On tuning in and tuning out


I don’t often write blog posts, but things bubbling away seemed worthy of articulation.

The best way to describe my anxious feelings is that it’s as if there’s a very loud clanging bell or the sound of roaring traffic inside my head, which, as a noise-sensitive person, I find pretty unbearable. I noticed that despite all its myriad complications and devastations, one good thing that came out of the lockdown back in March and April was that it felt as if the volume knob had been turned right down on the world, and consequently my anxiety became more manageable – the clanging and roaring and clattering stopped, albeit for a while. Recently the clanging has become quite intense, and I’ve found myself longing for that function once again. I decided I’d make a stitched panel about it, as a way of thinking through the idea.

As I put the panel together, however, I found myself reflecting on the wider context of wanting to ‘turn down the volume on the world’, and how problematic it is. In the face of  the multiple impacts of coronavirus or the failures of education policy, atrocities in Belarus or the explosion in Beirut, the suggestion that one might want to muffle this comes from a position of extreme privilege, to suggest that one has the option to be able to somehow set the world aside instead of being forced to confront it.

Perhaps, then, it’s about finding ways to better differentiate between the signal and noise – toning down, for instance, the relentless performances of brilliance and of rage in the vacuums of social media (I’m looking at you, academic Twitter), and finding ways to quell the clanging in my head so I can concentrate on the work in front of me.

As ever, the act of making doesn’t silence the noise, but rather, it offers a time-space in which I can reflect, sit with the discomfort for a while, and find ways to tune in – and work out what to tune out.






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