30 August 2022

Listening is survival

ROCS postdoc Angela Rawlings is co-curator of SPHERE Festival which opens September 2nd in Ottawa, Canada. The festival features the NAC Orchestra along with a number of visual artists, writers, composers, and scientists who collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to create an environment which can bring about planetary conversations. Festival participants are invited to Listen to the Earth as they consider the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and other challenges facing Earth as a home to multiple species – including humans.

Listening is survival is a central theme in SPHERE’s prelude event, the speaker series Arctic Imagination, which is co-hosted by the Royal Danish Library, featuring Angela and ROCS leader Katherine Richardson in its debut event. “In approaching the festival, I have taken inspiration from ROCS leader Katherine Richardson’s work, in particular her planetary boundaries framework”, says Angela and elaborates that, for her curatorial work, the framework provides approachable access points into discussions about the planet’s co-mingled spheres and interrelated functions. In her co-curation of SPHERE Angela places emphasis on interdisciplinarity and how an arts programme provides opportunities for embodied considerations of the urgent and difficult subjects facing an entangled world.  

At SPHERE, these discussions are facilitated by NAC Orchestra and involve artists and scientists from multiple fields. This provides space for learning and exchange across disciplines through listening and attuning to the Earth’s soundscapes and exploring how tuning in and listening can be supported. Listening evokes empathy which Angela notes is an imperative practice in times of enfolding crises that impact humans and other ecosystems – but not least their interrelated relationships. “The festival approaches climate crisis and biodiversity loss by way of the dominant senses”, Angela explains. She continues: “in a generalized sense, listening is taking in sound waves, but also attuning which means being present with our own senses. We must attune to the world around us and consider how we listen to ourselves, how we listen to one another, and how we listen to the ecosystems on which we interdepend. In this sense, listening is surviving.”

Arctic Imagination takes place on September 21st prior to SPHERE’s opening on September 22nd. To learn more about SPHERE and Angela’s curatorial vision at

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