Israel and Palestine: Soundscape

Israel and Palestine
March 2018
Dual Narratives tour through Mejdi

 

You can listen to the soundscape here

 


Artist’s Statement:

In order for an object to make sound, it must be placed into contact with another object or with breath. Take, for instance, an orange: to apprehend it, you smell the citrus, notice the color, feel the callused peel and dripping innards, or bite into the sweet segments. How might you hear the orange? It could make a thud when dropping from a hand or falling from a branch, it could ooze when being bit into, it could rustle when pushed by the wind. To hear an object it must be put into motion, have contact with another object, or be breathed into. Objects can make sound, but without the aid of a human, they cannot produce lyric.

Often unbeknownst to us, sound calls us into movement and relation with objects because of the very ways that sound is generated. In March, I was struck by and lured into the sonic topography of Israel and Palestine—the mesmerizing chanting of the Qur’an from the loud speakers in the Aida Refugee camp, the loud clanging of the tram in Mahane Yehuda Market, the spectral scales reverberating in the cistern at Masada, the way that steps echoed in the mosques, temples, and churches. The sound of these spaces, while beautiful, reflected the kinds of relations and tensions which comprise the Holy Land. Holy, indeed, but marred by deadly conflict and profound trauma that materializes between arbitrary boundaries. While there, we heard many stories from rabbis, activists (Jewish and Palestinian), tour guides, priests, and imams. There was something un-ascertainable about the experience, but if there were a way to communicate the land to people back home (both the seduction and the sorrow of it), it would be through sound and poetry.     

Just as sound calls us into relation, this soundscape exists to vivify Palestine and Israel in a way which calls the listener into relation with it complex existence—to re-enliven the land as a site of immense beauty while still the site of trauma and violence. With this piece I hope to provide the listener with an experience of the seduction, the violence, the chaos, and the beauty of the land. The soundscape also comments on the experience of being a tourist: the push-pull of wanting a picture while trying to resist commodifying the holy and painful land.

The poems (written by me while in Israel/Palestine) try to communicate the love of the land: violent heartbreak, seduction, and longing. The other spoken parts include a man in Aida Refugee camp telling us about the measures taken to protect the children at school from shooters, the names of some of the children killed in the Holocaust, our lost wanderings in the old city in the early morning, and someone in our group asking to take a picture. These sound clips were selected to try to echo the overlapping traumas and seduction communicated through the sounds of the land itself.  I wanted the objects and the physical space of the land to express just as much as the poetry and the spoken soundbites. While the content-laden words communicate specifics, the actual seduction of the land is most evident through the sounds of the objects and animals. This soundscape postulates that the focus on discourse around Israel/Palestine robs the international scene of the seduction of its space. It invites the listener into the experience of the seduction without neglecting the knowledge of the violence of the Holy Land. The aesthetics of sound allows for the eros of the Holy Land to be present simultaneous to the description of trauma. The most striking example of the conflation of trauma and seduction occurs at the very start of the audio piece when the enchanting reading of the Qur’an plays as our guide in Aida refugee camp tells us about the measures taken to protect the school from open fire. The tension between seduction and trauma persists throughout the audio story and argues that one need not divorce aesthetics of a place from the trauma of that same place; indeed, a false separation of eros, the love of bodies and the hardship of a place limits one’s ability to apprehend that space or to illicit social change in it. The eros of Israel/Palestine must be known to anyone who longs to establish peace in its holy soil.

**This soundscape is highly phenomenological, and I forgot to articulate in my artist’s statement the ways that my whiteness creates its own lens through which I experience the wonders of Israel and Palestine.  This isn’t something that discredits the work, but it is to say that I have a privileged relationship to the land and the story. While moved by them, I am not personally effected or implicated in the cycles of abuse occurring in this beautiful, sacred land. I wrestle with what to do, and telling what I know of the story seems to be part of it.

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Israel and Palestine: Soundscape

two poems and ruminations on faith

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These poems were written quickly. But they frame the narrative of my belief, which is the only way I know how to have this conversation. In the last year my faith in Jesus has faded, altered, faded, altered, became irrelevant. Throughout my life, my Christianity has been inundated with doubt at various moments, and I became obsessed with the epistemology of doubt as that which kept me open rather than that which inhibited faith. Nonetheless, I entered seminary in the process of giving up Christianity entirely.  Before entering STH, I experienced Christianity as part of the white, patriarchal system which perpetrated sexism, homophobia/transphobia, misogyny, and religious intolerance. I say this realizing we are always creating our past when we try to remember it; realizing there were many ineffable ways of being that my religious upbringing invited me into. I say this also realizing it will hurt feelings and offend people of my previous Christian communities. I want to recognize my family and several of my friends as a group of people who have demonstrated divine love and grace in my life, and to remain grateful for the many voices in these communities who have allowed me to ask questions and have loved me in every moment of my development.

