This year I had the opportunity to attend the symposium ‘Two Thousand and Fifteen’ exploring the theme ‘Fractured Narratives’ as part of ‘Sonorities’ a Festival of Contemporary Music in the Queen’s University Belfast. I presented a paper called ‘Improvising in the distance: Letters and Bridges’ focusing on the experience of Letters and Bridges telematic performance.
Here the abstract of the paper:
“This paper explores forms of fractured narratives that arose in ‘Letters and Bridges’, a telematic sonic performance from the project ‘Networked Migrations’. This event invited migrants (non-performers) based in Mexico City and in Leicester, England to share personal letters through improvisational readings, using real-time, bi-directional, streaming sound (Alarcon, 2014). Six participants from different countries, speaking in different languages, engaged in a practice of Deep Listening (Oliveros, 2005) to prepare for the improvisation, which was performed first by using a letter sent to them by someone they love, and later by using a new letter written to their distant performance partner in a pen-pal fashion.
Repetition, fragmentation, and transformation of words—leading to newly created relations between languages and styles, between authors and recipients, and between historical contexts—all helped participants to cross metaphorical ‘bridges’: bridges to access the memory of the beloved one, and bridges to access that ‘stranger’ who is willing to listen to multiple levels of personal story created in the distance. The bridge, in this context, can be understood as the path that facilitates the flow of feelings and words within the fracture that distance generates. This fracture implies: migration, dislocation, conversation between strangers, and stories from other spaces and times in foreign languages. Technology paradoxically enables and disrupts the narratives. The listening process and the detachment from visual presence focuses one on sound as the only source for interaction.
The paper will analyse the process lived by the participants—from the first pre-performance encounter to the public performance—as well as the new stories and reflections that emerged from the disruptive interaction: reflections about colonised and coloniser countries, witness accounts of sadness and violence, and the desire to migrate again, escaping from ‘broken’ and repetitive landscapes, which signified political instability and stagnant routine.”
The symposium invited me to think and hear the discussion about the role of participants in artistic/research projects, and subjectivities. I think each work must respond to the dynamics of the context and the people involved. There are not formulas either for art processes or for working with people, but always keeping in mind an ethical approach. The amazing book of Ruth Behar ‘The Vulnerable Observer‘ is a good reminder of the involvement we had with others in the creative and research process, an anthropological perspective.
Many thanks to the organisers!