Håkan Jonsson

Håkan Jonsson


Dead silence – Negotiating noise with the non-living

One of the basic human requirements is the need to dwell, and one of the central human acts is the act of inhabiting, of connecting ourselves, however temporarily, with a place on the planet which belongs to us, and to which we belong. This is not, especially in the tumultuous present, an easy act (as is attested by the uninhabited and uninhabitable no-places in cities everywhere), and it requires help: we need allies in inhabitation.

Fortunately, we have at hand many allies, if only we call on them; other upright objects, from towers to chimneys to columns, stand in for us in sympathetic imitation of our own upright stance. Flowers and gardens serve as testimonials to our own care, and breezes loosely captured can connect us with the very edge of the infinite.”  – Charles Moore, foreword to In Praise of Shadows, Junichiro Tanizaki, 1933

Leise Park (Quiet Park) is a former cemetery in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, that was turned into a public park in 2012. Around 40 tombstones are kept in the park. Through interviews with visitors and the architects of the park, I found that the tombstones create a special ambience in the park, putting visitors in a special state of mind. Visitors described the influence of the tombstones as “weird”, and “putting [them] in a trance”, and as “creating a connection”.

We may not be able to raise the dead, but we can help them raise their voices. “Dead silence”, is an attempt at calling the dead in Leise Park to be our allies in habitation, their tombstones to be upright objects in sympathetic imitation of our own upright stance. It consists of a tombstone and a field recording from a tombstone in Leise Park, that is played back through the tombstone using transducers.

The method of using contact microphones to listen to the tombstones was inspired by a dream Håkan had after participating in a voodoo ritual, in which he received explicit instructions on how to communicate with the dead.


Sound artist and practitioner in Berlin. He collaborates with visual artists, using synthetic works, sound objects and field recordings that are often performed live. He applies ritual frameworks to achieve a temporary suspension of disbelief and create conditions for strangeness and possibility. His love for field recordings comes from their connection to sensors and senses, allowing us to access and hear sounds from worlds we normally don’t and their affordance to sharing personal listening experiences. His interests in occulture are in its phenomenology, not metaphysics