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Zarouhie Abdalian and Joseph Rosenzweig collaborate to create site-specific sound installations and performances. Their projects combine an interest in the history of experimental music with an examination of the interplay between architecture and socio-political events.
The sound installation threnody for the millions killed by silicosis (2017) examines a pivotal historical moment during which sensuous nature is appropriated and exploited in order to serve as a means to human ends. The sounds heard throughout the work depicts the act of knapping, but the source sound recording is altered so that the percussions process can refer to different hosts of the reverberant spaces: a cairn, a factory floor, a mine, a mausoleum, a church, a railway tunnel, a council chamber, a dungeon, a park, a nuclear reactor hall, a cathedral, a courtyard, a conference room. As the title suggests, the metaphor of the work references a double violence: “silicosis,” one of the oldest occupational diseases (notably affecting miners and lens makers), which continues to result in many deaths across the globe; and “the act of knapping,” a process of producing lithic tools through the controlled fracturing and weaponizing of naturally occurring forms. Restaging the work at this biennial, the artists imagine the Optical and Mechanical Plant as a site for mourning through this elegy to call for the emancipation of the dead. Here, death is articulated and foregrounded instead of being rendered as a mere ghost or specter that can be conjured away or overcome.