Workshop - The Force of Listening

Workshop - The Force of Listening


The Force of Listening Reading Group, Glasgow, August 2017


“...the courage, the determination, the desire to
act, relies very much on the ability of listening and
thinking together with other people”

What role does listening play within artist/activist practice?
How does it enable transition from consciousness-raising towards action?
In what ways does listening highlight the invisible labour necessary for building social movements?

In a political climate of noise, where open spaces to express and celebrate difference are being closed, listening and being listened to can be difficult. The issue of voice has been given much attention within the union movement but there has been little consideration given to the importance of listening and receptiveness.

As a starting point, participants on this workshop considered and discussed extracts from ‘The Force of Listening’ a publication by Claudia Firth and Lucia Farinati exploring the role of listening in the contemporary intersection of art and activism and asking what potential for transformation it might facilitate. This workshop put listening in a central position with various exercises and actions around active listening, voice, proximity and exchange. It brought together conversations between artists, activists and the Scottish Artist Union executive committee – a body required to be most acutely attuned to listening to artists as their representative voice in the sector. Participants learned about the role listening plays within artist/activist practice and brainstormed how it promoted the transition from consciousness-raising around issues towards action. In what ways does listening highlight the invisible labour necessary for building social movements? This workshop explored what the limits and possibilities are of listening in the current climate and how we might go about building much needed solidarity.

In The Force of Listening, Adriana Cavarero and Claudia Firth compile a series of interviews with members of the Precarious Workers Brigade, Ultra Red and participants of feminist Consciousness Raising groups, considering the role that listening plays at
the intersection between art and activism. The book aims to generate a new kind of collective intelligence, one which they argue has been neglected by the individualism and careerism of neo-liberalism. In considering extracts of Cavarero and Firth’s book, we will be looking away from the vocalisation of political thoughts and ideas, to the role that listening plays in the determination of new lines of collaboration and collusion. By keying into an attentive kind of listening we will be developing space for kinship within our multiplicities, resisting isolation by finding new ways of relating to one another through care and generosity.

This workshop was devised and delivered by P.O.O.L (Peer Organisation for Open Learning) for the Scottish Artists' Union.
P.O.O.L is a pilot alternative creative education programme, initiated in response to the limitations encountered in institutional further education and life 'post education'. It is currently in its developmental stages - and will be structured as a peer-led, studio based course, run part-time over the duration of six months to a year. The project takes inspiration from models of contemporary and historic anti-capitalist self education programmes and considers how these could work in the context of Glasgow. Fundamentally, we will be looking to collectively generate the conditions for self-cultivation and critical thinking in the age of the neoliberal educational institution. 


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