Offsite August 2018 - Ongoing Free

How do other people hear? What is the difference between listening and hearing?

In collaboration with Micro Rainbow Ain Bailey’s Sonic Stories residency began in 2018 and takes the form of a series of ongoing deep listening sessions that explore the role sound plays in identity formation. Grounded in the concept of the ‘sonic autobiography’ Bailey’s artistic research draws on Lauren Istvandity’s understanding of the ‘lifetime soundtrack’, a study of memory narratives, related to the interface between memory and music, and it’s associated affects. The term ‘lifetime soundtrack’ describes the metaphorical canon of music that accompanies personal life experience.

By collectively listening to the sounds of different lives and environments, the sessions create an open space for sharing memories of a time, place, person and/or event. The group spends time focusing on sound, tone, movement, rhythm, resonance and repetition, as forms of communication that bring people together to articulate individual and shared experiences beyond spoken language. This movement away from privileging speaking as our primary mode of connection deeply acknowledges what is felt in the room – the unsayability and or failure of words in relation to feelings and experiences held in the body and it’s sensorial roots. Songs, sounds and lyrics often give shape to identity helping to provide an overview of episodes in one’s life through metaphor.

“The idea is that you come together and you listen. People share about loss, parents and grief, relationships, difficult times in their lives. You become intimate, and I think that within itself, with people that you don’t necessarily know at first, is a political act because we all have this idea that we are very separate, ‘everyone’s out for themselves’. And I think in that moment, there’s a collectiveness that we don’t necessarily experience regularly.”


– Ain Bailey, on Sonic Stories as part of the On Practice podcast series.

By addressing acts of listening as a critical register of social, emotional and political life, Sonic Stories creates a transitional space for mourning, resting, healing and dreaming collectively. Alongside the listening sessions the workshops also extend to other forms of engagement with sound, including the work of Pauline Oliveros and her philosophy of Deep Listening, as well as collaborating with different practitioners such as sound practitioner Ximena Alarcón, the poet Belinda Zhawi and voice practitioner Elaine Mitchener.

Ain Bailey

Ain Bailey is a sound artist and DJ. She facilitates workshops considering the role of sound in the formation of identity and recently held a residency at the ICA, London. Exhibitions in 2019 included ‘The Range’ at Eastside Projects, Birmingham; ‘RE:Respite’ at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow, Scotland, and ‘And We’ll Always Be A Disco In The Glow Of Love’, a solo show at Cubitt Gallery, London. Bailey was also commissioned by Supernormal and Jupiter festivals to create and perform a new work, ‘Super JR’. Last year, Bailey was commissioned by Radiophrenia Glasgow, a temporary art radio station, to create a new composition entitled ‘Ode To The N.H.S.’. Currently, following a commission by Serpentine Projects, she is conducting sound workshops with LGBTI+ refugees and asylum seekers, as well as working on a commission for Savvy Contemporary’s new radio station, SAVVYZAAR.

Micro Rainbow

Micro Rainbow supports LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. Our work focuses on supporting isolated LGBT+ refugees and asylum seekers who flee countries like Uganda, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and many other countries where LGBTI people face persecution. Our projects tackle isolation through workshops, peer support groups and our choir. We also support refugees into employment and skills training, and support those starting or wanting to start small businesses. Micro Rainbow opened the first safe house in the United Kingdom dedicated solely to LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees. Our brand new safe housing project is the first of its kind in the UK and provides accommodation for LGBT+ refugees and asylum seekers who face homelessness or dispersal. Our social inclusion tackles isolation experienced by LGBTI asylum seekers who flee their country and, coming to a new country, usually experience feelings of withdrawal.


Discover over 50 years of the Serpentine

From the architectural Pavilion and digital commissions to the ideas Marathons and research-led initiatives, explore our past projects and exhibitions.

View archive