The Red Jail, Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan-Iraq November 2009
part of Post War Art and Culture Festival organised by Artrole
The Red Jail, scarred and wounded by war, has such a massive presence that it felt like the building itself had to be the star of the work.
I decided to make an architectural installation initially led by what the building’s physicality suggested but I realised its parallel symbolic significance. I asked each of the students working with us to stand behind a window and, just as the performance began, to hang up bars of light. I also projected a film, Watch, a response to images from the Kurdish genocide seen in a museum.
Heartbeats and clock beats pulsated so the performance began with the building lighting up and starting to breathe. Sounds became more and more rhythmically complex as the students joined in, rolling marbles in large water bottles and Kurdish drummers added traditional rhythms.
I did a duet with Mrs. Garmiany speaking of the bleak time she spent in the jail with her young family whilst the students each rang a small bell. Adalet Garmiany, her son, also spoke about this repressive , terrifying time in the Red Jail.
The overall structure of the event was a collaboration with Richard Wilson and Chris Gladwin, from an initial suggestion by Adalet Garmiany.
Large percussive sounds from Richard Wilson’s huge spring gong tank with accompanying welding light, Chris Gladwin’s sound sculptings and Miyako Narita’s projections of the building’s scars all augmented the building’s presence as the central component.
The event ended with the students making circles of light from the bars and throwing them into the audience.
The shell of a building that dominates the entrance to the Amna Suraka complex was illuminated with streaks of light, reminiscent of the bars of the cells once housed there, as the voice of an elderly woman broke the night. In the performance that marked the finale of the momentous first day of the First Annual Post War Arts Festival in Slemani, the mother of the Festival’s organizer, British Kurdish artist Adalet Garmiany, revealed that she and Adalet had lived as refugees in this shattered building during the mid 1990s
DR CYNTHIA P. SCHNEIDER SOMA E-Digest