All Resonant Bodies!

The following is an exercise in collaborative writing. Denise Sumi retells an encounter that took place during a listening session with artist Nicole L’Huillier, followed by a lecture by decolonial thinker and educator Rolando Vázquez at ifa Gallery in Stuttgart on February 9, 2024, as part of resonanciones. Un abrazo para despertar (An Embrace to Awake), and L’Huillier shares how her contribution to resonanciones blurs the rigid lines that define our realities.

Focusing on sound as a time machine, a communication technology, and the specific constellation of resonanciones where machinic and organic entities meet as a social cybernetic system, this text invites the reader to explore ways of sensing and perceiving that call for levels of ontological reality that are different from those in the modern/colonial matrix.

Nicole L’Huillier and Denise Helene Sumi — Jul 4, 2024

Akademie Schloss Solitude - All Resonant Bodies!

Installation view, resonaciones. Un abrazo para despertar, ifa Gallery Stuttgart, 2023/24 © ifa. Photo: A. Körner

resonanciones. Un abrazo para despertar (An Embrace to Awake) was more than an exhibition that took place at ifa Gallery in Stuttgart from November 17, 2023 to February 25, 2024. resonanciones was co-conceived by Nicole L’Huillier, Karen Urcia Arroyo, Francisca Gili, Carolina Arévalo Karl, Bettina Korintenberg, Manaswi Mishra, Luis A. Muro Ynoñán, and Gabriel Rosell Santillán, and ›recalled back‹1 aural worlds and ontologies of the Moche culture. Central to resonaciones were six ancient whistling vessels that »probably originate from a holy site of the Moche culture (200–900 A.D.)« and that were brought to the ethnographic collection of Linden Museum in Stuttgart in the early twentieth century.2

The resonaciones constellation is guided by Mochica healer and cultural activist Karen Urcia Arroyo. Everything unfolded with Bettina Korintenberg’s invitation to engage with the collection of Linden Museum in Stuttgart, where the whistling bottles are  kept. Francisca Gili has been doing longterm, in-depth research on Andean whistling bottles and their complex hydraulic and communicational technologies. I  have followed Fran’s fascinating research and work for many years and she has become a dear friend. Fran also has been friends with Karen for many years. Karen immediately became interested in the project and the possibility of reencountering her lost ancestors, even if in such faraway lands. In a way, my task during this constellation was to oversee technical aspects in relation to the sonic encounter. There were many complex issues and questions to take into consideration. Listening to Karen and following her lead and protocols was most important. I listened carefully and received Karen’s knowledge and guidance with respect and love.

Curators Bettina Korintenberg and Carolina Arévalo Karl explain: »These whistling vessels are a centuries-old hydraulic technology that developed on the Andean coast of what is today Ecuador and Peru. These clay figures make whistling sounds when you blow into them or when the water inside shifts.«3 While the six vessels from Linden Museum were not on view in the ifa gallery, but are to remain silenced in the museums’ collection, resonanciones honored and reactivated the whistling vessels in different, gentle ways and through different old and new technologies. The exhibition was not about questions of authenticity and originality, but rather about »coming to voice.«4

These whistling entities are meant to be social entities. They are meant to be in relation to others and serve specific functions as beings that are members of a specific society. Through their current situation, they are diminished into objects and can’t socialize: Their subjectivity has been put into question and stolen as they have become part of a »collection« of an »archive«. They were designated as part of something that is meant to be static and can’t evolve, relate, and change over time. They have been forced to belong to the past with no possibilities of new encounters and further resonances. So when Karen blew the breath of life into them, for a few seconds, they became social again. We all engaged with their sound, »a sound that listens,« as Rolando Vázquez would say. Which is a sound that touches you and changes you, it nurtures and activates in many ways. One important thing is that the sound of these entities is a sound that is entangled with the Andes, it can’t be abstracted, it is not in the void.

At the beginning of the listening session with Nicole, Bettina shared small pieces of paper with notes on them with all of us. The paper in my hand read: »A paccha portal for space and time opened, transforming energies and signs. A society of sounds is activated that in turn activates membranes and the rigid walls that delineate our reality are set in motion.« I was curious to sense what a paccha portal might be, and to learn more about its origins, dimensions, and its qualities, and to immerse myself into the »society of sounds.«

Akademie Schloss Solitude - All Resonant Bodies!

