Listening: a Manifesto
By Susanna Jablonski & Cara Tolmie

Listening is attention.

Listening is giving attention to sound and action.

Listening is the acknowledgement that it is impossible to notice all sounds at once.

Listening is making choices about which sounds we hear.
Listening is assigning meaning and value to what we hear.

Listening is always a relationship.
Listening is translation.

Listening adapts continuously.
Listening is entangled with power.

Listening should be empathy.
Empathy is knowing that you don’t know who or what is in front of you.
Listening is practicing empathy.

Listening is finding new shared languages to communicate with.

Listening can move our minds.

Listening is external information pulled through our bodies, filtered through and nuanced by our past experience, taste, ignorance, pleasure, illness, memories, digestive system, trauma and loves.

Listening is fleshy and sensitive and fragile.
Listening can block out sounds from our intimate environment.

Listening omits.
It takes practice to realise what listening omits, but this realisation can tell us things about ourselves.

Every time we listen, it is both unique and collective.
Listening can be both introspective and collaborative.

Listening is not esoteric.
Listening is sweating.
Listening is hearing through other people’s sweat.
Listening is entangled with a myriad of emotions floating between bodies.

Listening is the magic feeling of short-term communality.
Listening is the magic feeling of long-term communality.

Listening is scientific as well as social.
Listening is waves bouncing off some surfaces and being absorbed by others.
Listening is an awareness of the vibrations that pound our bodies.
Listening is shaped as much by the grass outside of the location as it is by the concrete inside.
Listening includes the pain we feel from sitting on cold hard floors.
Listening includes the movement of the food in our gut.
Listening includes the imagination or memory of every sound ever made in this room.

Listening can be enhanced through saturation.
Listening is boredom mobilised.

We can always hear something new by listening.

Listening can be confusing.

Listening can become stagnant.

Listening is associative.
Listening evokes memories like smells do.

Listening always sticks to other pieces of information and in this way can never be neutral or pure.
Listening includes sensory information: temperature, humidity, hunger, tiredness, pain, smell, sight, touch.
Listening can amplify our senses.

Listening can be used as a weapon as well as a balm.
Sometimes we use the word ‘listen’ when we really mean ‘obey’.

Listening is shaped by social conventions.
Listening also has the capacity to detect the perverse beyond social conventions.
Listening can expose our conditioning.
Listening gives evidence.
Listening can tell us about our past as it wedges itself into our flesh.
Listening can tell us stories that we don’t want to hear.
Listening can tell us about the harm inflicted onto our own bodies and the harm we have inflicted on to other bodies throughout history.
Listening can tell us stories about ways we have been taught to distinguish “male” bodies from “female” bodies, “black” bodies from “white” bodies, “good” bodies from “bad” bodies, “worthy” bodies from “unworthy” bodies, “legitimate” bodies from “illegitimate” bodies, “legal” bodies from “illegal” bodies.
Listening might allow us to see our left hand as connected to every other left hand behind us, next to us and in front of us.

Listening is vivid.
Listening is wild.
Listening is fervent.
Listening is persuasive.
Listening is transformative.
Listening is shocking.
Listening is mundane.
Listening is material.
Listening is contact.
Listening is relaxation.
Listening is a muscle.
Listening requires maintenance and care.
Listening is a skill.
Listening is deviant.
Listening is fickle.
Listening is a trickster.
Listening is messy.