Artist and founder of research platform XING, Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee has co-curated an online film festival exploring the relationship of sound and place
Nameless. echoes, spectres, hisses is an online screening event taking its inspiration from the idea of sound and its relationship with place, with particular focus on South East Asia. It’s co-curated by Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee and Jade Barget for XING – a research platform centered on South East Asian art practices, supported by A.I. Gallery, a London-based gallery fostering East-West dialogues.
The capacity of place and space to contain memory and trauma is an ongoing discourse within cultural geography. Here, Nameless. echoes, spectres, hisses “lends and ear” to the region of South East Asia to explore and excavate the historical legacy of the territory by mining its spectral sounds; “the chimings and utterances… unearthed languages of Kristang; weaponised voices used against Viet Cong soldiers; chants of Bangkok in revolt; resonating rare earth elements; hisses pulled into language; a funeral song devoted to the afterlife.”
One of the featured works, having-seen-snake, is inspired by the artist’s encounter with a snake while walking through rural Pittsburgh. “This is how I understand what happened,” explains Sriwhana Spong. “A moment of indistinction when, as one creature to another, I respond in my creatureliness and then language reasserts itself, and with it distinction. And then there is “me” and “snake,” and then I am afraid. I think I time travelled in a way – I rushed out ahead of language, and then I was snapped back.”
On a sensory level, that’s what her film having-seen-snake manages to convey. Intercutting between dreamy, otherworldly, highly-saturated images, overlaid on top of each other against a soundscape of birdsong, running water, and the hum of cicadas, which start to become more ominous and threatening. It then cuts to an interview with the curator of amphibians and reptiles at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and we’re invited to inspect a series of creatures bottled and preserved in glass jars, and we are once more at a slight remove from the natural world and our innate “creatureliness”.
Sung Tieu’s Sound TV is concerned with infrastructures of control and psychoacoustics (the psychological responses to sound) and features a high pitch noise recreated in an investigation into claims of a “sonic weapon” developed by Cuba and used against US diplomats and with neurological implications known as “Havana Syndrome”. “The sound of the Havana Syndrome has a phantomatic essence – invisible, its existence and psychological effect only speculative,” writes co-curator Jade Barget. “In Sound TV, it is overlaid with an encrypted message written and spoken by the artist, presented over footage taken on the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, where the psychological weapon ‘Ghost Tape No.10’ was broadcasted by the Americans during the Vietnam war.”
This military operation, also known as “Wandering Soul”, was used by the US during the Vietnam war and exploited the Vietnamese belief that if you were killed away from home without the proper burial rites, your spirit would be doomed to wander the earth for eternity. Recordings of Vietnamese actors beseeching the Vietnamese troops to lay down their weapons and return home, for fear of becoming poor wandering souls, was played over loudspeakers in the jungles and projected from helicopters and planes with the hope of spooking the Viet Cong. “Sound TV collapses two conflicts – the Vietnam War and the Cold War,” explains Barget. “Highlighting the US’s presence in both conflicts, Sung Tieu’s synthesis provokes a reflection on the notion of victim and perpetrator.”
Running until 27 July, Nameless. echoes, spectres, hisses also features moving image, sonic and writing practices by artists DIVISI62, Russell Morton, Pathompon Mont Tesprateep, and scholar Benjamin Tausig.
To screen the available films, or for more information on the filmmakers and films, click here