Copyright 2009

We Listen Nearby (2020-present)

We are living in disturbing times. While the current economic, social, biological, and political precarity of the moment is not new; and visible and pervasive violent white supremacy has been the architecture of this nation since its founding, we are facing the darkness of our present juncture with unclouded eyes.

The timing of this project is urgent in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter uprising. It arrives at this critical moment, shaped by conjuncted crises, with a long-term vision for creating a sustained conversation about race and a visible and accessible trace for the histories (and futures) that have informed who we are and the work that we do.

The Black Lives Matter Uprising of 2020 is born of a long legacy of brave resistance but has been fostered specifically in this moment by the outrage of yet another, and another, and another brutal killing of a Black person at the hands of the police. Experiencing a deadly pandemic under murderous capitalism, racism, and state violence, all of which disproportionately affect Black communities, what we have always known to be a condition of our reality is that we are the most expendable. Fighting against this reality, We Listen Nearby is an invitation, a provocation, an act: of care, collectivity, and becoming.

Centering the relationship between speaking and listening by interrogating the dual power to name or be silent, we will talk to each other. Over the phone, through sound and storytelling, this project considers genealogies and how we might conceptualize cultural heritages that transgress dogmatic definitions and borderlines and resists false singularities. Compelled by the multi-faceted work of Trinh T. Minh-ha, and in response to the virulent anti-Asian racism of the pandemic crisis and the urgency of the BLM uprising, We Listen Nearby brings together an intergenerational group of artists, activists, writers, and scholars to articulate the power and problematics of legacy and to think through the impact of our histories as migrants, immigrants, refugees, strangers, and friends and contend with the conditions of entangled biologized, enculturated racial politics.

The project pivots around overlapping pairs and trios of speakers and listeners who will be in conversation with each other, until a collective constellation of voices interlock and interweave to hold a mirror up to itself. We Listen Nearby offers the voice as testimony and material which visualizes sound, language as survival, and listening as a potential moment of collective transition and transformation. When we can’t be together physically, let’s allow our voices and our listening to be an intimate point of contact: witness to our collective survival.


This project was supported by The Capp Street Artist Residency at the Wattis Institute of Contemporary Art in 2020.