dot 37: listening

How can you record the emotional volume present in the art of listening?

– Maya Maljević –

I have always thought that I listen well. That is, until I decided to selectively listen to my immediate environment. In 2013 I decided to switch off radios and music in order to actually start listening to the sonic world surrounding me. This decision has payed off as I am now able to discern and navigate between various soundscapes as I listen consciously. A recent artwork that reflects such listening is silence 1 (2015) shown at pop-up art exhibition Silence held in Cape Town. In many ways I have had to un-learn what it is to listen.

There is an analogy to be made between un-learning in listening and un-learning  in art making. Both indicate previous training in either thinking or the acquiring of skills or techniques. In essence the ‘previous’ belongs to a narrative that does not belong to the self. Looking at the work of Maya Maljević one would not think that such a talented artist would have needed to unlearn how to draw. Having been trained at the University of Arts in Belgrade, Maljević is firmly grounded in an academic and classical arts education. It is important to note that in creating her artworks, Maljević moves from a predominantly formal position as Jacqueline Nurse noted in David Krut Projects Maya Maljević (2012). What enthralls me, is how Maljević is able to move beyond the cognitive and into her imaginary space in the way that she does.

In viewing her paintings and drawings, I hear sounds. I hear singular instruments at times, but mostly collective, orchestral soundscapes not in a formal sense, but very much in the way that instrumental groups within an orchestra tune up: vibrating in energy and dissonance. In an interview with Nurse,  Maljević describes her creative process:

When I combine objects, it is … how they clash , feed from each other, create chaos and from that chaos a perfect sound is made …

 Nurse – comparing Maljević to Kandinsky – notes that ‘through her own version of gestural abstraction,  Maljević … allows action and conflict to occur between the different elements with which she is engaged.’ This level of engagement requires the art of listening.

The avant-garde artist and composer John Cage stated that ‘Silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind, a turning around.’

listening to movement
‘ listening to movement ‘                                                                   Photo: Sonya Rademeyer

For more on John Cage, listening and sound visit Open Culture.

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