‘Game Calling’ and Mimetic Practices

Collection of ‘game-calling-instruments’ © Nele Möller

In the last weeks, I have focused my research on so-called ‘game-calling-instruments’ used by hunters to attract animals closer to the hunter’s hide-out spot. These instruments have a millennia-old tradition and are used by various cultures in the past and present. I explore these instruments as vessels for mimetic practices that could enable a deeper connection to our surroundings.

Johannes Heyder playing the ‘Pheasant-flute’ © Nele Möller
Live-audio-streaming from the forest at dawn © Nele Möller

On Nov 18 at 7 am, I sent a live audio stream via the ‘Forest Radio‘ to the ‘Radio Concrete‘ radio festival in Tilburg/NL. During the live stream, Johannes Heyder (a musician from Germany) and I played the various ‘game-calling instruments’ and waited for the response of other forest inhabitants. One woodpigeon answered our calls.

Concert in Vienna playing mainly calls out of fear or distress

During the ÆSR (Applied/Experimental Sound Research) Lab kick-off event in Vienna (Nov 13 -15), I played a concert, titled ‘The Forest’s Lament’, using the instruments combined with looping techniques and effects to re-create an artificial forest sound atmosphere, questioning European forest imaginations and power relations present in this environment. The next day, I gave a presentation on my research and talked in depth about critical field recording practices, listening and hunting. After the presentation, I did a live-reading of the radio essay H(a)unted Listening.

Reading with four performers at M HKA (in the picture Nele Möller and Tracy Hanna)
Reading with four performers at M HKA (in the picture Wietske Gils)

For CLUB ANTENA, an intimate listening and dancing session created and curated by Céline Gillain and Anne-Claire Schmitz at M HKA (Museum for Contemporary Art Antwerp), I wrote a text about listening, hunting and human-animal-communication. During the reading, four performers (Wietske Gils, Tracy Hanna, Emma Kraak, and Stine Sampers) played a score created for the ‘game-calling-instruments’ to interact with the text. The score is based on bioacoustic research, specifically the acoustic-niche-hypothesis by Bernie Krause.

Excerpt from the text:

The hunter is using mimetic practices when imitating the alarm call of the deer. Still, in his case, it is rather to trick the animal closer to his hide-out spot instead of developing an intersubjective experience that is based on empathy that reveals that there is a practical side to perspectival thinking, which registers both sameness and difference, of being and self and other. He does not consider the interest of the animal to simply survive. He rather justifies the killing with the need for population control, as otherwise, the currently dying trees cannot be reforested because the deer is eating up the newly planted seedlings. Within his territory, he says he keeps the system in balance without considering that it just got out of balance because of us placing ourselves above the forest and transforming it into this monoculture that just had to function to our needs — a constant loop of being stuck in this Western hegemonic perspective that brought us to the current situation. We stopped listening without an agenda to other entities. We unlearned that there is a constant connection between our bodies and the environment and that there lies meaning in this connection. The breath that is forming the words I read, that is moving through the instruments just played, that we exchange in this room, is air, is wind, is reciprocity. 

Follow Nele Möller:
Nele Möller (°1990) is an artist and researcher working primarily in sound, video, performance, and radio. Her focus is on forest conversations, historical nature inscriptions, and listening practices. In October 2021 she started her PhD project ‘The Forest Echoes Back’ at KU Leuven/LUCA Schoof of Arts Brussels, under supervision of Wendy Morris and embedded in the research cluster Deep Histories Fragile Memories.