From November 16th to 25th, 2018, Soundwalk Collective’s Ulysses Syndrome inhabited the first floor of the Beit Beirut, the city’s museum and urban cultural centre. A sound installation produced by Fantom, curated by Massimo Torrigiani, designed by Luca Cipelletti, presented by the Italian Cultural Institute in Beirut as part of the programme “Italy, Cultures, the Mediterranean” of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Ulysses Syndrome premiered in Palermo as part of Manifesta 12 and was presented at the Petit Palais of the Bardo National Museum in Tunis.
In over two months across the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea: Middle East, Italy, Northern Africa and Southern Europe, equipped with scanners, aerial antennae and recorders, Soundwalk Collective intercepted a technological, augmented hearing, accidental overlaps of noises, music and voices, private conversations and service communications, between boats, ships and the coast. A soundscape of the Mediterranean basin, composed by retracing Ulysses’ journey from Troy to Ithaca. A vastness of sound fragments songs harmonies: a choir, an audible entropy. They listened to these recordings again in their studio, in order to grasp the sense of each sound, of each trace, of each diaphony: hints of stories, slices of worlds, letting themselves be led to what turned out to be an état des lieux of the Mediterranean basin. The result is a musical map in continuous rearrangement, a polyphonic installation, the reflection of a sonic world.
This phonography will now echo on the first floor of Beit Beirut, formerly known as Yellow House, a neo-Ottoman-style building erected in 1924 by architect Youssef Afandi Aftimos. The building became the main military outpost and home of snipers in the years of the civil war that afflicted Lebanon from 1975 to 1990. Abandoned and vandalized for years, it witnessed a recent rebirth as a museum and cultural center. Except its first floor, which preserves, intact and clearly visible, traces of the daily life of snipers who over the years made it a funeral home. The Beit Beirut, characterized by an empty central axis that extends towards the sky, is now a reflection of the city’s memory, of which it preserves the tragedies as well as the splendours, the stories of life and war, of rebirth. With Ulysses Syndrome, its past resounds and is amplified in the whispers and the songs that have always slipped, impalpable, on the surface of the Mediterranean, accompanying the uninterrupted flow of our history, dramatic yet sublime.
The approach to composition of Soundwalk Collective (Stephan Crasneanscki, Simone Merli, and Kamran Sadeghi) combines ethnography, non-linear narrative, psychogeography, the observation of nature, and explorations in recording and synthesis, often carried out in collaboration with other artists, musicians, and writers. The source material of their works is always linked to specific locations, natural or artificial, and requires long periods of investigative travel and field work. Resulting in albums, sound installations and live performances.