[-empyre-] Sustenazo: Part III
gniewna at monika-weiss.com
Wed Oct 3 11:07:47 EST 2012
Monika Weiss--Sustenazo (Part III)
In Sustenazo the timeless gesture of lamentation is confronted with the archive of a specific historical event—the forced overnight evacuation of the Ujazdowski Hospital’s eighteen hundred patients and staff on August 6, 1944.
In Part I of the video, the woman appears as two persons moving in opposite directions—simultaneously presented in real time and reverse motion, thanks to video and film editing technologies. Her body is present, although it exists outside of specific time. I choreographed and directed the performer’s movements. Her slow-moving gestures of lamentation or mourning are at once theatrical and minimal. They do not tell a historical narrative: the viewer does not know the reasons for her mourning. Lament—performative and communal—becomes a shared emotional experience. I decided not to perform in Sustenazo (or in my other recent works) to avoid autobiographical interpretations. Sustenazo is not solely about Poland or Polish history or European history. It is more broadly about the loss of lives inflicted by war and by other political and organized acts of violence and oppression. For me, war is not only devastating: it is unacceptable.
I employ the ternary form of Lament in the video and sound composition of Sustenazo. In Part I, German speakers read several passages from Goethe’s Faust II and from Paul Celan’s Schneepart. In Sustenazo, Celan, whose poetry was burned by German Nazis, represents the opposite symbolism to that of Goethe. During my artist residency in Berlin (2009), I invited a group of Germans to slowly recite passages from Faust II. Later that year, during my residency at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, I recorded the voice of a survivor of the Ujazdowski Hospital’s expulsion, who at the time of the Uprising was a teenage nurse. Her elderly and fragile voice is heard in Part I of the video, as it overlaps with the young and well-defined female voice reciting in German fragments from Goethe. The Polish voice represents a “sonic stain,” a trace that cannot be erased. For Part II of the video, I recorded a countertenor whom I asked to sing short fragments of laments—formal compositions that exist in classical music—however without any accompaniment. Later, I digitally cut single notes and words, even syllables, and moved them around, creating a sense of language and melody that disintegrates into indecipherable sound, becoming lament.[i]
[i] Etymologically, the word lament derives from Greek leros – “nonsense.” Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (C. & G. Merriam Company: Springfield, Mass., 1977), p. 645.
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