Janna Holmstedt

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Are You Ready for a Wet Live-In?

In this artistic research project I investigates listening as a form of co-habitation through practices that are situated in the borderlands between human and non-human, listening and seeing, language and voice, contemporary art and performing arts. At the heart of the inquiry is a series of artworks, or set-ups, that make use of voices, bodies, sound, narrative material, and constructed environments. Between 2012–2017 the artworks have been presented at different venues and in a variety of contexts, either as installations, performances, praxis sessions, or lecture performances.


In shifting focus from the visual to the sonic, the world emerges in a different way. Sound envelops us; we swim, even drown in sound. When it comes to our sensory perceptions, sound travels faster than light, and sight is not as independent a guide as we might like to believe. Furthermore, today we are increasingly addressed and guided by prerecorded and synthetic voices in both private and public contexts. Seeing, however, has long held precedence, and thus it is high time to turn our attention to listening.

This journey into a predominantly sonic ecology departs from the unique archival material of American neurophysiologist John C. Lilly. In the 1950s and 1960s Lilly conducted controversial scientific experiments with dolphins, as well as on himself. Among other things, Lilly and his research collaborators attempted to teach dolphins to speak English and recorded the results on tape. These experiments would reveal a complex space of embodied entanglements which had the potential to challenge much of what was then taken for granted.
Lilly’s experiments serve as a departure point for the consideration of new areas of perception and experience that sound technology has made possible: from the discovery of whale songs in the deeps of the oceans, to outer space with the hope of communicating with other intelligent life, to the womb and the sound environment of the fetus.

What I put forward is a materialist and concrete approach to listening understood as a situated practice. Listening is both a form of co-habitation and an ecology. In and through listening, I claim, one could be said to perform in concert with the things heard while at the same time being changed by them.

The work method is experimental and performative, it is a thinking-through-practice, which is based on action and perception. I see this process as a “rebooting” and widening of scope with regards to the senses and the sensible, where artistic research potentially could be a site for unlearning rather than mere knowledge production.

The entire work has been documented and published as an e-book, available at Lund University's research portal Lucris.

Performances and installations that are part of the doctoral work:

Limit-Cruisers (#1 Sphere)
A performance for six participants, 60 min.
Inter Arts Center, Malmö, Sweden, 18-20 Sep, 2012 and 24-26 Mar, 2013.
Weld, Stockholm, Sweden, 21-23 Feb, 2014

Limit-Cruisers (#2 Crowd)
A praxis session for listeners and observers, 30 min.
PSi19: Now Then: Performance and Temporality, Stanford University, California, USA, 29 Jun, 2013

In the Greenery
An exhibition comprising three installations:
Fluorescent You, sound, headphones, screens and monochrome light, 18 min.
Therapy in Junkspace, sound, video, headphones, monitor, treadmill, plexi glass booth, carpet, plant, 8:30 min.
Then There the Bark Above Their Shoulders Grew, sound, headphones, vibration speakers, wool mats, wooden construction, 8 min.
Inter Arts Center, Malmö, Sweden, 8-29 Apr, 2016

Articulations from the Orifice (The Dry and the Wet)
A performance lecture, 35 min.
Transistor 2: Old Form – New Format, Malmö, Sweden, Oct 18, 2016.

As Ph.D. student I have been admitted at Lund University, Malmö Faculty of Fine and Performing Arts, but employed at Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, Umeå University. The research studies have been conducted within the framework of Konstnärliga forskarskolan, Sweden, Nov 2010-Oct 2017.
Public defence at Bildmuseet, Umeå, Oct 6, 2017.

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