Tuesday 15 May | Curating Sound for Difficult Histories

Curating Sound for Difficult Histories

This event is held as part of Arts Week 2018 and in collaboration with Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, University of Hertfordshire and BIRMAC (Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture

Birkbeck Cinema,  43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD [View Map]

Tuesday 15 May 2018 | 14: 00-21: 00

Organising Committee  :
  • Kim Akass, University of Hertfordshire
  • Silke Arnold-de Simine, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Janet McCabe, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Diana Popecsu, Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (Birkbeck, University of London)


The talks, screenings and discussions explore how soundscapes – music, noise, voices, speech and silence – can evoke difficult histories. Scholars and practitioners will discuss what it is to create and edit sound, compose music and produce sonic landscapes for the Holocaust. By investigating sound in film, music composition, installation art and museum exhibitions this event will address questions around representation, remembering, authenticity and affect.

Schedule : 

14.00             Welcome and introduction by the organisers

14.15             Music and composition : Prof. Stephen Frosh (Birkbeck)

This illustrated talk offers a psychoanalytic reading of Steve Reich’s composition "Different Trains" (1988), and how the piece sonically explores the complex issues of how to respond to trauma, chaired by Janet McCabe

15.15               Installation art and soundscapes : Esther Shalev, contemporary artist

'Based in Paris, Esther Shalev-Gerz is internationally recognized for her seminal contributions to the field of art in the public realm and her consistent investigation into the construction of memory, history, the natural world, democracy and cultural identities. Her works challenge the notion and practice of portraiture and consider how its qualities may contribute to contemporary discourse about the politics of representation.'

Today she discusses how she uses testimony, the human voice and its silences in her work, chaired by Diana Popescu. Works which could contribute to the day, exploring 'the territory between telling and listening to reveal how individual histories and testimonies, from different perspectives, co-exist to challenge, affirm and integrate divergent forms of testimony' :

The Berlin Inquiry

Does Your Image Reflect Me?

Inseparable Angels: Imaginary House for Walter Benjamin 

Between Listening and Telling: Last Witnesses, Auschwitz

16.00 – 16.30             Tea Break

16.30               Sound in museum exhibitions :  Ramon De Marco,  sound designer with Idee und Klang Audio-Design, based in Basel.

Sound and exhibition, considering the sounds / voices of survivors and perpetrators : overlapping voices / contested testimony and the sound of bearing witness / question of silence / listening and speaking, linked to ways of remembering and memory cultures . This illustrated talk considers sound design in the exhibition / museum space considers exhibition sound design, with a focus on in the new Holocaust Galleries at the Imperial War Museum, chaired by Silke Arnold-de Simine

17.15 :          Holocaust, film and sound editing  : Val Kuklowsky, visiting professor (Herts), sound designer and editor, and audio supervisor,  based in Hollywood. This illustrated talk dissects the use of sound and role of sound editing in Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015), chaired by Adele Fletcher (sound post producer / University of Hertfordshire).

This is followed by a screening

18: 00 : Son of Saul (Saul fia, László Nemes, 2015. 107mins. Hungary)