By Jade Barget and Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee

01 – Tongue 

Nameless. echoes, spectres, hisses speaks in many tongues and astray sounds. Cajoling out apparitions of left-behind tones, the screening turns away from the centre, moving to the periphery. In this instance, the ear becomes an instrument—that of musicality but also disruption—in defiance of European modernity.1 By the words of Trinh T. Minh-ha, ‘the other is never to be known unless one arrives at a suspension of language.’2 By re-engaging it with the sound of non-dominant languages, the ear becomes a site of potential for de-essentialising a homogenised understanding of sound. When used in tandem with the mother tongue, the master-slave bind is interfered, and the binary power dynamic is exorcised. Native speak holds us from slipping back to becoming what Nazry Bahrawi describes as ‘indentured labourers of tongue, unpalatable slaves to the English palate’.3

The muting of othered sounds is political in the face of a history obsessed with a singular, metanarrative. Historian Shlomo Sand notes in a self-reflexive account:

[Historians] deliberately expunged various ‘savage’ cultures, regional or provincial, to give pre-eminence as far as possible to the hegemonic super culture; likewise, dialects had to disappear in the face of the official language issuing from the central state.4

1  Sofia Lemos, 'Listening to time at sound's limits' in The Contemporary Journal, Issue 3, March 2020

2   Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), 1989, p.76

3  Nazry Bahrawi,
‘To thrive, Malay language needs to accommodate taboo, distasteful texts and thoughts from strange places' in Budi Kritik, (Singapore: Ethos Books), 2019, Eds. Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib and Nurul Fadiah Johari, p.4

4  Shlomo Sand, Twilight of History,  (London and New York: Verso), 2017, Trans. David Fernbach, p.175

02 – Listening

What does it mean for a being to be immersed entirely in listening, formed by listening or in listening, listening with all his being? What secret is at stake when one truly listens, that is, when one tries to capture or surprise the sonority rather than the message? What secret is yielded, hence also made public, when we listen to a voice, an instrument, or a sound just for itself? What does it mean to exist according to listening, for it and through it, what part of experience and truth is put into play?

Nameless. echoes, spectres, hisses asks, together with Jean-Luc Nancy, what secret is yielded when we listen, when we deflect the gaze and its dominance over other senses, fleeing the despotic quality of speech and its abstraction? Philosopher Adriana Cavarero in For More than One Voice argues speech has been devocalised and abstracted to reach the soundless, universal dimension of thought preferred by the West philosophical tradition she defines as ‘the domain of a world that does not come out of any throat of flesh’. Led by Cavarero, Nameless. echoes, spectres, hisses dedicates itself to the sense of hearing and its subjective, uncertain, hesitant, disappearing and unstable plane.

In this contingent space, the act of listening is an exercise in openness of the self. Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University David Scott in Stuart Hall’s Voice, Intimations of an Ethics of Receptive Generosity posits the uniqueness and strength of the listening self—a person able to listen and open themselves to the sounds, voices and histories of others. This attitude, Scott argues, constitutes receptive generosity valuing giving as much as receiving, speaking as much as listening and therefore challenging colonial dynamics of masterful teaching. By paying attention to the tonalities of the screening, a redistribution of power between the high-sounding and the hushed can become a possibility.

5  Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening, (New York: Fordham University Press), 2007, p.4

6  Ariana Cavarero, For More than One Voice, (Stanford: Stanford University Press), 2005, p.8

7 David Scott, Stuart Hall’s Voice: Imitations of an Ethics of Receptive Generosity, (Durham and London: Duke University Press), 2017, p.69
03 – Tempo

Can we make a film without time? This inquiry raised by Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva stemmed from their research into listening as a methodology to collapse time structures—opening the time departed and acknowledging its life in the present and future. Delving into slavery, the film evidences how political discourses diffuse responsibility by relegating violent actions to a distant past, and how a practice of listening might evidence yesteryear’s continuation into the present day. When time structures are shattered, accountability becomes harder to withhold.

The screening subscribes to a multifarious body of time, expanding beyond hard-coded systems. Disorientation—moving not forward but astray—is cherished here. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s contemplation on the dynamic of Eastern vs Western time is an archetypal relation—the former embracescyclical movements, the latter subscribes to linear progression.8 Moving beyond a dualistic approach, how might time manifest in the manifold? Could it dwell in a vacuum? Coined by Christina Sharpe, residence time is a holding space of those whose lives were taken in the Middle Passage.9 Never entirely departed, waters continue to carry the atoms of the dead, their biomass and souls steeped in a continuum. Alternate veins of time dissolves rigid history, unclogging the stream for suppressed narratives to flow once more.

