Through multi-sensory sculptures, installations and collaboratively created sound works, Nina Emge (*1995, lives and works in Zurich and Berlin) reflects on the social dimension of voice, silence and practices of listening.
The installation Not In Use (microfon stand 1–5) (2021) is comprised of five forged metal sculptures with cables coiling around them, four speakers and a mixer positioned off to one side. The fragile sculptures allude to common voice amplification technologies used for public cultural events, not only due to the title and the technical hardware, but also the shape. At the same time, Not In Use marks an absence and dysfunctionality; in this microscopic infrastructure of amplification, the crucial link in the chain—the microphone—is missing.
Emge’s sinuous sculptures, each with its own shape, have an organic, anthropomorphic quality and evoke a gathering of silent (resonating) bodies, whilst claiming space for difference. Originally developed for the ornate historical galleries of the Instituto Svizzero in Rome and now temporarily inhabiting the newly founded ZIRKA, the work asks which voices are primarily heard in Western cultural institutions and involved in the dominant production of knowledge. Here, the space is filled with a concentrated silence, which becomes visually and spatially palpable through the installa- tion’s empty areas, creating the conditions for an active practice of listening and polyphony. Not In Use articulates—to use the words of the author and theorist Sara Ahmed—a shift in the question from “Who speaks?” to “Who can speak?” to “Who listens?.”
 Sara Ahmed, Strange Encounters. Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality, New York 2009, p. 61.
Photos: Constanza Meléndez