Focus and Echo – on Art and Sound in Public Spaces

<Talk, eng.>

Richard Sennett and John Bingham-Hall in conversation with Gaby Hartel
Saturday, June 5, 2021
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Location: Open University, Urfahrmarkt area


The social philosopher Richard Sennett has been following social life in cities for five decades. Given his background as a cellist, it is perhaps not surprising that his research never fails to acknowledge the importance of the immaterial and the fleeting in his research. And so, Sennett expands on practical questions regarding the construction and organization of urban spaces, their material, and the atmospheres that they exude to an ethic of how city dwellers interact with one another. How do capitalist guidelines determine urban behavioural codes? How can these be altered and expanded upon? How can the drive to compete with another be transformed into a willingness to cooperate? Against this reflective backdrop, Sennett founded the international research project Theatrum Mundi at the London School of Economics in 2012, which investigates the influence of artistic interventions on the relationship between city dwellers amongst each other and on the urban space which surrounds them. One of the premises of the project is the belief that art in public spaces has a civilizing effect. Current research focuses on sound art and on practicing active listening with young residents in socially disadvantaged areas. In light of pandemic curfews and assembly bans, we want to find out, together with Gascia Ouzounian, professor of music at the University of Oxford, what role ephemeral curated “sound spaces” can play in new media and established radio after the current stasis to continue and intensify their use as responsible, open, and public places of culture.


Richard Sennett was born in Chicago in 1943. He has taught and continues to teach sociology and history at MIT and the London School of Economics and Political Science. His main areas of research are cities, work, and cultural sociology. After his books Cooperation (2012) and Handwerk (2008), The Open City is the third part of his Homo Faber trilogy. His most recent publication is Designing Disorder. Experiments and Disruptions in the City (2020) alongside Pablo Sendra. Richard Sennett works as a consultant for various United Nations institutions and recently wrote the Mission Statement for Habitat III for the United Nations’ global cities summit.

Gascia Ouzounian is Professor of Music at the University of Oxford. There she leads the project Sonorous Cities. Toward a Sonic Urbanism. Her work transdisciplinarily examines the philosophies, technologies, and aesthetic ideologies that shape our notions of sound and space in the fields of music, sound art, psychology, engineering, and urbanism. She is the author of Stereophonica: Sound and Space in Science, Technology, and the Arts (MIT Press 2020) and curator for the interactive sound art label Optophono.

Gaby Hartel is a curator, translator, and award-winning broadcaster based in Berlin and London. Her portfolio comprises the overlapping areas of media, literature, and contemporary art, focusing on sound art. Gaby has taught and published widely in those fields and she curated exhibitions at Kunsthalle Wien, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (nbk), Akademie der Künste Berlin, and ZKM Karlsruhe to name a few. Her work as curator and concept advisor for sound art shows includes Art / Nature, sound art interventions at Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (2014-2018), Radiophonics (HKW, Berlin 2018), Choreography of Sound (ZKM, 2013), and SOUNDS. radio – art – new music (nbk, 2010).