Format and Inspiration

What does Freedom sound like? Curating Diversity symposium, Part 2

What does Freedom Sound Like

Open Space Format

The Curating Diversity symposium, taking place online on Thursday May 6th and Friday May 7th is organized as a participatory, “open space” symposium where our ambition is to approach, discuss and process issues related to decolonizing and developing non-colonial ways of curating contemporary music and sound art.

In an Open Space, participants collectively create and manage the agenda and content of parallel working sessions around a central theme.

The overall theme in this symposium is What does freedom sound like? An opening workshop will invite all participants to propose specific subjects for discussion under this umbrella. These subjects could be, for example, theoretical, practical or artistic in nature. The topics will then be processed in smaller groups, in parallel breakout sessions. Participants can freely choose which of the breakout sessions to attend. The results of each session will be presented to all participants, and a plan for action collectively developed.

We wish to acknowledge that a lot of important work has already been done in this area. Artists, musicians, researchers, activists, curators are continuously developing non-colonial ways of producing and curating contemporary music and sound. With the format of the open space, this knowledge can be built upon immediate and substantial ways. Hierarchies between presenters, panelists and listeners are dissolved, providing the ground for dialogue and development regardless of position. We also believe this format provides a space in which to process complex issues in a spirit of trust, compassion, freedom, listening, openness and care.

The symposium will also include, on May 6th, a number of collective listening sessions led by Hardi Kurda, Robert Machiri & Memory Biwa, Marshall Trammell, Joseph Kamaru, Atiyyah Khan & Grant Jurius and Ariel William Orah. These sessions offer a space to listen to music and sound as a group and to reflect on it collectively. At the end of each day, participants are welcome to attend the online Memories in Music festival, with a number of world premieres beginning at 8 p.m.

On the way to this event, we had the honour of working with an Advisory Board consisting of Memory Biwa, Du Yun, Candice Hopkins, Lee Walters and meLê yamomo, with whom we discussed a number of issues related to decolonizing and developing non-colonial practices in curating.

We are deeply grateful to each member of the Advisory Board and for the very valuable, insightful and vivid conversations that arose from the meetings.

On the following, we would like to offer an inspirational frame for the symposium and its self-generated open spaces by sharing some of the main points of these very valuable conversations on the complex and challenging issues of colonialism, decolonization and non-colonial practices.


In the first part of this ongoing symposium held in September 2020, the composer George Lewis referred to philosopher Arnold I. Davidson’s perspective on the possibilities of decolonization and non-colonialism: “Multiplication of perspectives means multiplication of possibilities.”

With this in mind, we set out on a journey with the Advisory Board to further develop a multiple set of key points, possibilities and challenges:

  • The importance of plans for concrete, long term actions
    Establishing a global network of non-colonial practitioners
    Creating digital and physical spaces for sharing knowledge in an open discourse
    Integrate knowledge from the work around the globe that has already been done
  • Practical challenges
    Offering mentoring roles to relate to practical issues such as fundraising and creating survival tools for artists, presenters et al.
  • A critical investigation of the term decolonization
    Is decolonization a proper and valuable framing of the challenges?
  • A multiplicity of colonialisms
    There are many different colonialisms, each representing different and insidious frameworks to dismantle.
  • Music education outside the formal systems
    establishing independent, fringe education programmes thus reaching out to communities where formal music education is not possible
  • Embodiment and care
    To focus on creating a noncolonial musical upbringing for children and develop a vision for non-colonial food chains of music and sound.
  • Dissolving sound hierarchies and a colonial recording industry
  • The question of archives and sound collections
    challenging the notion of colonial archives and sound collections
    repatriating sounds, music and songs

A number of questions also arose on the way to choosing an Open Space format for the symposium, which can also be used for further dialogue and discussions.

  • What is the relationship between a host and the guest?
  • Who is inviting and who is invited?
  • How can we change the very terms of the conversation?
  • Who is asking the questions and who is responding to them?
  • What is our role in the space? Who are the people coming to this space and what is their role?
  • For whom are we doing this? Who is profiting from this?

We very much look forward to spending two days with you!

With all best wishes,
Julia Gerlach, Akademie der Künste Berlin
Lisa Benjes, Initiave Neue Musik Berlin
Thorbjørn Tønder Hansen, Ultima Festival, Oslo / Sounds Now

Advisory Board
Memory Biwa, Du Yun, Candice Hopkins, Lee Walters and meLê yamomo