Two Worlds is a project co-organised by NeMe, the Cyprus University of Technology (School of Fine and Applied Arts) and the Department of Audio and Visual Arts of the Ionian University focusing on some of the of issues related to migration. The project commenced in 2013 by way of discussions between Iannis Zannos, Yiannis Christidis and Yiannis Colakides which initiated a framework that eventually expanded into an interactive sound installation, where the voices of migrants and displaced people became the protagonists. It was first publicly announced in the Hybrid City III conference at the University of Athens where the changes to its format were discussed due to the tragic events involving refugees escaping the wars in the Middle East in August and September 2015.

The title of the work refers to multiple polarities involved in migration processes at various levels: The worlds of origin (old home) and destination (new home), the natives vs. the foreigners (migrants), the have and have-nots, the “insider” vs. the “other” in a a group, the dream (or expectation) vs. the reality (or disillusionment). Furthermore, the title refers to the interplay between the material geographical locality of a space and the virtual cyber-space of the Internet. As a consequence, the piece creates a hybrid space where remote participants could interact over a web interface on http://larigot.avarts.ionio.gr/projects/2worlds/ with the visitors of the gallery where the sound-installation is exhibited. The work thus combines the experiential worlds of local “physical” (material) presence and virtual presence. Furthermore, the project considers – through its sound archive – the reshaping of our world and the imagined identities of those living in the EU but also questions the idea of how a citizen is defined by investigating the changing shifts in local communities.

In a world where migration is at a record high “there is uncertainty as to where to locate the self in relation to the place, taste and traditions of others, then the question of identity appears in its most precarious form” (Nikos Papastergiadis 2006: 51) as “stability is lost in relation to both one’s place in the world and one’s sense of self as an integrated subject” (Stuart Hall, 1992: 275) and “the threat of cultural difference is no longer a problem of ‘other’ people [and] it becomes a question of otherness of the people-as-one” (Homi Bhabha, 1994: 150).

The recent global developments such as the current rise of militarised violence in 51 United Nations member states has catapulted the number of forcibly displaced people, now exceeding 59,500,000 – almost three times more to the numbers in 2014 and the highest number ever recorded. Within this distressing context and existential urgency, Two Worlds has now become an, albeit small, contribution toward the compassionate understanding and support of displaced people.

According to Paul Virilio “humanity – is now defined by migration” (2009). Virilio’s aphorism, is supported by statistical information but is also linked to the debate of globalisation as compared with the now collapsed free-moving world at the beginning of the last century. Migration today is commonly seen from the point of view of the nation-states who rely on the assumption that discrete groups can both culturally reproduce themselves and the structures that ‘define’ them. Thus, the heterogeneity of everyday lived experience is overseen and terms like ‘diaspora’ and ‘hybridity’ are avoided, resulting in a lack of engagement with the experiences of migrants. The European Union authorities forecast the costs of the impact of migration on receiving countries, most of the times excluding the voices of the migrants from the public domain who abandon their sense of belonging to live unpredictable, and often, tragic lives.

On September 2, the widely circulated photographs of the drowned toddler who was trying to enter Europe with his family shocked the world. On the same day, Nicholas Mirzoef twitted: “The photo of the drowned toddler from Kos is a pieta for the era of militarized financial globalization.” Accepting that media coverage of conflict and human suffering is fraught with ethical problems, the consequential absence of further images of the dead from conflict zones and within Europe – such as the 71 refugees who suffocated in the back of a track in Austria renders other’s suffering remote with the intended outcome of keeping public opinion muted in order to prevent additional instigation of much needed change and action, or perhaps and equally disturbing, indicating compassion fatigue.

This project endeavoured to expose one of the divisive barriers which create ghettos in local communities, by reconfiguring the relationships between laws and rights, art and society, real and virtual, code and language, starting with subliminal or indistinctly perceptible auditory experiences. Information carried by sounds by association to their experience in everyday life circumstances is given new significance by uncovering different inherent sound-oriented tacit knowledge (Truax, 1984) hidden in the perceptual qualities of the sounds, aided by aforementioned polarities. Moreover, the new groupings according to shared perceptual qualities creates the ground for the investigation of new relationships and dynamics which are hidden in everyday sound.

The installation established relationships between the perceived locations of the projected virtual sound sources in the real space of the exhibition, as well as in the virtual space of the web-based version and the positions of the sound samples in the virtual space of the their extracted emotional and perceptual features. The visitors of the installation or the web-space are to rearrange the sounds with their actions, thereby editing the sonic experience of the piece and its underlying semantics.

The Two Worlds installation curated by Yiannis Colakides avoided pictorial descriptions and monosemantic references to emotions in its search to evoke a participatory experience that distances itself from the aesthetisation of suffering.

All software developed for this project is available on github as open source using the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Two Worlds was accompanied by a series of workshops on SuperCollider and related interactive arts tools by Iannis Zannos, as well as a seminar moderated by Antonis Danos on October 31st, at the Pefkios Georgiades Auditorium of the Cyprus University of Technology with short talks by Kleitos Papastylianou, Yiannis Christidis and Iannis Zannos. Furthermore an impromptu improvised algorave was organised on the 2nd of November with Zannos (supercollider) and Christidis (guitar) using the technical setup of the installation.

References

  1. N. Papastergiadis, Spatial Aesthetics: Art, Place, and the Everyday. London: Rivers Oram, 2006.
  2. S. Hall, “The Question of Cultural Identity,” in Modernity and its Futures, S. Hall, D. Held and T. McGrew, Eds. Cambridge : Polity Press in association with the Open University, 1992.
  3. H. Bhabha, The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994
  4. P. Virilio, Native Land. Arles: Actes Sud, 2009.
  5. B. Truax, Acoustic Communication. Norwood: Ablex 1984.

Credits

Curator: Yiannis Colakides
Coordinator: Helene Black
Artists: Iannis Zannos, Yiannis Christidis
Coding: Iannis Zannos, Loukas Basoukos, Aris Bezas
Sensor interface design: Loukas Basoukos
Seminar moderator: Antonis Danos
Seminar speakers: Kleitos Papastylianou, Iannis Zannos, Yiannis Christidis
Photography: Melina Andreou
Thanks: Evis Michaelides, Chrystalleni Loizidou, Diamanto Stylianou

Sponsors

Cultural Services of the Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture, AlphaMega, PrimeTel