Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy


Visual Arts


Mahon, Patrick

2nd Supervisor

Migone, Christof


The research represented in this thesis has a relationship with my sustained interest in the subject of cultural difference that typified my earlier artistic practice. During my Ph.D. studies in Art and Visual Culture at Western University, I have advanced new perspectives on this problematic by elaborating on the potentialities of listening in dialogic and collaborative artistic practice. It comprises the discussion about the projects and activities developed within my doctoral studies, according to two main and related purposes. The first is the examination of hegemonic practices of production of meaning regarding cultural difference with a backdrop of the social, cultural and historical processes that underlie the constitution of the space of modernity in my home country, Ecuador, one of the five nations that integrate the Andean region. The second is the analysis of artistic and collaborative activities where the cultivation of modes of listening (sounding implication, acoustic presence) foregrounds subaltern agency and the production of community. These preoccupations inform the analytical core of the two essays composing my thesis. Mountains and Rivers without End––a collaborative project involving artists and scholars from Canada and Ecuador in research on the historical, social, and environmental effects of mining in the district of Portovelo and Zaruma in Ecuador. Soundscape Pasochoa––a collaborative project developed in collaboration with José Sangoquiza that expand critical perspectives on the practice of the soundscapes to focus on the conditions for subaltern cultural production in the Valle of the Chillos, Pichincha province (Ecuador). A second section involving the presentation of my practice dossier includes documentation of the art projects and activities carried out during my doctoral studies. It also provides a brief discussion of the conceptual lines of the activities I carried out while being part of the research team of Surviving Memory in Postwar El Salvador. A comprehensive documentation of these projects and activities is found at https://ulises-unda-phd.squarespace.com/.

Summary for Lay Audience

This thesis essay examines the projects I have been involved during my doctoral studies. Through this program, I elaborate on conceptual perspectives addressing topics (i.e. subalternity, identity, community) related with the problem of cultural difference. Various perspectives used within the terrains of socially engaged art practice and sound studies orient the essay’s main lines of discussion, allowing me to highlight the relevance that my current artistic search has concerning the subjects of collaboration and listening. Throughout the essay, these subjects are shown as integral to the processes underlying the realization of the project, Mountains and Rivers without End, and the soundscape, Pasochoa. The former resulted in an exhibition that included the participation of scholars, researchers, and artists from Ecuador and Canada in research about the historical, sociocultural, and environmental effects of mining in the region surrounding the towns of Portovelo and Zaruma in Ecuador. The latter was a project developed in Ecuador in collaboration with José Sangoquiza, who is a skillful self-taught musician and manufacturer of musical instruments and sound objects. Central to my doctoral research was the notion of Collaborative Listenings which underline my interest in the potentialities within the practices of listening and sounding in artistic endeavours aimed at fostering modes of knowing through relations. As argued by Steven Feld, a key issue within knowing through relations is “making otherness into ‘significant’ forms of otherness” (Feld 2015, 13). The discussion of the projects included in this dissertation accounts for situations where the experience of the dynamic interrelations between sound and space––a main concern of sound art as stated by Brandon LaBelle ––opens up conditions for considering the political dimension of situated listenings. Attention to the capabilities of sound to index its own immediacy, and to build forms of material presence is proposed here as a relevant means to inquire into hegemonic processes leading to the configuration of specific social orders constituted amidst the blind spots of cultural difference. My main focus is thus placed on hegemonic processes that have as their backdrop the formation of the space of modernity in Andean contexts, particularly in my home country, Ecuador.

Project Video