Schizo Sonics by Nik Nowak

The KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art presents the program series SOUND(ING) SYSTEMS on the occasion of Nik Nowak's exhibition Schizo Sonics in the KINDL's Kesselhaus. The symposium and the three performances will be live-streamed in March, April and May.

SOUND(ING) SYSTEMS examines the history of the Cold War via the so-called ‘Lautsprecherkrieg’ (loudspeaker war) and the ‘Studio am Stacheldraht’ (Studio at the Barbed Wire) in Berlin. The program focuses on the surprising political entanglements of Jamaican and Korean sound systems in the global struggle between the great powers fighting for ideological influence; the controversial use of acoustic weapons in Cuba as well as the politicization of subcultural movements. A critical analysis of the ideological demands made on sound systems separate to the Cold War, examining the global transformations of sound system cultures

A) Symposium (live stream)
20 March 2021, 12 – 8.30 pm
The Cold War Continuum:
The Role of Sound Systems in the Vibrational Delusions of Sonic Warfare Symposium designed and moderated by Jessica Edwards (UK / DE)

Participants: Prof. Louis Chude-Sokei (USA), Sébastien Carayol (FR), Sarah Farina (DE), Dr. Steve Goodman (UK), Martin Kowalski (DE), Dr. Kerstin Meißner (DE), Dr. Bodo Mrozek (DE), Prof. Helmut Müller-Enbergs (DE), Nik Nowak (DE)

B) Performance I (live stream)
21 March 2021, 8 – 9 pm
A War of Decibels: SCHIZO SONICS live
Live performance with Nik Nowak, afrobionix, Infinite Livez, Konstantin Tschechow, Moritz Stumm

The live interpretation of the audio piece A War of Decibels of Nik Nowak’s sound installation Schizo Sonics has been adapted for the audience to digest from the comfort of their home in live stream.

C) Performance II (live stream)
10 April 2021, 8 – 10 pm
From A Whisper to A Riot
Performance with DJ Uta, Sarah Farina and Perera Elsewhere

D) Performance III (live stream)
24 April 2021, 8 – 9 pm
Crossing Borders
Performance with DJ Scotch Rolex with Lord Spikeheart and Shin Hyo Jin

Nik Nowak. Schizo Sonics
until 15 May 2021

With Schizo Sonics, Nik Nowak will realise a large-scale audio-visual installation comprising two monumental sound sculptures in the Kesselhaus at the KINDL, in which he engages with the phenomenon of sound as a weapon and medium of propaganda: Panzer and The Mantis confront each other in the 20-meter-high Kesselhaus and point to political proxy wars that have been—and continue to be—waged with sound in different contexts.

The insectoid sound sculpture The Mantis (2019) refers to the so-called war of loudspeakers that was waged acoustically on the border between East and West Germany from 1961 to 1965. After the East German government severely disrupted a speech by Konrad Adenauer at the Brandenburg Gate with loudspeaker announcements and music from the other side of the wall, the West Berlin Senate, in cooperation with the broadcaster RIAS and with the support of the United States, founded the Studio am Stacheldraht, a mobile unit of trucks and VW buses that broadcast news and moral appeals to the border guards in the East using state-of-the-art loudspeaker systems. On the 16th anniversary of the GDR, known as Republic Day, the war of loudspeakers ended on both sides. Mobile sound systems are still used for propaganda and psychological warfare—for example, on the border between North and South Korea.

In form and function, Panzer (2011) is based on Jamaican reggae sound systems—gigantic walls of loudspeakers with powerful subwoofers that make sound palpable not only acoustically but also physically. In “sound clashes” musicians compete against each other with their sound systems, making use of the bass-heavy genres of dub and dub reggae. In the 1970s the musical phenomenon of sound systems was increasingly instrumentalised by the rival political parties in Jamaica: on one side the Cuba-friendly, socialist PNP and on the other the conservative JLP, which is said to have had ties to the CIA. Due to the politicisation of sound systems and their context, these competitions developed into an ideological proxy war within the Cold War, which culminated in destabilising street battles.

In his installation in the Kesselhaus, Nik Nowak juxtaposes the two sound sculptures in a border-like situation in order to tie together the different historical, political, and cultural discourses. In the 40-minute audio work produced specifically for Schizo Sonics, four episodes combine narrative elements and historical original recordings, including some from the Studio am Stacheldraht, with sounds from nature and a physically palpable bassline to form a complex composition, the sound of an ideological split.

KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art
Am Sudhaus 3, 12053 Berlin