Coming to Know

Digital discourse program

Coming to Know is a series of three digital public events unfolding over three weeks in response to the three modalities — tuning, recording, digging — proposed by the exhibition A Slightly Curving Place, itself a response to the work of the self-taught acoustic archaeologist Umashankar Manthravadi. By using the techniques of the exhibition to listen to Umashankar’s own practices of listening, participants come together to make sense of premodern acoustic traces as the basis for new communities of thought in the present.

Each session comprises a conversation about practice with practitioners around whose work the exhibition is built, followed by a roundtable with scholars, critics and historians, who will each introduce a concept related to the modality in question, leading to a public discussion.

What does it mean to listen to the past? Listening assumes the existence of sound at a frequency we can hear. Coming to Know instead imagines sounds of the past as co-produced by artifacts and contemporary technologies of eliciting audibility. This explicitly mediated listening creates an interminable feedback loop — a mode of “coming to know” that never settles on knowledge.

“In proposing this kind of listening as a modality for perceiving the past, we set aside the visual techniques of knowledge historically deployed by the archaeological site, the museum, and the project of colonial modernity to possess the past as an object of timeless value capable of legitimating the present. We also set aside the public program as a didactic supplement to an alien, premodern place and time. Our aim instead is to ask how the process of coming to know a premodern past together transforms our sense of the knowledge held in common.” — Brooke Holmes (Princeton University) and Nida Ghouse (curator of A Slightly Curving Place)

With Vinit Agarwal, Anurima Banerji, Moushumi Bhowmik, Padmini Chettur, Nida Ghouse, Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Brooke Holmes, Alexander Keefe, Umashankar Manthravadi, Uzma Z. Rizvi, Regina Sarreiter, Vanessa Stovall, Phiroze Vasunia, Maarten Visser, Annette Wilke