Caroline Wilkins

Independent Composer/Performer/Researcher, UK;


Flooded by the actual torrent of (mis-)information that washes over us constantly, contemporary society is faced with the problematic task of ‘wringing out’ its ears on submission to such an overload of sound in order to keep ‘afloat’. During global reactions to Pandemic the ‘rush on-line’ substituted so much previously gained from live musical gatherings and individual life situations. Its consequences continue to this day with an enormous increase in streaming and other virtual / hybrid listening methods. In this presentation I shall briefly discuss four diverse contemporary projects on eavesdropping: two ongoing investigations, the first held under the same title, at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Australia (2008), the second a practice research led by Rebecca Collins and Joanna Linsley entitled ‘Stolen Voices’ (2019). These are followed by ‘Eavesdropping London’, an artistic project founded by soprano Juliet Fraser in 2017 and finally an audio work ‘With W/Ringing Ears’ (2022) by sound artist Leona Jones and myself. Each develops artistic solutions envisaged within a framework of audio / visual installation, live encounters, websites, publications,
network sharing or debate. Some raise awareness of the ethical and political problems of eavesdropping, others approach the subject within a more positive context of the term and its relation to artistic practice. Reference will be made to theoretical sources such as Roland Barthes’ collected seminars entitled How to Live Together, Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces (trans. Kate Briggs), Chichester, West Sussex (2013), Peter Szendy – All Ears: The Aesthetics of Espionage, Fordham University Press, (2017) and Siegfried Zielinski’s Deep Time of the Media (2006), MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. My aim in this paper is to examine critical ways of listening to today’s music and sound within the context of an intrusive practice that saturates our very ears. In so doing I pose a fundamental question that concerns the relationship between a listener and what is heard.

Keywords: contemporary eavesdropping; artistic solutions; ethics; politics.


Caroline Wilkins, Independent composer/performer/researcher, comes from a background of new music performance, composition and theatre, and has worked extensively on solo and collaborative productions involving these. Her particular interest lies in creating new forms of presentation, whether in the field of inter-medial sound theatre, sound poetry or performance art. She studied at the Royal College of Music, followed by new music theatre composition study with Mauricio Kagel in Cologne, later completing a practice-based PhD in sound-theatre at Brunel University. Current activities include conference presentations and academic publications. Her compositions are published by Ricordi.