The experience of the pandemic has changed our perception of the world. Thinking back to the weeks of the lockdown here in Rome, I remember in particular the transformation of the sound space. The city became silent and, in the silence, I suddenly began to hear other things: the croaking of hungry seagulls (which, as I read, eat the leftovers of the city's restaurants) and the roar of police helicopters on the rooftops.
Silence, noise and listening always have a social and even a political dimension. The sounds, yes, the noises that surround us always create a certain social space. Silencing someone is a violent act; at the same time, staying silent can be a gesture of resistance, and listening can be claimed as an active political action that gives space to unheard, neglected voices. "Hearing", writes composer Pauline Oliveros, "is something that happens involuntarily, while listening is a voluntary process that generates culture through training and experience". In Italian, the verb 'to feel' refers to both sounds and emotions.
The group exhibition Do you hear us? the Swiss Institute of Rome intends to trace these aspects. In doing so, the artistic works, some created specifically for the exhibition, others already in existence, explore a multi-layered theme. Artists and female artists investigate listening to migrant voices and memories and the meaning of music and singing in this context, they show us how silence can be a powerful and performative act of resistance, they invoke the roots of listening as an active political strategy of feminist movements of the sixties and seventies, or remind us how quickly we end up neglecting certain voices in the constant noise of social media.