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Katharina Stadler

Terror Sine Verbis. On sound and ideology

Beginn des PhD-Programms / Start of the PhD-Program​: WS 2019

Betreuung / Supervision: 
Robert Pfaller

How can an accumulation of non-signified sound(s) turn into a signified?
Which role does this at first supposedly un-signified assume in the (re-)construction of ideological structures?
And, how does a concept of comprehending structural meaning in the before meaningless change navigation within pregiven, interpellated structures?

Louis Althusser's discourse on ideology as a structure, as an underlying system and its continuous reproduction, rather than as a specific set of ideological thoughts, are at the core of my proposed project. These structures which, without direct order, reproduce the given, mainstream set of rules can only be challenged through cognizant action, a process of persistent stepping out of one's supposedly inherent way of thinking and taking action, to paraphrase Merab Mamardashvili.
The essence of ideological structures most often is discussed in correlation to texts/speech, cultural or mediatic signifiers and/or signified, religious imperatives, etc. Yet I am interested in another, specific aspect of the hidden structure underneath, namely the audio qualities and functions used. I want to argue that sound – as in ALL vibrations that reach the individual's ear, –  especially because of its invisible and (mostly) intangible quality, is a powerful ideological tool, replicating the given structures without skilled conscious evaluation by the recipient.
In the field of ideology interconnected to audiological tendencies current and recent research has focussed on music/sound in/as specific ideological settings, radio as an ideological transmitter as well as the significance of the voice as both a signified and a signifier. When it comes to a broader perception of sound, the audio input is considered without signified, an unfiltered spectrum of the meaningless, detached from the otherwise acoustic data with meaning (e.g. speech, music in cultural or ideological context). Hence, sound without connotation tends to be overlooked in consideration of being a factor of influence.
In dialogue with these existing works and inclinations I will extend on the proposed sets of audio understanding linked to ideology as structure, in order to frame a more general however acoustically more precise concept of sound as an ideological tool.
Therefore, in order to argue that sound is such a powerful, if not the most powerful tool in the reproduction of ideological structures, I aim to devise my thesis by coining the term terror sine verbis: a set of unintelligible acoustic information, off language at first, entering the individual's psyche to be turned into a set of information difficult to escape from because of its distorted, presupposed non-understanding, or rather inability to decode.
In this sense my thesis offers a new concept of sound understanding as a basis to counteract given, interpellated structures of ideology.

Kurz-Biographie / Short Bio
Katharina Stadler is a Tbilisi based conceptual artist and writer. She studied Music, Theater and Cultural Communication studies at Humboldt University in Berlin, graduating with a thesis on the interconnection and opposition of voice and silence as worship in Augustine’s writings. She works process-based, interdisciplinarily and with different media on discourses of ideology and politics connected especially to the notions of new forms of colonialism and imperialism as well as the question of limits of consciousness through social mechanisms and other determinants.


[sound (gaps) as an ideological grid of a city] – long pauses. 2015; © Katharina Stadler