Listening session with Nicole L’Huillier in the context of the exhibition resonaciones. Un abrazo para despertar, 2023/24, ifa Gallery Stuttgart © ifa. Photo: Adrian Schmidt

The term paccha comes from the Quechua language and refers to many things. It doesn’t really have a static, monolithic, or linear element to its meaning, as it encapsulates different things that are not the same but are also not detached from each other. It is a term that behaves like sounds in the way they contain and are contained by a strongly generative indissolubility and impurities.
I explore sounds and vibrations as construction materials: for spaces, shared situations, dialogical exchanges, and for collectively inhabiting time. Sound itself as a vessel, even as a time machine. Sound has the power of weaving materialities, agencies, affectivities, and temporalities. It activates membranes in our spaces, bodies, and minds, while simultaneously laying out an invisible membrane of vibrations that affect and permeate us, that move us. I believe these multidimensional and indissoluble movidas can take us and »construct« many places/situations.
The types of sounds and the frequency spectrum from the whistling bottles carry a sonic signature that when sounding collectively, have the power to affect our brains in specific ways. By having slight differences in their frequencies, the whistling bottles can create a pulsating and beating sound. These sounds have the capacity of calibrating our minds even to the point of achieving altered states of consciousness. This phenomenon can be supported by the breathing and movement, as well as other ritual elements. What matters is that a shared sonic space is constructed, but this space goes beyond a volume that can contain and become a shelter. It is a space that is in relation and dialogue through different scales and dimensions. It is also an inner (mental) space it is also a shared temporal space and in all their manifestations it is dynamically and indissolubly rearticulating our perceptions, relations, and logics.

The sound bath that followed lasted about an hour and articulated a variety of sounds coming together in motion from different places and at different times: First, »a recording,« using contact microphones and antennae registering electromagnetic frequencies, of the encounter with the Mochica healer and cultural activist Karen Urcia Arroya, who, during a visit to the Linden Museum, »brought the sounds of the six whistling vessels back to life with her own breath, touching and singing to them;«5 second,  »a recording« of a »signal transmissions of vibrations of the earth on the coast of today’s Peru;«6 and third, »many recordings« of the voices of visitors to the exhibition space in Stuttgart, who were invited to gift the Oreja Time Machine  (cross-temporal karaoke), a distributed responsive ear-shaped machine-sculpture connected to a microphone and a cable. Nicole circulated these sonic sources – the vibrations of the earth, the howling, songs, words and whispers of the visitors and vessels – and they were further transmitted to the Istrilla Sound System , a sound sculpture with an integrated computer and machine learning software developed in collaboration with Masaswi Mishra. The Istrilla Sound System further processed the additive audio archive, creating a generative soundscape that we collectively listened to.

We never listened to anything that was recorded. We listened to the machine articulations – resonations instead of re-imagination – the responses, the machine’s memory of the recorded sounds that compose the open archive. In that we never listen to the recorded sound of the whistles, we don’t force them into a static state again. I am only circulating the machines’ reinterpretations, the machine’s dreams, in a way.

The resonaciones booklet begins with a question: »What can it mean when sounds from the past touch the present?« In order to better understand this question from the position of those who co-created the exhibition, it was helpful to listen to the lecture Healing, Decoloniality, and Relational Aesthesis  by Rolando Vázquez, which followed the sound bath. I further explored his thoughts on sensing and perceiving, especially on the perception of time in relation to the modern/colonial project. In their introduction to the dossier on Decolonial AestheSis: Colonial Wounds/Decolonial Healings (2013) Walter Mignolo and Vázquez write:

Decolonial aestheSis starts from the consciousness that the modern/colonial project has implied not only control of the economy, the political, and knowledge, but also control over the senses and perception. Modern aestheTics have played a key role in configuring a canon, a normativity that enabled the disdain and the rejection of other forms of aesthetic practices, or, more precisely, other forms of aestheSis, of sensing and perceiving.7

In a lecture Vázquez gave at the Berlin Biennale in 2020, I learned: »There is no modernity without coloniality,« and »What is at stake is how we perceive,« and he refers specifically to the question of how we perceive time. He explains that the temporality of modernity, in which we are forced to live as modern consumers, is disconnected from the temporality of suffering under oppression. While the contemporary is always an expression of modernity, it always praises the new and projects itself as an endless future, in contrast to the suffering under oppression, which is not ephemeral, which endures time and therefore criticizes the contemporary. While modernity controls the present and modern aestheTics controls ways of feeling and perceiving time, this violence excludes other worlds and the time of the earth itself, which is an ancestral time. »Relational ontology is an ancestral logic that refers back in time,« says Vázquez.8

