Museum Why? The Art Museum as a Listening Site

The Art Museum as a Listening Site were a performance lecture presented at Museum why? Practice, Agency and Knowledge in the Art Museum conference organized by the Museum Why? Network and Center for Practice-based Art Studies.


Thursday the 23rd of May 2024, University of Copenhagen.

The performance included:

One banner for listening as resistance

– Digital slides in the color of the Flag of Palestine

One Uniform for Listening

An Invitation for a Listening Site

– A series of index cards with handwritten intentions

– One paper on the subject to be read for the audience

Fragments from the paper:

Practical note:

During this presentation, feel welcome to close your eyes, daydream and drift off. All your different ways of being together and listen in this space is welcome, and I hope and trust that you will listen to yourself and your needs.

The Art Museum

is a complex thing to define. And so, rather than using a short-coming universal definition I will propose that we acknowledge how we all have different theoretical and conceptual references as well as embodied experiences with the art museum. For this presentation, allow yourself to bring your own art museum with you.

We may think of the Art Museum as a site where our listening is being misunderstood as a service, as a passive or polite mode of being; as something that supports a space for the gaze.

Often, listening occurs as a sign of respect, of submission, domestication; listening becomes tamed, colonized, rehearsed, and disciplined; normally at the art museum we may demonstrate to everyone else how we are able of listening correctly, able suppress the affective and critical nature of listening.


What does it mean then to listen in a space created for the gaze?

Do we need to mobilize our listening, create a Listening Site in such a place for us to actually listen?

In what ways may a different kind of listening, an untamed and active form of listening, disrupt and disorientate the structures of the art museum as a place of the gaze?


What does it mean to listen with rather than to something, someone, somewhere?

As we listen, how does it then affect us; that we are also being listened to; that we are being listened with; as a group of listeners supporting each other and those yet to join?

And how can the Listening Site nurture forms of knowledges that the art museum finds difficult to embody and voice? How may the Listening Site be a possible learning site for being with such difficulties?


What reshaping of agency in art museum might take place at the Listening Site, in favor for decolonial, speculative, and community supporting practices?

The Listening Site listens to Sara Ahmed as she asks us to remember how we are of a bodily-orientation before of an ‘intellectual’- orientation, and that any orientation is being made possible through diverse and highly situated, historical, economic, and social processes – that bodies are never only just bodies. She writes that:


“The lines that allow us to find our way, that are “in front” of us, also make certain things, and not others, available. What is available is what might reside as a point on this line. When we follow specific lines, some things become reachable and others remain, or even become, out of reach. Such exclusions – the constitution of a field of unreachable objects – are the indirect consequences of following lines that are before us: we do not have to consciously exclude those things that are not “on the line.” The direction we take excludes things for, before we even get there.” (Ahmed, 2007:14-15).


A Listening Site seek to attend to the lines of orientation; through an untamed listening you may attempt to sense what other lines also exist behind you, beside and among you, in-between other known and not yet fully formed lines.

The Listening Site seeks to attend to one’s processual unfolding.


We may ask, in what way, are we all in here orientated, already specifically and differently from each other? We might not grasp each other lines of orientation, but the Listening Site welcome these different orientations.


What lines and orientations allow us to listen?

What lines does listening alter, and how does listening affect them?


How may listening, and treating the art museum as a Listening Site, help us in engaging with the work of reorientation?

How is listening an orientating forces in its own right?


When asking, in what ways does the Listening Site orientate you, it may answer; I orient by disorientation. When listening, untamed and undomesticated, you might experience your limits; you sense how there is more than what you can recognize; you become confronted not only with what you don’t know, but also by the unknowable.

The listening Site asks for a bodily reorientation before an intellectual reorientation. Therefore, we might listen to Silvia Federici, who in her book, Beyond the Periphery of the Skin, writes that: ‘Our struggle, then, must begin with the reappropriation of our body, the revaluation and rediscovery of its capacity for resistance, and expansion and celebration of its powers, individual and collective. Attending to the body’s intrinsic powers is to learn from its languages, its rhythms.’


She continues: ‘Our bodies have reasons that we need to learn, rediscover, reinvent. We need to listen to their language as the path to our health and healing, as we need to listen to the language and rhythms of the natural world as the path to the health and healing of the earth.’ (Federici, 2020:123).


The Listening Site invites to you rest as well as dance, to care for the body as our listening and art museum inhabiting device.

The Listening Site is the possibility to feel / think together… critically, artistically, differently Rather than projecting and sending out one’s convictions, you listen; lean into others and allow yourself to contain a larger shared we; other histories, experiences, understandable to you or not.















The Listening Site invites an untamed, disorientated and non-linear form of listening as it enables us to engage intertwined temporalities. We listen with layers of identities, histories, known as well as unknown manifestations of life, interrelations and doubts.

Nurturing a critical listening and proposing the art museum as a Listening Site involves understanding that everything is evoked in site-specific temporal spatial contexts. It implies acknowledging that NOTHING REPEATS.

































Federici concludes regarding the body, that ‘since the power to be affected and to effect, to be moved and to move, a capacity that is indestructible, exhausted only with death, is constitutive of the body, there is an immanent politics residing in it; the capacity to transform itself, others, and change the world.’ (Federici, 2020:124).


The Listening Site strive to claim and take responsibility for such a power and politics in an attempt to affect the art museum.


– Ahmed, Sara (2007). Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham: Duke University Press.

– Campt, Tina (2017). Listening to Images. London: Duke University Press.

– Federici, Silvia (2020). Beyond the Periphery of the Skin – Rethinking, Remaking, and Reclaiming the Body in Contemporary Capitalism. Oakland: PM Press.

– Labelle, Brandon (2021). Acoustic Justice. Listening, Performativity, and the Work of Reorientation. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.