October 22, 2021–November 6, 2021

An Archaeology of Sound

October 22, 2021–November 6, 2021 | Alserkal Arts Foundation

Study group with Nida Ghouse

Starts October 22, 2021

Ends November 6, 2021

Venue Alserkal Arts Foundation

Warehouse 50/51


The invention of the phonograph fundamentally reconfigured how ethnographers recorded and listened to cultures. But not every culture has been recorded in this way. How might we listen to a past that existed before the development of sound reproduction technology, for instance? Archaeologists dig into the earth to assemble cultures of the past as objects of knowledge. Is sound too buried under layers of time? Can it be excavated? What tools would be needed? And what senses activated? If we consider the voice as the earliest sound recording device that it is, could we posit the body as an archive of listening as well? When listening becomes a way of digging, there may be nothing to accumulate. Sometimes someone hears something even though the sound itself is lost or faded.

By asking what it means to listen to the past, this study group draws awareness to sound as a social event and to its absence which remains. It will comprise reading, screening, and listening-based discussions as well as conversations with collaborators.

Taking place at the Alserkal Arts Foundation on weekends from 22 October - 6 November, this study group is free and open to participants from the UAE and upto two applicants from the MEASA (Middle East, Africa and South Asia) region, contingent upon travel restrictions. Travel bursaries will be provided by the Alserkal Arts Foundation.

We encourage applicants with interest in sound, archaeology and what listening can be.

Application deadline: 15 September

To apply, please fill in this form.

Get in touch if you have any questions.


Nida Ghouse is a writer and curator. She recently curated A Slightly Curving Place (2020) at HKW, in response to the practice of Umashankar Manthravadi a self-taught acoustic archaeologist. Her essay, “The Whistle in the Voice,” appeared in Ankersentrum, accompanying Natascha Süder Happelmann’s presentation for the German Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale (archive books 2019), and is followed by annotations in Beyond Repair (archive books 2020). She began her practice with the curatorial program at the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, was the first recipient of the FICA-Delfina Research Fellowship in partnership with Iniva and Goldsmith's Curatorial/Knowledge PhD programme in London, and has served as director of Mumbai Art Room, an experimental exhibition space in Bombay. Previously, she co-curated Parapolitics: Cultural Freedom and the Cold War (2017), and is co-editing its forthcoming publication (Sternberg Press 2021), also at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. It includes her essay “Charged Objects of Former Reverence.”

Photo Credit: A Slightly Curving Place, Installation view. Photo: Laura Fiorio/HKW