Ella Finer and Vibeke Mascini: Silent Whale Letters
Sternberg Press, 2023

Photo: Vibeke Mascini

An experiment in listening to frequencies beyond human sensorial range, Silent Whale Letters is a long-distance correspondence intimately attuned to the infravoice of a blue whale, a document held silent in the sound archive, and other so-called ‘silent’ subjects.
As part of an ongoing collaboration between Ella Finer and Vibeke Mascini the letters consider how the silent document shifts the logic of the archive, figuring listening as a practice of preservation.

As the letters attune to the ocean loud with communications across time and space, the authors write about the movement of matter, of energies, wavelengths, currents and how the ocean preserves as it disperses what it carries. How does working with what we cannot see, or even hear within range, shift the parameters of attention? How does the energetic archival space of the ocean agitate and disrupt claims to knowledge, history, and power?

Moving through three years of call and response the book unfolds through “a joint meditation on the transformative potential of a note, a voice, carried from saltwater into the archive” (Rebecca Giggs). The letters chart a process that is equally conceptual and intimate, theoretical and deeply personal, moving through discussions of (amniotic) undercurrents, call-and-response mechanisms, energetic wavelengths, oceanic and archival memory, mysterious scales, and the watery acoustic commons.

The book is co-published with Sternberg Press and Sylvia.

Does the ocean merely connect us or does it correspond with our dispatches? Silent Whale Letters is a joint meditation on the transformative potential of a note, a voice, carried from saltwater into the archive. Finer and Mascini find a beautiful buoyancy in discussing hope, distress, dilute splendour and intense attachment. This is a book about whales, yes, but it travels further still, into questions of intimacy and ecology.
A scintillating read.
— Rebecca Giggs, Author of Fathoms: The World in the Whale

In the space between these letters, I find a place for myself in the movement of the great silent or not-so-silent whale. Here is an ode to the liquid measure of listening, of carrying silence; letters finding each other through currents of migrating memories, shape shifting words, fluid thoughts, held with the same expansiveness as the silent whale. This exchange of only years feels like an ancient journey in feeling. I’m left pining for another letter.
— Salma Tuqan, Director of Nottingham Contemporary
Book orders
Sternberg Press, TBA21–Academy, and Sylvia
Ella Finer and Vibeke Mascini
Silent Whale Letters
A long-distance correspondence, on all frequencies

Edited by Kate Briggs
Contributions by Kate Briggs, Emma McCormick Goodhart
128pages, English
ISBN 978-1-915609-02-1
EUR 16
A version of the letters along with voice recordings can be accessed on Ocean-Archive.org