Ultra-red

Encuentro Glasgow

EVENT

21–22 Mar 2009
CCA, Glasgow

ARTISTS

A public gathering that brings together local artists, musicians, activists, and community organisers. Titled Encuentro, the Spanish word gathering, this event invites local audiences to come together and reflect on pertinent issues facing struggles for social justice and the role of art practice in those struggles. The Encuentro is open to the public for artists, community organisers, and anyone interested in strategising around the intersection between critical art practice and political intervention.

Ultra-red conceive of the Encuentro as an opportunity to learn about the various strands of mobilisation occurring in Glasgow. Leading off with the question, "What is the sound of the war on the poor in Glasgow?" Ultra-red's Encuentro is part of a larger engagement with the city. To begin Ultra-red's engagement in Glasgow the group invite all community organizers, activists, and politically-engaged artists to gather on the Saturday at Instal to collectively reflect on the issues of poverty, precariousness and racism in Glasgow.

 

In their own words: “With nine associates working in North America and Europe, the sound-art collective Ultra-red conduct Militant Sound Investigations with specific communities and movements leading to the production of intensely experimental performances, audio recordings, radio broadcasts, and installations. Utilizing the conceptual framework of popular education and militant inquiry, Ultra-red employ discursive reflection, duration, repetition, the procedural, and simultaneity as strategies for giving form to political analysis. Founded in 1994 by two AIDS activists, Ultra-red have expanded to include artists, researchers and organisers from different social movements including the struggles of migration, anti-racism, public housing, youth justice, sexual rights, participatory community development, and the politics of HIV/AIDS. The group also runs the fair-use online record label, Public Record (www.publicrec.org)." 

 

At Instal featuring UR members: Manuela Bojadžijev (Berlin), Janna Graham (London), Dont Rhine (Los Angeles) and Robert Sember (New York)

 

What are they doing?

 

Ultra-red have developed an approach to field recording that they call Militant Sound Investigation.  Working with people involved in political struggles, they record the sounds associated with people, places and events engaged in a particular struggle.  They approach silence in relation to a struggle, and thus as a cause to listen.  They then engage with the people involved in that struggle to create a record that encourages analytic listening:  recording conversations, field recordings of sites of struggle and listening back to and reflecting on them with those involved: What did you hear? What is absent? Is that a problem? Should we do something about it? What could we do together? Through that deep listening, it’s analysis and discussion they jointly determine (with community members, equitably) the terms of a positive event, action and intervention that would make a significant contribution to the participants struggle.  They then set about collectively trying to make this intervention.  While this may all sound very theoretical, in practice it is deeply human.

 

In Glasgow, Ultra-red have spent 2 weeks in advance of Encuentro Glasgow talking with local people in a process of research and relationship building, especially around issues affecting sex workers and migration.

 

Why is it interesting?

 

In the intro to this booklet we tried to talked about the importance of people’s commitment to a cause: of being able to remain true to an event.  In terms of art this could be a commitment to any number of aesthetic or artistic events.  For e.g. let’s pick one at random and say the Situationists detournement and Adbusters/ Culturejammers fidelity to that: spoof ads, altered or defaced billboards.  You can then determine whether you think this art is useful, by whether you can commit to this event also. Is detournement something you can be true to?

 

But of course, as well as artistic, there are other causes that we can commit to: political, amorous, scientific.  You could argue that a route cause of the malaise in contemporary music or art is that while claiming to remain true to aesthetic causes, the great majority of it also holds a close fidelity to political events and truths not many of us would agree with and which actively make our situations worse.  You only have to look at the ‘art market’ to get an understanding of this contradiction.

 

We would suggest that one way out of this malaise is for artists to see themselves as part of a global community, and to have fidelity to events which are both artistic and political in their contribution to the betterment of our collective situations; to respond to Theodor Adorno’s statement, “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”, by reimagining art as having a social and political purpose.

 

Ultra-red do this.  They have a fidelity to avant-garde music, and especially: the concepts of musique concrete; field recording and an observation of silence as being an observation of the latent or obscured nature of places and an observation of the potential of those places (silence is always full).  And they have a fidelity to the long tradition of political and community activism and organising: especially the thinking of Paulo Freire, and a commitment to give everyone involved in a struggle a voice and an active participation in the formulation and enacting of action.  They assert not the politics of difference that is so widespread today, but one of equality.  Not equality as a goal or something to be worked towards, but as a presupposition, an implicit assumption about the world.  So then politics isn’t a debate between multiple interests but also the struggle for your voice to be heard and recognized as the voice of a legitimate partner: an equal.

 

So Ultra-red use the avant-garde music to interrogate political struggle, to take the political implications of sound art towards a logical social conclusion: of the need for action and for a struggle for social change.