1. Notes about the context: Green Buenos Aires
I have worked in Buenos Aires on three occasions over the last two years and experienced its street feminisms each time. The word « feminism » is written in capital and lower case letters on city walls and magazines. The word seems to infiltrate daily conversations from coffee shops to taxis, from supermarkets to elevators. One day, while walking down the street, I saw a public works notice about women safety: the workers won’t whistle nor harass women in the street, the notice said. I found myself speaking with young feminist activists who were fighting with and for the rights of the indigenous women local communities, or with male friends trying to deconstruct their masculinity. I learned that beyond « nosotras » or « nosotros », the feminine and masculin version of « us », there exists a third inclusive way « nosotres » which is now becoming popular in common discourses across universities, newspapers, and daily conversations. For the first time I thought of feminism as a form of social contagion.
This contagion could be called « Marea Verde » (Green Tide), in reference to the feminist claims for legal abortion voiced by the massive demonstrations taking place in Argentina today. Since the start of the campaign in 2017, the feminist mouvement has adopted a distinctive symbol: a green handkerchief. Beyond the demonstrations, it is today worn as a token of our own feminism, as a call to solidarity.
This plural feminism permeates the streets, conversations, dreams, hopes, and political agendas, compelling us to confront sexist violence in all of its forms. It is an ongoing process of deep cultural and social transformation, but Argentina still has not legalized abortion yet and according to 2019 police and judicial reports, a woman dies of feminicide every 36 hours.
The Argentinian feminist movement has a long history going back to organizations like the Asociación Civil Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo); a human rights organization that still advocates for the finding of children stolen and illegally adopted during the Argentine dictatorship of 1977. There is the Encuentro, an annual feminist gathering in Argentina. 2019 marked the 34th edition of the Encuentro in the city of la Plata, with more than 180 thousands participants attending.
Today, the wave of the feminist movement in Argentina is called Ni una menos (Not one less ). It emerged in its current form in 2015 and soon spread across several Latin American countries and internationally. Regular demonstrations are held to protest against acts of femicide and promote debates on topics such as gender roles, sexual harassment, gender pay gap, sexual objectification, legality of abortion, sex workers’ rights, and transgender rights. Since then, Ni Una Menos has grown into a powerful international women’s movement that
describes itself as « a collective cry against gender violence » 1.
2. Listening opens up the chance that something else will happen.2
The movement Ni una menos generates a time-space in which to listen and generate listening. To me, this active form of listening has turned feminism into a medium for public contagion. The feminist production of listening in Buenos Aires promotes the identification of common claims without sacrificing the value of
multiplicity and possible dissent — it claims the right to « agree to disagree »3.
It generates many possibilities and questions, « involving the openness of being this or that, beyond the
cognitive security»4 . It became an epistemological storm, a transgression which has made visible and audible
the limits of the patriarcal’s limits5. «If tradition has generated objectivity and the right to not listen what it contradicts or fails », the feminist movement provides a « syntax of reciprocity beyond the articulation of power
»6. Where anyone belongs.
3. El contagio feminista: a possible way to think feminisms via radiophonic listening
Now, if this contagion has the color of a green tide, I wonder if we can focus on its sonic dimension and possibly activate a meta-listening of the radical transformation, embodied by the plurality of feminisms in Buenos Aires. To this end, I have invited a group of Argentinian sound artists to interpret the idea of feminism as a social contagion. I believe radio is the most appropriate medium to stimulate this process because it is itself a tool for contamination. What you will listen to may act like a virus working on your body, mind, possibly on your soul. And I am secretly wonder: how would you react to this contagion?
In Cecilia Castro’s work, « Vocal technologies: the viral nature of the Green Wave », we hear a virtual voice combining different theoretical and activists feminist texts, chosen by the sound artist and composer. The
following quote « Patriarchy is not just a relation among people; it is also a relation among sounds » 7 invites the listener to experience the piece as a sonic voyage, both ironic and serious, which ends with instructions on
how to reproduce the Zaghareet.
Why this sound? If we could speak about a sonic mark that embodies Buenos Aires’ feminist contagion, this would certainly be one of them. The Zaghareet is a long, high-pitched sound that resembles an unmistakable howl. It is a wow, a unique, distinctive scream one can modulate with repetitive, quick movements of the tongue or hand. Originally from Magreb and the Middle East, it is used to celebrate women gathering and for spreading good luck.
A similar sound exists in the indigenous local communities of Argentina to indicate imminent danger. This sound was heard by video maker and director Daniela Seggiaro during a conversation between an indigenous woman from the wichí community and a young feminist from Buenos Aires. A conversation that led her to realize that, in spite of the different contexts, this howl could also be interpreted as a rallying call for women around the world to unite and fight together. In « Verde 11’ » Daniela Seggiaro creates poetic flows based on soundscapes recorded in the Comunidades del Gran Chaco in the North of the country, one of the places where the Argentina variant of the Zaghareet may have originated from. In this work, we can hear the voices of women from the indigenous wichí community shaping their own audillo, creating their own sound.
In the case of Constanza Castagnet, « c;c~ », the artist relies on her voice to express the not yet by abdicating the use of the normative, patriarcal, language. By decomposing it in minimal unities, she creates her own language and suggests a new way to perceive it.
In Sebastian Rey’s work we find what Severo Sarguy would define as a form of « abstract radio » 8. The artist generates an hypnotic rhythm where languages and voices disintegrate into a semantic derive. In « Yo el hijo » (Me the son), the artist repeats these words « Auguri e figli maschi » like a mantra. By playing with the
musicality of the words, he lays bare the rawness of this sentence, which in Italian means: « Best wishes and lots of male children ».
The two drummers and sound artists Florencia Curci and Tatiana Heuman decided to start from time, rhythms, temporalities by asking if there is a feminist way to conceive them. In « Neither God, nor Master or Husband », they create an eclectic patchwork of texts to reflect on the way their own feminism is inspired by other women’s by embodying other voices. As such, their polyphonic compositions remind us that we are always the echoes of other women.
Finally, the sound artist collective Zago, composed of Leonello Zambón and Eugenia González, is inspired by the following question: « Considering the differences between the voice’s frequencies between men and women, at what frequency does the social body resonates today? ». They produced field recordings in public spaces across Buenos Aires, then deconstructed and re-composed them using the Audiostellar software. Audiostellar enabled the artists to explore field recordings, using machine intelligence to reveal latent structures in the input sound files. This post-human work aims to emulate how the machine itself could listen to humans, defragmenting the original recordings and leaving solely the rhythms and tones of the recorded voices.
4. Impossible to conclude: more listening and feminist sounds yet to come
Sonic feminisms are always plural
they are trans-geographic, even if they are made in the same place
they are trans-linguistic, even if they have been conceived in one language they are trans they love women
They are celebrations
they are invasive
they are viruses
they are contagious
difficult to see
because they can be anywhere
taking different forms
but they sound
Each sound is unique
each combination is unique
sometimes becoming noise
some assonances, among dissonances
They are around you
How would you deal with them?