Tonotopia at Violence of Inscriptions

Public lecture:
Tonotopia: Music for Cochlear Implants by Tom Tlalim
Violence of Inscriptions Public program at HAU Hebbel am Ufer,

Cochlear implants are the first available commercial sensory prostheses. These enable people with profound hearing loss to perceive sound. The implants comprise of a long electrode that is inserted into the cochlea through a hole in the skull, a signal receiver that is placed under the scalp, and a digital processor that analyses sound algorithmically and converts them into electrical charge. During an invasive surgical process the biological sensory infrastructure is often lost and replaced by the electrode which emits electrical pulses onto the exposed nerve ends. As these implants are designed for speech, music and complex sounds become harsh and dissonant. As Cochlear Implants are more widely available they are predicted to be connected to mobile web, location-aware and to benefit from cloud computing and AI. Services such as instantaneous inner ear translation are therefore not far away, as our senses become mediated by digital processes.

The artist Tom Tlalim will talk about his work with Cochlear Implant users, and discuss whether subjectivity and sensory experience might soon become mediated and whether the human sense itself might become a contested space in which the health services, biomedical industries, and finance may soon compete for influence on our bodily sensory apparatus. He will connect these biopolitical questions to the broader debate on the integrity of the body, referring to examples from his project, Tonotopia: Music for Cochlear Implants, that is currently on show at “The Future Starts Here” in the Victoria and Albert museum in London. The work includes recorded interviews sonic artefacts, objects, stories and experiences that carry meaning for the participants as they negotiate their hybrid sonic experience.