The Careless Curator Cantata


Presentation for the Curating Sonic Performance panel, curated by Allen S. Weiss.

Other panelists: Lou Mallozzi, Tracie Morris, Fred Moten.

Part of the 7th Annual Curating Symposium, New York University, Department of Performance Studies, April 28, 2023.

The presentation delves and dwells on the poetics of the intersections between sound, curating, and performance.

In order to draw out the possible productive tensions that stem from these intersections the following is replete with assonances and dissonances—this is partly due to its modular nature, the presentation is comprised of bits and pieces, some brand new, some older, all assembled in a series of cantos, and remixed for this occasion.

What follows is a take on Allen’s prompt for the panel regarding the genealogy and the actuality of sonic art and aesthetics. It outlines a provisional elemental futurity—by this I mean that there is an implicit aspirational ethics at play in the following.

Curator Credo Convolutions

Adapted excerpts from the As X As series.

Sung Air Stereo

In ex in ex hale hale.

Let’s start with this rhythmic, the autonomic (non-)negotiation.

The step before we step. The already sung. The step we need to take before stepping.

The tuning. The mixing before the beat, before sync. The pause pre-agreement. Then the two movements find temporal sequence, they line time, spatially centered but heard thrice: via bone induction and binaurally.

But the system is not immune to interferences, scrambles, stutters. It fact, it can be prone to them, if nudged.

Let me illustrate what became a chaos canto further in the following canto.

Mixer Holes

Two holes. For Microhole, I made the hole on the left using a microphone as a hammer, during the exhibition the hole played back the sound of its making. The one on the right was made by a professional art installer for the same exhibition as the first piece, it played back the sound of << I >> (2003), an audio work based entirely on recordings I made of someone who could whistle out of his eyes because he had enlarged tear ducts.

Stereo Types

Adapted excerpts from the Gallery Guide: Through and Through series.


Adapted excerpts from the Gallery Guide: Through and Through series. Powerpoint slides and text included here.








Rhythmic Dictation

Excerpt from Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée (1982)

I’ll let Cha’s words arrest this hale.



Consider the wall as a stage on the vertical.

Consider these holes as ears, or as mouths, as both input and output. As microphone and speaker. As bidirectional holes in the head.

Consider them as a stereo pair, but unbalanced, each speaker a different build and brand.

Consider how the sonic disturbs both the curating and the performance, how the performance disrupts both the curating and the sonic, how the curating disorders both the performance and the sonic.


Consider a hole in the center, not part of the object but nevertheless constitutive of it. Without the hole, function is forestalled, the object cannot spin, the sound cannot sound.

Consider a hole in sound’s center, usually unnoticeable, not part of the sound but somehow involved.

Consider the size and shape of the hole. With a clean hole of the correct dimensions, the sound object plays back normally. With a roughly rendered hole, the object might warble or skip (which might be desirable).

Consider how the background impacts the foreground, how the backup singers burrow their singsong through the underside of their listening.


Consider the depth of the wall. How that vertical stage appears, absorbs, even: absolves, refracts, and reflects.

Consider that the whole (both the sound and its hole) needs a playback device that amplifies to reach an audience.

Consider that the maker of the object is sometimes interested in the hole and knows a thing or two about it.

Consider that the producer of the whole is continuously surrounded by objects and might be capable of mixing sounds together in a way that augments their respective conversational properties.


Consider producer as maker, and maker as producer. Holes as both crude and clean. Walls as solid but porous. Objects as delimited yet dependent.

Consider holes as conductors with endless recombinant plays of representation up their sleeves.

Consider the distinctions between sound object and hole to be blurry and messy unless you have disciplinary aspirations.

Consider this para-center as the sine qua non of the careless caretaker, the curious concierge, the carelesstaker.