A sonic lecture by the artist Satch Hoyt, followed by a live sound performance by Hoyt and Dirk Leyers, accompanied by acousmatic elements.
Imagine a counter-journey through a multi-media mixing board of Afro-sonic resistance beginning on the southwest coast of Africa in 1481 and playing back live the layered improvisations of musicians and artists from Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Portugal. With breath-taking scope, Hoyt has scrambled the signals of settlers and colonial theft. He chronicles here his archival research and exuberant artistic collaborations across a map of Afro-sensibility that resoundingly displays that culture is a living activity and a practice of creative hospitality. Tsitsi Ella Jaji, author of Africa in Stereo: Music, Modernism and Pan-African Solidarity (2014).
Hoyt’s performance Un-Muting activates a sonic restitution that attempts to unsettle colonial attitudes, including hegemonic custodian tropes, whilst reclaiming the Black past, present and future. The process entails gaining access to collections of musical instruments from the African continent that have been sequestered in the storage facilities of ethnographic museums since the advent of colonial invasions. Hoyt then releases these instruments from their state of dormancy and activates them by playing them and recording on site the sounds they emit.
To these recordings, the artist adds further electronic and acoustic layers in the studio, resulting in a performance of ancient and modern sounds that collapses time and highlights the contemporaneity of these historic instruments. This restoration of sonic identity not only returns the instruments to their original function but enables them to break free from their incarceration within Western institutions and the Western aesthetic canon.
Originally conceived in 2022 for Transition Exhibition at the Brücke-Museum in Berlin, Un-Muting will be performed in further iterations later this year at MARKK Hamburg, the British Museum London, and other institutions that hold significant collections of musical instruments from the African continent.
Of Jamaican-British descent, visual artist and musician Satch Hoyt was born in London and currently lives in Berlin. His diverse body of work – which ranges from sculpture, sound installation and painting to musical performance and recording – is unified by an investigation into what the artist defines as the ‘Eternal Afro-Sonic Signifier’ and its movement across and amid the cultures, peoples, places and times of the African diaspora. As curator Rujeko Hockley noted in Prospect 4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp (2017), for Hoyt – a spiritualist and a believer in ritual and retention – those four evocative words refer to the ‘mnemonic network of sound’ that was enslaved Africans’ ‘sole companion during the forced migration of the Middle Passage. It was, and is, a hard-won somatic toolkit for remembering where you come from and who you are – and, maybe, where you’re going – against all the many odds.’
Selected exhibitions and projects include: Broken Music Vol. 2, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2023); Pressure, Kingston Biennial, National Gallery of Jamaica (2022); Afro-Sonic Mapping, HKW, Berlin (2019); Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers, Somerset House, London (2019); Respect: Hip Hop Style and Wisdom, Oakland Museum of California (2018); Dakart, Dakar Biennale of Contemporary African Art, Senegal (2018).
Dirk Leyers is a producer, DJ and collaborator who has been at the forefront of electronic music for more than a decade. Intrigued by instruments from an early age, Leyers’s passion for music developed after he moved to Cologne in the late 1990s and met Matias Aguayo, with whom he formed the ground-breaking project Closer Musik on the Cologne-based label Kompakt. Closer Musik had a significant impact on the field of minimal/ambient techno with the single One, Two, Three: No Gravity (2000) and the album After Love (2002).
As a solo artist, Leyers launched a new wave of experimental electronica with his EPs Wellen (2005, Kompakt) and Alma (2008, Klang Elektronik). This success led to him being in great demand as a sound engineer, producer, remixer and musician, lending his definitive style to recordings by Hoyt as well as by Alter Ego, Hunee, Khan, Mouse on Mars and many more.
Since 2012, Leyers has been working on the project Africaine 808 alongside Nomad Uno. Their releases have appeared on the New York-based labels Golf Channel Recordings and W.T. Records. Leyers has also worked on more than 100 productions for German public radio. His compositions were featured in the radio play Auressio, which was broadcast by Bayerischer Rundfunk in February 2010, and ARD-Radio-Feature in 2011. He directed Import Export Bamako for Westdeutscher Rundfunk in 2013.