Sounds from Beneath
Mikhail Karikis & Uriel Orlow
HD-video with sound
Inv. No. 0254
England, coal, miners – terms that are socio-romantically connected. When the digs in Kellingley and Thoresby, two of the last of what was once thousands of mines in England, were closed in 2015, it was the end of a tradition-filled and changeable relationship between economy and society that had lasted for centuries. The video work Sounds from Beneath seems, in this context, like a prophecy. Created as a project for the Manifesta 9 in Limburg, Belgium, it is an acoustic and visual memorial. The digital memory-album has two authors: Mikhail Karikis and Uriel Orlow. Both artists independently pursue their own artistic careers, but they share themes outside the public focus, as well as representations of transformation and upheaval.
Karikis often works with peripheral groups, trying to make problematic fields more tangible through sound and confrontation with the voice. Orlow deals with the landscape as a metaphor for collective memory.
Sounds from Beneath connects both concerns: on the one hand, post-industrial images of a coalmine in Kent, England, and on the other, a group of elderly men with faces that are as marked as the landscape itself. These are former miners that have formed a choir. Mikhail Karikis worked for half a year with the Snowdown Colliery Male Voice Choir from Canterbury and, with the singers, created a score of the noises from their underground past. The a cappella piece switches between the repetition of a machine-like soundscape and melodic passages; one can seem to make out pieces of words like ʻfireʼ and ʻunderground.ʼ The miners function as a strong group – they depend on each other. Holding together was necessary to survive during the day. Today, it is an important psychological support. The men arrange themselves like a picket-line; one is reminded of the Thatcher-era and mining demonstrations in the 1980s. It is irritating to see, near the end of the film, a figure carrying giant, loudly-colored rubber animals through the area. It gives hope. Soul not Coal.
Heike Maier-Rieper, 2015 (translation: Virginia Dellenbaugh)Continue reading