Grains of Sound

The Barn, Banchory, 2016
Camera: Fraser Denholm

Through the process of displacing the soil from the garden of the art’s venue into their performance space, a burial before the piece and subsequent emergence during the piece, l used soil as a signifier of time and identity. The work explores violent history of war crimes in Bosnia. It proved to be a cathartic experience for me as a performer, in finding a way to deal with the past, and face the challenges of working in a place with a very different social and political context in rural Scotland. The work also uses audio field recordings from Banchory

The audience enters into a large and dark space. They hear an industrial hum filling the space by becoming louder gradually. The sound is coming from 2 pairs of stereo loudspeakers positioned in the corners of the room.  
People sit in the chairs arranged in the middle of the space around a long, white piece of paper laid on the ground. In the middle of the paper, there is a pile of soil.
The audience listens to sections of the field recordings, a sound of wind, high evergreen trees rubbing against each other during a windy day, and the thundering noise of water.
I am still, under a heavy and wet layer of soil, waiting. I shiver, I control my breaths, I am listening to the sound of rain from the high frequency loudspeakers positioned just above me. After a quarter of an hour, the reproduced soundscape diminishes and is replaced by the sound of breathing - my breathing.
I move under the soil. I use my right hand to clear a layer of soil from my face. Then slowly, I uncover the rest of my body. I look at people who stare intensively at me. I look at the pile of soil and a pitchfork placed on the top of the pile.
Pomegranates bleed on the paper while I rip them apart with the pitchfork. I approach people giving them pieces, or I leave them near their chairs.
In the corner of the performance space, there is a small opening with the wooden shutters. I open it and climb from the darkness of the performance space to the brightly lit gallery space. I bring the empty glass container from the gallery to the performance area. I fill it with soil in front of the audience who observe my actions. 

Then, the sound starts again, I sit on the pile to listen one more set of soundscape field recordings. The audience and I, we, listen together the sound of birds, voices and at the end, the sound of traffic of the main road going through Banchory.

Sound pieces that were played before and after the section of the performance on the video were around 15 minutes long. The sounds were gathered during my walks in Banchory. The natural resources such as the rivers, forests and fields of the whole area are managed carefully. The old estates of the area have an important role in this process. Banchory felt alien to me on many levels compared to towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The overall soundscapes and a rhythm of life accentuated my feeling of displacement. However, I also wondered, was it my past that made me feel this confrontation between Bosnia and Scotland?

...the personal sound of identity is something other than dialogue; the general sound of life does not answer back, but feeds the internal monologue of self, which in turn feeds into a personal identity by which we are recognised in our individual interactions with others. (Street 2017 p. 6)

As to how is it possible to communicate personal experience of war?

   A writer Susan Sontag says:
'We' - this 'we' is everyone who has never experienced anything like what they went    through - don't understand. We don't get it. We truly can't imagine what it was like. We can't imagine how dreadful, how terrifying war is; and how normal it becomes. Can't   understand, can't imagine. That's what every soldier, and every journalist and aid worker and independent observer who has put in time under fire, and had the luck to elude the death that struck down others nearby, stubbornly feels. And they are right. (2003 p. 113)

Thus, while lying on the hard floor, my body absorbed the moisture from the soil. It also absorbed sounds because

...sound is a memento mori. Looked at this way, the tolling of a bell, which on one level we may see as a bridge between the material world and that of the spirit and imagination, may also be heard as a metaphor for life and death. (Street 2017 p. 82)