Symposium 019


Acousmatics as a Laboratory
Conceptualised and organized by Mario Asef and Sven Spieker
In cooperation with Clemens Krümmel, Kunstraum Leuphana Universität, Lüneburg

Acousmatics is a way of staging the voice in which the carrier of the voice is deliberately kept invisible. The Larousse Dictionary defines acousmatics as a sound that we hear without being able to see its origin. With the invention of radiophony and telephony, acousmatics – voice without a body – have become pervasive to our everyday lives, only to be superseded by a more body-related form of audiovisual communication with the implementation of mobile telephony over the last few decades.

The “Acousmatic Lectures”, an ongoing project by the artist Mario Asef, used the framework of performances to addresses voice-related phenomena, especially those related to matters of seeing and not seeing. Asef hosted nine “Acousmatic Lectures” at  Errant Sound  in Berlin. Following the artist’s intention, these presentations were all of an academic nature. The lecturers /performers were scientists reporting from their respective field of expertise. This was arranged in order to be able to observe the effects of acousmatic settings beyond the influence of sensory effects of an artistic or aesthetic nature.

It is the intended purpose of this two-day conference at the Kunstraum of Leuphana University Lüneburg to discuss a variety of aspects related to the contemporary relevance of acousmatics. Experts from that field are invited to present statements regarding their respective views on the topic. What significance do “disembodied voices” hold today? Which relevance do acousmatics have for the study and practice of lecture performances? Which position is marked by acousmatics within the histories of music and sound? These and some related questions will be at the center of our interest in this conference.

Programme / Content

Friday, Nov. 15, 2019

14:00 – Welcome

Mario Asef, Sven Spieker, Clemens Krümmel

14:45 – A Gaze Behind The Curtain?
On the Relationship of Music and Media Aesthetics

Prof. Dr. Sabine Sanio
Visiting Professor of Theory and History of Auditive Culture at the Sound Studies program of the University of the Arts in Berlin

In music today, orientation mostly focuses on the musical and tonal dimension of reality. Hybrid mixtures with the visual or the sculptural or the inclusion of sound sources are considered distractions. For a long time, there was also little interest in the fact that, with soundscapes and field recordings, the recording of music made possible a pictorality unknown until the 20th century. Instead, attempts were made in electronic music to make the sources of everyday sounds and noises unrecognizable. Nevertheless, music also knows the reflection of the aesthetic and musical potential of technical sound recording. Oriented towards an aesthetics of making and performing – two things also to be distinguished from one another –, I would like to present an extended perspective that goes beyond the question of tonality, in order to be able to take a better look at the peculiarities of sound. From Kafka‘s „Josefine“, Pauline Oliveros’ „Deep Listening“ meditations and Alvin Lucier‘s „I Am Sitting in a Room“ to Peter Ablinger‘s phonorealistic „Ave Maria“ quadrature, the aim is not so much to elaborate on the historical development as on the breadth and complexity of this topic.

15:30 – The Voice of the Capitalocene
A Xenology of the Pan-acoustic Society

Prof. Dr. Holger Schulze
Musicologist, teaches at the University of Copenhagen.

The voice talking to you has no body. The voice you react to has no body. Yet these very voices dominate the conversations we conduct every day inside the ubiquitously networked and mediatized societies we inhabit in this planet’s present. My contribution delineates historical developments, present-day characteristics as well as future scenarios for such acousmatic voices in the Capitalocene. Unlike the concept of the Anthropocene that tends to cover up its foundational cultures of slavery and exploitation (Yusoff 2019) as well as the deep process of capitalization, the concept of the Capitalocene (Moore 2017, 2018) allows to focus on material causes and effects of planetary transformation and destruction – and to remain acutely aware of racist extermination policies and the current transition toward a ubiquitous surveillance state, a pan-acoustic society. Acousmatics in the 21st century is an agent of all these forms of change.

Coffee break

16:30 – Experiencing Acousmatics

Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Rheinberger
Molecular biologist and philosopher. Former Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

In September 2017, I gave an Acousmatic Lecture in the lecture series of Mario Asef at the Errant Sound Space in Berlin. In my presentation in Lüneburg, I will talk about my experience with this lecture, that is, from the perspective of the speaker, who actually experiences a double absence: that of the audience, and that of the images he can normally point at before the audience. I will also address the absence of the body in experimentation and the voices this absence can give rise to.