Sound is some sort of time machine. And it is a relational one. It can’t exist if not in relation. The permeable and resonant membranes of time are constantly vibrating (back and forth and in other complex nonlinear ways) with the pulses that have and will touch them.
The system that is created with Oreja Time Machine and Istrilla Sound System is some sort of sonic confabulation synthesis that is based in an architecture of reciprocity and duality. Its foundation is set by a balance of giving and receiving, calling and responding. It is a synthetic system, or maybe more like a cyborgian extended organism if we take into account that organic entities (such as ourselves) are also part of its structure. It is from this very polluted and generative remix that the sounds of resonaciones arise. So we are activated by sounds that are obscure and do not represent or portray a specific and clear time or place. They belong and emerge in response to the spontaneous relations and exchanges that are on the way of being formed.
I hope this effort goes beyond a purely aesthetic proposition that would remain in the realm of representation and objecthood – which tends toward observation, isolation, and the staticity of things and ideas within a surface based objectivity. The intention is to stimulate a movement toward a decolonial aesthesis and indissoluble relational experiences that tend toward dialogical principles and a deep subjective immersion in which things and ideas are open to resonances and interferences.
The system we are working with is complex and erratic. It brings a lot to the conversation, for me, and it confuses the rigid lines that define our realities and the walls of logic as it blurs borders, temporalities, and intelligences. This notion opens up an enormous number of questions in relation to the limits of subjectivity and agency.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - All Resonant Bodies!

Installation view, resonaciones. Un abrazo para despertar, ifa Gallery Stuttgart, 2023/24 © ifa. Photo: A. Körner

Akademie Schloss Solitude - All Resonant Bodies!

bildhübsche fotografie | Andreas Körner | | | | +49 711 22 11 20

When we again ask the question, »What can it mean when sounds from the past touch the present?«, this becomes a question of how space and time and one’s own positionality is perceived. While Luis A. Muro Ynoñán writes that »the absence of written records prior to the arrival of the European conquerors in 1532 A.D. has hindered any attempt to reconstruct the Indigenous understandings about human senses and corporal sensoriality,«9 resonanciones and the listening session by Nicole can be understood as a humble gesture to not reconstruct what Ynoñán refers to, but to create a constellation in which forms of aestheSis, of sensing and perceiving that call for different »levels of ontological reality,«10 and thus different dimensions of how time and space are structured in relation to one another.
Regarding the integration of a machine learning system and the methods and tools used to store sounds specific to such systems, I want to extend the question: What does it mean when sounds of the present relate back to the past? And what significance does a statement like the following have in the context of the current machine learning debate, when Muro Ynoñán refers to the practice of Moche sonority as one that was »creating artificial sounds in a ritual space and using them to control and manipulate the mind engendering specific sensory stimuli?«11 Such an observation challenges the Western idea »that the artificial was secondary,« an idea that according to Louis Chude-Sokei roots back to »the fear of machines,« that as he further points out became unsustainable.12 Nicole’s arrangements may be articulated as a form of Techno-Aesthesis.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - All Resonant Bodies!

Oreja Time Machine (cross-temporal karaoke), installation view, resonaciones. Un abrazo para despertar, ifa Gallery Stuttgart, 2023/24 © ifa. Photo: A. Körner

I know some people have reservations about ideas of networked arrangements and the inclusion of technological systems as relational entities, and I respect and understand their position. Still, I venture into these experiments to open up new questions, never to find answers, which I believe makes it worthwhile as it can ripple yet other membranes and stimulate further questions and dialogue. What activates the gallery space, the artworks (both mine and Francisca Gili’s whistling bottles), and the visitors consists of sounds that are »imagined« by the machine learning system. This is an ever-evolving composition, a shapeshifting resonant space. Since the archive we use to train our model is an open archive that invites for sonic offerings through Oreja Time Machine (cross-temporal karaoke), it is always evolving and being interfered with different energies and sources. This system is meant to be a social cybernetic system that opens space for a continuous improvisation session, an ongoing call-and-response that transcends static notions of time and archive. So the sounds are always being contaminated. They are never what they were by themselves, as if they could be frozen in time, as if they could become an antisocial object that can be contained, owned, stored and relegated to a time that has already passed. The operations we are exploring in resonaciones are about the opposite. The intention is to understand these sound as social entities themselves, that have agency and affect the space they inhabit as well as the entities that relate to them, they also are never coming from only one source, but they arise from a complex process of resonant and generative contamination, which I find quite beautiful and interesting. They become what they are as they interact with others, as they unfold their subjectivity and allow for other sources to interfere and resonate. So they always change: They are always in flow that invites crossed signals, obscurity, memory, and movement.