Shattering time structures and opening up the past takes on a renewed urgency in the context of the anti-racist protests spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement. From the stillness imposed by the pandemic we began to revolt, gathering in numbers again, forming allyship, breaking silences, unlearning and learning and imagining a survival based on radical change. The lockdown showed us the systems we thought were unalterable and eternal come to a rest; the capitalist tempo slowed near inertia. In this altered texture of time, the past’s existence in the present is brought to light, calling for accountability.

Ryuichi Sakamoto, ‘Best of Times. Interview with Ryuichi Sakamoto’ in Real Review, Issue 9, 2020

9 Christina Sharpe, In the Wake,
(Durham and London: Duke University Press), 2016, p.19
04 – Ghosts

The screening is a h(a)unting ground, host to different ghosts. Spectres echo and hiss—past, present and future phantoms of colonisations, warfares and uprisings manifesting aloud. Song X by Pathompon Mont Tesrateep bewitches the audience in its languor to perform a ritual for the afterlife. Inviting us beyond spectatorial witnessing, Song X holds a collective mourning, basking in the ritual space of cinema.10 In other times, when mourning becomes an impossibility, chanting as an act of presencing arises. Benjamin Tausig records the streets of Bangkok's Ratchaprasong district in revolt. The protest chants established a collective stage to express trauma. Inviting the spectres of the unjustly killed to return, the resistance shaped a ritualistic engagement between living and dead.

Sung Tieu collapses historical events from the Cold War and Vietnam War—an alleged sonic weapon heard in Havana is overlaid on visuals of the Mekong Delta where once American-led psychological operations broadcasted the cries of ghosts of dead Vietnamese soldiers. The supernatural is summoned again in Russell Morton’s Saudade, an ode to non-western speak and inherited superstitions. DIVISI62 reminds us of the hauntedness of our present by the ghosts of the future. The group invoke the spectres of tomorrow—neo-colonialism—in a hallucinatory journey titled Kabut Zaman.

10  Sohl Lee, ‘Cinema as Ritual Space’ in Asian Cinema and the Use of Space in Interdisciplinary Perspective, Eds. Lilian Chee and Edna Lim, (New York: Routledge, 2015), p. 173 
05 – The unspoken

The title, Nameless. echoes, spectres, hisses experiments with punctuation, suggesting an existence within and without language. The focus on what does not have a name, or what cannot be described—namelessness—runs across. Sriwhana Spong’s having-seen-snake expresses a pre-linguistic experience: the foreknowledge of a snake. The animal is brought to awareness by intuition, by instinct, a perception beyond the five senses. A scientist is interviewed on the process of naming a newly found species—of pulling nature into culture. The film’s two narratives and accompanying text by the artist nurtures a state of knowing independent from language and meaning, basking in the before—a plane of possibilities, intuition and embodied feeling; never settled.

Pathompon Mont Tesrateep’s Song X is a silent song for the afterlife. Dedicated to a departed friend, the piece attempts at bridging time and space. The moving image swells in its liminal space, trancing the viewer in a state of indiscriminate tranquil.

The age of mist or the mist of the ages, both possible translations for Kabut Zaman by DIVISI62, propose opacity and murkiness as a mode of expression. The work distorts images of spices, landscapes and rock formations into an ominous, morphing and breathing totality. It recalls hallucinatory inner states encountered in dreams, the influence of psychotropes, the edges of sanity, or supernatural experiences.

Here we linger—in opacity, where meaning is suspended, in the leftover inexpressible, the instinctive and never learned.

06 – Homecoming

Nameless. echoes, spectres, hisses tunes into the chimings and utterances of Southeast Asia—a contested region. Jennifer Lynn Stoever writes on sounding the other: ‘accents, dialects, “slang,” and extraverbal utterances, as well as ambient sounds—have flattened the complex range of sounds actually produced by people of colour, marking the sonic colour line’s main contour.’11  Perhaps, it is in the region’s alterity that finds commonality—and empathy—with othered oral manifestations. Listen carefully, and you will hear the faint whispers haunting the screen, to what Anderson Warwick and Ricardo Roque describe as ‘a sort of spectral presence disconcerting claims to expertise and control’.12

By investigating physical and political geography through sound, we drift into the fluidity of place. We come to an eventual doze, in hallucination, a state molded by the shapeshifters of non-place. Nameless. echoes, spectres, hisses, whilst tracing the sonic lines of Southeast Asia, is,  ultimately, lead astray. The passage: environmental soundscapes Thai jungles; unearthed languages of Kristang; resonating rare earth material; weaponised echoes in the Mekong Delta; hisses from the herpetological realm. Perhaps, it is a delight that it may never come to rest in silence. A sentence left trailing, a shadow forever in pursuit of its object.

11  Jennifer Lynn Stoever, The Sonic Color Line,
(New York: NYU Press), 2016, p.11

12 Anderson Warwick and Ricardo Roque, ‘Imagined Laboratories’ in Journal of Southeast Asian Studies,
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 2018, p.370