un Projects is based on the unceded sovereign land and waters of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation; we pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.
un Projects

Speculation is the Vehicle


A speculation on speculation, this nonlinear conversation addresses processes of working. It allows for a thematic meander that we hope you can join us on, one perhaps for all the tangential thinkers …

Previously, we have moved through moments in sound guided by Assia Djebar’s words on ‘Aphasia,’ ‘Murmur,’ ‘Voice,’ ‘Clamour’ and ‘Whisper’ in Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade.1 Djebar speaks of linguistic displacement and the ambivalent relationship with language that both mobilises and yet immobilises:

The Algerian women continue to be
subaltern subjects as they find themselves
on the margins of the authorial discourse,
separated from the centre of the textual
space they in fact inhabit.2

For Djebar, like ourselves, we are so often reproducing the coloniser’s language. This position is a constant entanglement — that of speaking from the margins and, as such, pushing to actively move towards a new possible existence through creation and autobiography. Reflecting this, we meditate through electronics, percussion, and samples that form improvisation. We sit with intuition and draw upon subconscious aspects of experience and environments, simultaneously reflecting the past and projecting the present into the future.

We present here a written exchange. An accumulation of various discussions taking place across oceans, time zones, continents. E.g WhatsApp, emails, Google docs, phone calls lasting longer than daylight in winter, with terrible signals causing dropouts for one whilst the other is left piecing together fragments of multiple trains of thought. Cold cheeks hanging up and calling back, attempting to resume, swapping one tangent for another. Leaves fall not long before young buds eagerly spring forth and often (miraculously?) we remain close to where we began. The following may read jilted, stalled, disjointed or indeterminate. At times there may be discord. But sit with it; it might settle.

Read this as if you are eavesdropping … listening in …

To unfold or reveal by means of speculation. Just now — looking up one online definition of speculation…



The forming of a theory or conjecture
without firm evidence.

While this explanation is a little dull, it is far more clearly articulated than my own words that I have been considering in an attempt to define it… For us here, we focus on speculation through sound — the ringings, the echos, the delays of bells, bodies, the interiors of percussion, samples of our ancestors, loops of a bamboo sax, lung felt subs — a cacophonic transportation of a speculative kind. Speculation in its nature is grounding, not just pushing and projecting forward. Speculation is a source we both draw from, individually and together. Speculation can be complicated because of its interwoven, personal and sometimes communal fragmentation. But, for those with diasporic, marginalised and migrational experiences, speculative practice can be both a release and a restorative tool towards collective-empowerment.

In the way we practise together, sound itself is a vehicle to carry speculation by offering an affective counter balance. The physicalization that sound has is crucial — it is energy. That energy has the ability to resonate atmospheric relations and speculative experiences into existence. It is through sound that liminal legacies exist and it is about awakening them, speaking to them, manifesting, tapping in, and letting them lead… A call and response.

We are both particularly interested in using delay and echo as a sonic tool which is also a metaphor. Delay and echo sounds move away from their original source. This parallels migration and diasporic existences. A version of the original. In flux. Resonating its existence. A possibility.

My interest in the characteristics of delay and echo begins in the architecture of dub. Within dub music we experience echoes of an original sound, fragments. A presencing of absence — textured silences — arising out of the abstraction of other sounds. With delay we can consider the return. This implies distance — spatio temporalities. The overdubbing — what replaces what has gone before — sits with the mix and in opposition to it. At times its difference is what presents itself. The echoes are at once both an obscured reflection and something wholly new and original. In a similar vein, I am interested here in their potential as phenomenological descriptors of experiencing histories of enslavement, forced removal, cultural erasure and displacement. When perhaps there is a lack of language readily available to aptly capture this, these FX become appropriate translations of ‘affect’ — lines of thought shape the sound-making process.