While anecdotal, I think its important to talk about my identity as a woman for a moment. As a white, privileged woman in America, I absolutely believe in the necessity of feminism in America while recognizing that there are many LGBTQ, trans, black, Latina, Muslim (etc) women who are dehumanized by our society at deeper and more aggressive levels than I am. Our society is structured in a way that oppresses women still. I am not pointing fingers and I’m beginning to recognize ways in which I participate in a false-consciousness about what “woman” means/is. I’m trying to process all of this: this reality was evident to me pre-election and remains important to the understanding we have of the world. We have come a long ways, but there is more work to do.

Today I was so asleep in church that I dreamed real dreams, but while awake was still reminded of the value of being present and the value of listening. I was also reminded of this: img_8756.jpeg

In my day-to-day life, I want to remember that deep listening spurs action, that we must lend one another our vision once in a while, that Christian culture does not hold Christ rising or Christ living; that we have rips in the fabric of our love which remain open so that we are reminded of a torn veil, of the mythology upon which we build our lives. I’ve found a way in which I think Christianity can operate without participating in systems of oppression. But I think that Fanny Howe is onto something when she says, “As the word ‘Christian’ has evolved, it has become associated with nationalism in that old crusading sense. It has become an ideological term that has, as far as I can tell, very little to do with the realism of the Gospels.” The word ‘Christian’ has lost the leap–for faith is always a leap. It has mummified itself, and in certain contexts, the body beneath is disintegrated with no hope of rising.

I’m neither the first nor last to note this. I know that I am not the end all or be all of Christians, and in many circles I’ve forfeited that title by some of my beliefs/stances on things. And yet, here I am, still identifying as Christian, trying (in my best moments) to find Christ in the people around me.

two poems and ruminations on faith

A Theodicy

Xavier le Pichon

{answering the question of “How can such evil and suffering exist in a world created and sustained by a good and loving God?”}

“I think this is a very childish conception of God. God is somebody who is in front of us very weak. He loves us. The more you love somebody the more you can be hurt by this person… because you can be hurt by her and you don’t want to force her to become something—you want her to do it from her own willingness. That is the attitude of God with us and we have the proof of that for us who are Christian in the way he has sent his son to save us. He did not send a strong man or legions of angels and so on, he sent somebody who said to us: ‘ you have the potential to save the world but I am not going to force you, it is up  to you to decide’. God is a mystery but he can be discovered only through the weak and fragile part of us and around us. And then we discover that this is the power of the transformation of the world—not through armies or something like that.”

—Xavier Le Pichon

Please listen to “Xavier le Pichon—The Fragility at the Heart of Humanity”

A Theodicy

un-honeyed

 

 

Women were soil–
fertile ground without
power of creation.
But I’m tired of writing on women
and I’m tired of writing about you–
The poems, like you, come up short every time.

I should have known the cat would roll over
fleshy stomach up, full
breasts, only baby birds
falling from the nest
unparalleled. trauma: he was
gone the first time.
she found three parallel lines
colliding in the warm place
and said “stay.”
Marching on and around
walls that do not fall.
Do not talk to me about God
unless you see utter-up cats,
falling chicks, and 5-yr-old girls
coming to a canter in the field
as the reason for bloodied
knuckles and mythology.

 


I wrote this poem probably in the middle of Christian Ethics and I just found it in my notebook. I don’t like the title (“I do not know what it means to be a Christian”) and I don’t know if this poem is even about that anymore, but it was the sentiment that inspired this poem and so I’m keeping it as a placeholder for now.

It’s painful and uncomfortable to realize that you no longer know how to define the very thing you believe. All I know is that a lot of what I once associated with “Christian” no longer seems essential and while it isn’t fun, I believe this process is essential to breaking down illusions. While we question the definitions of that which we thought of as concrete, there will be fall out and we will make mistakes–but the life of faith is vast and adventurous.

Today my prayer is that the Lord may fill you with awareness that you are alive, and with the ability to recognize Christ in your sister and brother.

un-honeyed