Doctoral Defence: Janna Holmstedt

Are You Ready for a Wet Live-In? Explorations into Listening


Janna Holmstedt will defend her doctoral dissertation in fine arts, the research project "Are You Ready for a Wet Live-In? Explorations into Listening," on Friday the 6th of October at Bildmuseet, Umeå.

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 embryo. On the way we encounter bioacoustic research, military experiments, sound experiments within art, poetry, film and music, as well as philosophers, media historians, and other theorists who have sought to renegotiate both the division between and the hierarchy of the senses and their ways of knowing, and sometimes even the division between the human and nonhuman.

The series of installations and performances that were created as a part of the doctoral work have been central to Janna Holmstedt's inquiry into listening. The dissertation consists of six artworks and an essay. This work is documented in the form of an e-book, which includes sound, film, and images. The e-book is available through the publication database Diva.

One of these works, the sound installation "Then, the bark," will be shown until the 5th of October at Konstfrämjandet i Umeå.

Time: Friday, 6 October, 13.00 (1 pm)
Place: Flexhallen, on the lower floor of Bildmuseet, Östra Strandgatan 30 B, Umeå

External reviewers: Kristina Lindström and Åsa Ståhl
Examining committee: Amelie Björck, Angus Carlyle, and Cecilia Åsberg

The doctoral defence is carried out in collaboration with the Malmö Faculty of Fine and Performing Arts, Lund University


Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, Umeå University