Based on the historically charged Argentine expression “El silencio es salud…” (silence is health), this physical-sound installation explores themes of silencing, both in connection with the state-sponsored terrorism of the Argentine dictatorship (1976-83), and more broadly in reference to contemporary current events.
Old pianos that would have been destroyed or discarded were collected for the installation. Recordings of actions performed on these pianos are alternated with clips from interviews of family members of the Argentine “disappeared” who reflect on their experiences and on the current trials of those responsible for torture. The sound samples also include Kristin Norderval’s site-specific vocal improvisations at ESMA in Buenos Aires, the former detention center now a national space of memory.
These recorded sounds and interviews clips are played back through the pianos, via magnetic transducers that vibrate the piano soundboards, turning the pianos into large resonators. There are no external speakers involved; all the sounds come though the vibration of the pianos themselves. While “piano” connotes quiet in musical notation, the pianos thus ironically become physical sonic memories of past events.
The recorded sound of a piano being dropped (processed digitally and triggered randomly), temporarily mutes all the other sounds in the installation. The number of triggered events is based on the estimated number of assassinations per day in Argentina in the years from 1976-1979. Each 15 minutes of the hour corresponds to the statistics from one specific year, statistics that are still being updated as the exhumation of mass graves allows for the identification of more victims.
During the period of the installation, names from the over 22,000 documented victims were being inscribed on the north wall of the gallery (Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo) by performance artist Jill Sigman.
Composer/vocalist Kristin Norderval also made unannounced live performance interventions in the installation throughout the course of the festival.