Left Sonia de Jager and right Martina Raponi, photo Frederic Van de Velde

Micro Art Initiatives #23 Noiserr + Regenerative Feedback

Issue no3
juni - juli 2021
Makers Of Their Own Time - Relational Activism

In the taproom of the Butchers’ Tears Brewery in Amsterdam I join a session of the reading group Noiserr + Regenerative Feedback organised by artists/theorists Sonia de Jager and Martina Raponi. A modest group of people gather around at an indoor picnic table to start the session.

—Lotte van Geijn What is the difference between Noiserr + Regenerative Feedback and other reading groups?

—Sonia de Jager I see it as an open research space where, in comparison with classical reading group traditions, things become more experimental. My experience with most reading groups is that their purpose is to ‘understand’ a text and come to conclusions in the context of a well informed audience. The premise here, at Noiserr, is that we gather around a variety of texts acknowledge the complexity of a single concept or reference. We even invite people not to read any of the material if that’s what they prefer. We want to shift the focus from the expectation of clarification to the acceptance of confusion. Confusion is good, it means your brain is learning about itself.

—Martina Raponi The structure of the format is that of a cloud of concepts, around which texts, verbal or visual as well as sonic, are gathered and can be ‘cybernetically’ navigated. My main concern, as a writer and artist who is focused on noise, was to create a space for socialising knowledge, when I founded Noiserr back at the end of 2016. Noise is a topic which mutates, changes as society evolves. So what is noise today might not be noise tomorrow.

—Sonia de Jager The emphasis during the sessions is on the nature of collective thinking: what does gathering together to think mean? How do these texts guide our reflections? One of the ways we do this differently than in other settings is that we allow for total digression. We encourage people to bring to the table whatever stream of consciousness they’re undergoing. It’s an exercise with a stronger focus on collective metacognition than on the pursuit of a result.

—Lotte van Geijn Why did you decide to join forces?

—Sonia de Jager When I was looking for people who might be interested in participating at the conference Regenerative Feedback in New York, I thought Martina’s project was a really cool approach to collective philosophical research which is open to ‘inexperts.’ I decided to run a few Noiserr sessions in New York together with Alexandra Hedako Mason. She is a New Centre for Research & Practice tutor and collaborator turned friend. We focused the readings around topics as: Source, Signal, Channel and Noise. A really cool collective emerged out of those meetings: from artists to software engineers and beyond. The meetings took place at locations as the NYU Center for Experimental Humanities, people’s houses and music/performance venues all over Brooklyn.

[answer Martina Raponi] When Sonia contacted me she pitched her own idea for a reading group in New York. When I explained to her what Noiserr was about, it seemed like we were meant to meet for this purpose. I was very happy to work with another woman whose vision and beliefs matched mine. Our collaboration developed smoothly until now, as we speak.

—Lotte van Geijn Where does your interest in ‘noise’ come from?

—Martina Raponi My interest in noise began with my involvement in the underground music scene at the beginning of my 20s. But five years ago, when I finished writing a book on noise, I realised that at the very core of it there was my father’s deafness, and the position of this specific condition in society. This allowed me to investigate the topic not only in aesthetic terms, but to also shift to a more socio-political, at times conceptual and metaphorical, analysis of it. This is also the reason why Noiserr exists. Why I refuse to reduce the complexities noise generate to binary explanations, and not box them into solid categories in order to give an ultimate and definitive answer to the question “what is noise?” The discussion is still open, and giving answers to this question is, for me, a lifetime endeavour.

—Sonia de Jager I share this interest in the ‘undefinable’ nature of the concept, although with much less expertise in the genre. My first interactions with the concept were in music too but I only really started paying attention to the complexity of the term when reading theories of information and communication years ago.

—Lotte van Geijn Could you give an idea about what’s discussed during the meetings?

—Sonia de Jager One example of a discussion which happened in almost exactly the same way in NYC as it did in Rotterdam was when we talked about the concept of ‘Signal.’ Besides the linguistics and cybernetics texts that were on the reading list, people were fascinated by the deep ethical issues that can emerge from questions concerning the nature of communication. We discussed an example treated in Peter Galison’s documentary Containment: with radioactivity taking such a long time to decay, how will we make sure we’re able to communicate with absolute clarity to future generations to keep away from the radioactive material we leave behind?

—Martina Raponi This example gives an idea of how very general inputs, when matched with a specific keyword, can trigger similar concerns and thoughts in people. However, sometimes the discussions take formidable detournements, and we might end up watching dance practices in Philippines’ popular culture by suggestion of a new participant, contributing a fresh entry point to a specific topic.

Martina Raponi and Sonia de Jager(phone) and Bas Schmitz 

Reading Group Noiserr, Amsterdam, photo Beto Zanine

—Lotte van Geijn On your website noiserr.hotglue.me/regenerativefeedback you can find articles and other content around highlighted terms like ‘Noise’, ‘Signal’ and ‘Scream’. Do you add this content yourself? And could it become an open source in the future?

—Martina Raponi The content of the libraries has been added by us, as ‘curators’ of the reading groups. There is a page where references mentioned by participants in past Noiserr’s sessions have been added, but this hasn’t found a specific method of implementation yet. Of course, the dream for Noiserr would be to have it exist as an open platform for people to contribute to the ongoing conversation on noise. To shape the clouds as the discussion unfolds and develops. The hotglue page is a perfect host for Noiserr at its current stage. But I think that for such a project, a brand new customised platform would be needed. Hopefully we will be able to see it live and functioning sometime in the near future.

Left Sonia de Jager and right Martina Raponi, photo Frederic Van de Velde

—Lotte van Geijn What are your current plans? And what would you like for the future to happen?

—Sonia de Jager We are moving towards the Rotterdam edition of the Regenerative Feedback festival of 2019, in May at WORM. Here, Noise scholars like Cecile Malaspina, Mattin, Miguel Prado, Inigo Wilkins and Martina herself will give presentations about the topics we cover with Noiserr and much more. It’s not exclusively Noise or exclusively lectures but also other music and philosophy-related topics, as well as performances and various works of art.

—Martina Raponi At the moment my life’s pace is given by Noiserr and Regenerative Feedback, but I am about to develop two different streams of research. The first research line is about noise, voice, and deafness and the second is about the algorithmic consumption of music and nostalgia. They will come about in the context of several conferences and art festivals in Hamburg, Urbino, San Paulo and Mexico City.

—Sonia de Jager In an ideal future vision Noiserr + Regenerative Feedback doesn’t grow into an out of proportion formation but simply keeps interested parties joining, and is able to inspire people into thinking themselves out of cognitive and social lockdowns, such as: “I don’t have the patience for a full-on reading group,” or “philosophy is not for me,”. It would be great to see people taking the initiative into their own hands and just organizing similar reading groups on their own. These times call for more face-to-face meetings, with a stronger focus on the reconsideration of collectivity vs. individuality.

Noiserr/Regenerative Feedback - initiative by Martina Raponi and Sonia de Jager Dambrauskas - more info at https://noiserr.hotglue.me/regenerativefeedback/

Upcoming reading sessions: Amsterdam: Butchers’ tears: 30th March and 11th May; Rotterdam: WORM 6th  and 20th  April and 4th May 2019; 24/25/26th  May 2019 REGENERATIVE FEEDBACK FESTIVAL 2019 WORM Rotterdam, more info: https://worm.org/category/festival/

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