speaking, and in actively listening and reacting/acting in small ways that you can manage, does this equate to anything valid, or is it not worth the bother? Hard to say really isn’t it!?

My final thought on this is that I’ve realised that I’m an active listener and observer of things. But I’m often not able to form coherent thoughts into words to give a convincing viewpoint or to add to a discussion “in the moment” and in public.

I’m more of an archivist than an activist.

A documenter and “noticer” of things. I put small thoughts into song lyrics and different pieces of music that I write which may or may not convey things to an audience. In my music track for this question I’ve come up with “Try shutting up & listen (Covid in memoriam)”. It fuses new words with a previous setting of Emmy Henning’s “Dancer” poem together with an angry seagull sample and some beats. Totally weird!



Try shutting up and listen (Covid in memoriam) (1)

The Artist in Residence initiative is part of DM Collective, a programme of creative and professional development for Disabled artists at all stages of their career. It is funded by The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

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