By restoring the voices of the vessels and their relations with ancestors and their place of origin, but also by creating new relations with visitors to the Stuttgart exhibition and with other (organic and machinic) entities, resonanciones invoked the sound of worlds of pre-Hispanic times in the Andean world by introducing an ontology in which »these figures are seen as subjects with agency,«13 and the Istrilla Sound System itself becomes a subject with agency that mutually influences the experiential space and sensory stimuli.
The practice of reciprocity, of giving and receiving, called ayni in Quecha,14 is essential to the perception of resonanciones. Visitors were invited to become part of the nonstatic movement of reciprocity. When I visited the ifa Gallery earlier with my friends Kosmas Phan Dinh and Theo Ferreira Gomes, we found ourselves in a constellation in which one of us sat on the Istrilla Sound System and felt the resonant waves of the sounds coming from the subwoofer, the other slowly filled air into one of the sounding clay beings made Francisca Gili until it became vocal, and the next person made sounds with another Cantarino together with water. We became resonating bodies in a »society of sounds.«

Nicole LHuillier Nicole LHuillier is a transdisciplinary artist and researcher from Santiago, Chile. Her practice centers on exploring sounds and vibrations as construction materials to delve into questions of agency, identity, collectivity, and the activation of a vibrational imagination. Her work materializes through installations, sonic/vibrational sculptures, custom-made (listening and/or sounding) apparatuses, performances, experimental compositions, membranal poems, and writing. She holds a Ph. D. in Media Arts & Sciences from MIT (2022).

 Denise Helene Sumi is a researcher and editor, and sometimes curates exhibitions. She is a Ph. D. candidate at the Peter Weibel Research Institute for Digital Cultures at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, co-editor of this journal, and co-director of the art space Kevin Space in Vienna. In her current research, she engages with artistic practices that embrace and maintain technology-based relationality, transversal knowledge exchange, and collective approaches that establish and sustain a socially and ecologically joyful life with technology.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - All Resonant Bodies!

Installation view, resonaciones. Un abrazo para despertar, ifa Gallery Stuttgart, 2023/24 © ifa. Photo: A. Körner

  1. In the keynote speech »Recalling Earth, Overcoming the Contemporary, Knowing Otherwise« by Rolando Vázquez, held at the conference »FROM RESTITUTION TO REPAIR« on September 10, 2022, at Akademie der Künste, Hanseatenweg, Berlin, during the 12th edition of the Berlin Biennale, Vázquez explained that »when not speaking from a position from the Global North, maybe ›we‹ need to speak from recalling back, bringing back home.« With ›we,‹ he refers to »those active in the process of healing.« https://12.berlinbiennale. de/media/keynote-rolando-vazquez-recallingearth- overcoming-the-contemporary-knowing-otherwise/ (accessed March 28, 2024).

  2. Bettina Korintenberg and Carolina Arévelo, eds.: resonanciones. Un abrazo para despertar (An Embrace to Awake) exhibition booklet. Stuttgart 2023, p. 3.

  3. Ibid., p. 3.

  4. See note 1.

  5. Korintenberg and Arévelo: p. 4.

  6. Ibid., p. 9.

  7. Walter Mignolo and Rolando Vázquez: »Decolonial AestheSis: Colonial Wounds/Decolonial Healings,« in: Social Text, 2013. decolonial-aesthesis-colonial-woundsdecolonial-healings/ (accessed March 28, 2024).

  8. See note 1.

  9. Luis A. Muro Ynoñán: »Towards an Understanding of Moche Sound and Sonority,« in: Korintenberg and Arévelo, p. 23.

  10. In »Towards an Understanding of Moche Sound and Sonority,« Luis A. Muro Ynoñán explains that in Moche culture, »sounds and sonority probably were also used in acts of […] access to parallel realities of existence.« Korintenberg and Arévelo, p. 24.

  11. Ibid.

  12. Louis Chude-Sokei: Anarchic Artificial Intelligence, 2021. (accessed March 28, 2024).

  13. Korintenberg and Arévelo: p. 3.

  14. Ibid., p. 19

Beteiligte Person(en)