Marta Bogdańska
Flamingos in the Wintertime

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Could the immigrant even
mute the melody of his tongue—
They say it is silence
that makes music
But this will be like
on a distant tuft of cloud like
the colonel cutting the sound he never found
The Sound of One Immigrant Clapping

Adrian Castro 

– after Czesław Miłosz

In collaboration with sound artist Jaroslaw Downar as well as Giulia Palombino, Iulia Fronea, Mieke Strand, Sam Krosny and Susanne Lambert. An interpretation of Ludwig van Beethoven´s “Ode to Joy” for violin by Bartosz Grzybkowski. Welding work: Katrin Backhaus

The photograph Flamingos in the Wintertime, taken at the Berlin Zoo, shows a colony of flamingos. Standing on the snow-covered shore, the pale pink birds create an impression of vulnerability in an environment that does not correspond to their habitat and thus sets the mood for the sound setup. The sound were created as part of a three-month collaborative project entitled “Safe and Sound”.

During a process consisting of workshops and group work, the focus was on creating a narrative that includes the perspectives of people with a migration background. Participants developed a concept for three audio pieces, for which they wrote texts and recorded sounds, as well as collected, compiled and processed them. Based on their everyday experience in Berlin´s urban space, it included construction sites, a lot of traffic and regimentation in public spaces. The context of the sound compositions is the humanitarian suffering on the border between Poland and Belarus. The audio elements can be heard coming out from different locations in the site-specific sculpture, entitled No entry. Various metal posts and poles, parts of fences, spikes and street signs, as well as barrier tape, are all connected to one another, thereby transporting the division of urban space into the exhibition both physically and metaphorically. Tree trunks from birch trees stand out in the middle of this metal structure as alien elements.

In the audio composition entitled The Ring, the Berlin S-Bahn becomes the protagonist of the story. The resulting sound piece follows the circular narrative structure of the ´hero´s journey`. Feelings of dislocation, of being lost, and of linguistic confusion emerge. The story is set in the realm of a monotonous computer game universe.

The piece For(r)est  projects a dark underlying mood and aims to highlight the situation on the Belarusian-Polish border that has existed since the summer of 2021. The sounds in the forest oscillate between the familiar and the dangerous; the forest here is a silent witness to hardship and exclusion. Part of this audio composition is the voice message of a refugee from Afghanistan named Gul, recorded on 21st September 2021, who has been stuck at the Polish-Belarusian border since 9th August 2021.

“Greetings to the entire Polish nation, men and women! We are stuck between the barbed wires of Belarus and Poland. What should we do? You know in whose hands Afghanistan is. Our country was taken over by the Taliban and what are we supposed to do now? We are surrounded by barbed wire. You know from your own history what it means to be a refugee. You know what it is like. You are not in your own home, you have nothing to eat. Every day I walk and look at the Polish and Belarusian sides and ask myself what will happen next. Please, please, please Poland! Have mercy on us! Take us away from here, somewhere further inland! All we ask is that you save us from death! If you don´t want to protect us, at least save us from death. If you don´t want to protect us, that´s no problem, just save us from death. And then we will do something to return to our country. You all know that we cannot return to our country. If we could, I wouldn´t stay here for one second. I am sick. My back hurts and my left kidney. I am very sick. I can´t sleep at night. Whoever wants to know how we feel, can come and ask us and see what condition we are in. The policemen on both sides can see what condition we are in.  We ask them to take pity on us. They see the state we are in. For the first time in history, I see a situation where people are stopped several times by the country they are fleeing to and forced back to the border. Please don´t do this to us, help us! Get us out of here! Nobody wants to help us. Neither Poland nor Belarus”.

The third audio track entitled SoundProof, follows a trapped music piece – by Ludwig van Beethoven – and its attempts to break free. It is a metaphoric interpretation on restricting and divisive world, and the question of what freedom means and how it can become a reality for as many people as possible.

Könnte der Immigrant selbst

die Melodie seiner Zunge stummschalten—

Man sagt es ist das Schweigen

das die Musik erzeugt

 Aber das wird sein

 wie ein Trommeln

 auf einer entfernten Wolke

 wie der Oberst, der den Ton schneidet

 den er nie fand

Der Klang von einem einzelnen klatschenden Immigranten.

Adrian Castro—after Czeslaw Milosz

Text: Dr. Silke Förschler

Marta Bogdańska

Marta Bogdańska is a Polish visual artist, photographer and filmmaker. Her work has been shown and published internationally. Bogdańska approaches themes with critical perspective, oftentimes working in collaborative and participatory ways. She uses media from photography, text, film to sound and workshops. Her latest projects include: SHIFTERS, plaintext, LOVE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME, and documentary films (NEXT SUNDAY, IN-BETWEEN, UNICORN). Marta Bogdańska ist eine polnische bildende Künstlerin, Fotografin und Filmemacherin. Ihre Arbeiten wurden international ausgestellt und veröffentlicht. Bogdańska nähert sich Themen mit kritischem Blick und arbeitet oft auf kollaborative und partizipative Weise. Sie verwendet Medien wie Fotografie, Text, Film, Ton und Workshops. Zu ihren jüngsten Projekten gehören: SHIFTERS, plaintext, LOVE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME, und Dokumentarfilme (NEXT SUNDAY, IN-BETWEEN, UNICORN).