And, yes, there is something here to be said about culturally specific sonic traditions — the forms they take and the sounds that resonate, relevant to cultural and embodied knowledge. The body may hold those sounds, speak to them and perform them without actively knowing what those sounds might harness. Those rhythms, those structures, as a way to communicate, a syntax even; they exist and are held inside us. They move with us and at times move us. I think what can then become speculative is the attempt to harness this form of communication, despite a potential gap, despite at times a potential lack of ‘direct’ access. What has travelled through generations, using the body as a vessel, perhaps now has to be recalled, remembered.

The body and rhythm is a place where sound is instinctive and has an immediacy. So how can we channel or re-awaken these embodied experiences? Speculation is being used here as a response to communicate this inner world outwardly. If trauma can be stored in the body and passed down through epigenetics, could rhythms be the same? Body memory as an internal legacy is feeling as thinking; a realm of uncovering that is beyond conventional knowledge. It is possible to activate the energy and the somatic memories that our bodies carry through sound and frequencies by using speculation.

For us both, by way of improvisation, we have the ability to connect on this level. Despite the lack of directness, improvisation and speculation often have transformational properties related to one’s own internal resonance — perhaps the spirit. There is something to be said in what happens when that sound is met with other moments of sound and how they resonate, come together, fall apart. How that energy dances around itself into existence.

This expression and feeling of musicality and sound take precedence over the conventional logics. There is that connection of energy which collectively builds and holds you in connection with others through sound, a feeling that is very present because you are there manifesting it. Letting it in, learning and connecting to it as are the people or space that surrounds you. The forming.

What you’ve said there about improvisation and channelling I think speaks to this act of interpellation and what gets brought into being. What implicitly becomes referred to or signified, that is perhaps inarticulable but has the invitation to become present through sound…

There was also something that stood out to me amongst what you had said earlier — this notion of ‘firm evidence.’When we exist as individuals, communities, inheritors of histories of colonialism, dispossession, erasure, violence, this notion of firm evidence is something we’re simultaneously denied.

The ‘firm evidence’ itself is a manipulation of actual events. The histories the oppressors want us to believe are fictions presented with fabricated evidence and accepted as truths by many.

When you recognise that and the power that you too can speculate, speculation becomes a vehicle to move towards states of being, ways of existing and co-existing that perhaps previously we hadn’t dared dream, or did not know was possible. This act of dreaming turns speculation into a liberatory practice. This lack of firm evidence almost allows us to conjure up an infinitude of possibilities and, in doing so, move towards and shape futures dependent on these potentials.

True. Beautiful. This lets us circle back into what becomes almost like a feedback loop, leading us to the five movements of Djebar’s Fantasia. How these movements enable an ability to engage with the resistance from the traditional ways of knowing and are important to tune into. They really lean away from ‘firm evidence’ to allow for counter-effect — that of ‘Aphasia,’ ‘Murmur,’ ‘Whisper,’ ‘Voice,’ and ‘Clamour.’ They are not ‘clear’ and ‘concise.’ ‘Fantasia’ itself implies improvisation. Fantasia is a musical term that describes a composer’s free interpretation of the piece, a speculation. This is what we’re doing. Cavalcade: a procession or parade reenacting important historical events which asks for participation … like a parade. Under this, we have agency and create a convoy, resounding a known or unknown legacy.

Hannan Jones is an interdisciplinary artist exploring the intersections of hybridity, rhythm and psychogeography.

Shamica Ruddock is an artist-researcher considering sound culture, sonic fictions and Black technosonic production.

Together, they share an ongoing venture ‘Re-Imagining In Conversation,’ a research based sonic journey that encompasses speculation, jazz, improvisation and dreaming.

1. Assia Djebar, translated by Dorothy S. Blair. (1993) ‘Aphasia,’ ‘Murmur,’ ‘Voice,’ ‘Clamour’ and ‘Whisper,’ in Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade. Portsmouth NH: Heinemann.

2. Assia Djebar quoted in Koichi Hagimoto, ‘Female Voices in Revolution: Autobiography and Collective Memory in Assia Djebar’s Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade (1985) and Merle Collins’ Angel (1987), Utah Foreign Language Review [Online], 20 (2012), p. 49.