17:15 – Shout! A Mimetic Performance

Prof. Dr. Sabeth Buchmann
Art historian, teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

My presentation will focus on the voice rehearsal as a significant motif mostly in feminist body art and performance art practices: the voice as place and medium of representations and perceptions charged with identity politics, which are transformed inside the structurally repetitive mode of the rehearsal. Contrary to the dominant signification that discourses on the image and the gaze hold within the visual arts, the voice represents a multiply encoded tool for the (dis-)articulation of dominant representations. Using the works of VALIE EXPORT, Ana Hoffner and Katarina Zdjelar as exemplary experimental arrangements, my aim is to reconnect the rhetoric of mimetic emulation or redundant repetition often heard in this context to the underlying notions of the (art)work in each case. For as a work on the actual, i.e. of the so-called (art)work, it comes to the fore as a subordinate >remake< of an overarching and unfinishable >making.<

18:00 – Acousmatic Lecture } Voice Locations

Golo Föllmer
Music and media scientist, radio author

When hearing a voice, we also hear the place it speaks from. How does this place appear within the voice? Is there such a thing as a voice without place? What do places intoned in this way tell us about themselves, about the voice, about us? An experimental setting.


Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019

09:00 – 21.3, or The Teacher’s Voice

Prof. Dr. Sven Spieker
Art historian. Teaches at the University of California and is editor of ARTMargins – MIT Press

In 1963, Robert Morris, clad in a suit and tie, stepped up to a lectern and started to give a lecture – and he appeared to do this “live”. But, actually, the artist just moved his lips, while behind him a tape recording played a passage from the famed book “Studies in Iconology” (1939) written by Morris’s former teacher, the eminent art historian Erwin Panofsky. In my presentation I will discuss the implications that Morris’s performance held for his then very active involvement with dance, focusing on how the artist, through his bodily gestures during the lecture, outlines the relationship that exists between (in)visibility and the authority of the voice. In a second step, I will attempt to formulate some conclusions to be drawn from acousmatics that have been relevant for the media aesthetics of the 1960s.

Short response by Clemens Krümmel – Listening and Hearing in early works by Robert Morris

09:45 – decide

Prof. Dr. Alex Arteaga
Artistic researcher and philosopher, teaches at EINA, Barcelona, and at the University of the Arts, Berlin

On October 19, 2017, I gave an Acousmatic Lecture at Errant Sound Space in Berlin. The title of the lecture was “decide.” In advance, I wrote the following questions as part of the content’s description: “How to participate? And before that, how to think participation? How to address the constitution and the agency of the singular? How to think the coexistence of intertwined presences?” For this new lecture I will combine an examination of my acousmatic lecture’s text with a phenomenological description of the experience of giving this lecture in order to reflect upon the general question of acousmatics as a specific set of conditions for participation.

10:30 – Scream, Voice, Speech

Prof. Dr. Mai Wegener
Dr. phil., lives and works as a psychoanalyst in private practice in Berlin

From its beginnings, i.e. since Freud’s departure from hypnosis, psychoanalysis is effectively practicing an acousmatic setting. As part of the utterly artificial arrangement of couch and chair devised by Freud, eye-contact is interrupted. Beyond the gaze, the voice appears as the connection between those present.
It is not by chance that Freud, in order to clarify his procedure, is resorting to the contemporaneous practice of isolating the voice when he states that he (the analyst) “must adjust himself to the patient as a telephone receiver is adjusted to the transmitting microphone” (Freud 1912).
Not until Lacan has the voice been granted its unique position in psychoanalytical theory. He conceived of the voice, as this presentation will unfold, as the objet petit a, and thus as something that crystallizes only through encountering the Other, and that is separate from its own body. The scream, of which it is said that it is “emitted,” conveys a notion of this moment of origin. The voice we hear when someone is speaking is the echo of that voice as objet petit a.

11:15 – Final discussion with prepared statements

End of Symposium

Presentations will be given in German and/or English.
For further information please consult:


Campus Halle 25, Universitätsallee 1, 21335 Lüneburg

A project by: