Hanna Ojala’s “(I have no clue, so I will) Listen & Learn” is an Engrossing Sonic Exploration of the Social and Psychological Underpinnings of Institutionalized Inequality

Hanna Ojala “(I have no clue, so I will) Listen & Learn” cover

“(I have no clue, so I will) Listen & Learn” is Finnish artist Hanna Ojala’s most ambitious composition to date. She drew partially on Pond5: The Public Domain Project for source material not only in sampling sound and video footage for her own short film made for the piece but as a kind of aesthetic template through which to explore methods of social control from the past and how there is an eerie resonance for the present. One imagines one hears Ojala’s own voice reading from scientific abstracts but maybe it’s her commentary on the metaphysical underpinnings of human existence and how we treat identity as a justification for social stratification processed and placed in the soundscape with the quality of an old record while a simple melody runs through and ambient, atmospheric sounds and a bit from an old blues singer lamenting the human condition for so many as imposed by a racist society. The effect is reminiscent of the soundtrack work Eurythmics did for the film 1984. It is imbued with the spirit of a future art project intended to convey the alien qualities of an old civilization informed by prejudices that will seem completely irrational decades and centuries hence. The footage of the American Civil Rights movement, scientific experiments, some on children, and now outdated technology enhance this unique critique of how society has rationalized its mistreatment of a minority group and, in the end, of the society entirely as that mistreatment has consequences for all. And yet, as the title of the work suggests, Ojala has no pretense of a full understanding or appreciation of the experiences presented, rather, she has created the audio and the video as a vehicle for understanding for herself and for anyone else willing to go along for its 22 minute, 2 second duration. But the journey is fascinating and worth taking and reminiscent of old industrial culture projects that created their art as a medium of comprehension as well. Fans of Chris & Cosey and Future Sound of London will appreciate not only Ojala’s aim for the song but also her cinematic production of the audio and the musical rhythm of the sampled video. Watch that video for “(I have no clue, so I will) Listen & Learn” on YouTube and connect with Ojala at the links below.