During Festival Xarkis 2018 I facilitated a community art project engaged with folk song, folk song transmission, and collective memory. The project had three principal stages:
(1) Gathering: during the first half of the residency I wandered around Koilani asking people to sing for me a song or songs of their choice, which I recorded (with permission) using a handheld recorder. Generally people were happy to oblige, inviting me into their homes for coffee and sweets, curious to hear more about the festival and about my project. Although most of the recording sessions began somewhat timidly, my hosts often began to remember more songs as they went along, each song summoning the next, recollected and performed by an effort involving the whole group. My project was not necessarily invested in the preservation of oral culture; in a way I was taking a snapshot of the village in song, and as such I was prepared to accept any song offered to me by the residents of the village. Nonetheless, the participants tended towards folk song and orally transmitted songs, and the recording sessions were often portraits of intergenerational memory, with adults asking their elderly parents to remember a song from their youth, and the grandchildren around also joining in. My simple question - would you like to sing me a song? - revealed just how much song is bound up with memory, the past and group participation.
(2) Learning: during the second half of the residency I learned the songs myself, and put together a document with the lyrics of each song, in preparation for the workshop.
(3) Teaching and performing: during the festival weekend itself, I facilitated a workshop which was open to whomever wanted to participate. I taught the participants the songs I had gathered during the residency, thereby transferring a body of songs from the village residents to those visiting the village. At the end of the workshop we staged a flash mob-style performance at the village kafeneio.
The material presented here contains the original field recordings made during the residency period, and an audio recording of myself singing those same songs. The audio recording was made on the morning of December 21st 2018, among the shrubs and pines in the outskirts of Mathiatis, where my mother lives. Although this last recording is inessential to the project, it felt like a necessary arc of the circle. With this arc, the circle feels complete. Both the field recording and the December recording were exhibited at the Xarkis Festival Exhibition at Point Centre for Contemporary Art on December 21st 2018.
This material presented here is a document; the artwork itself took place in August, among and between the people who generously participated in it.
NGO site: xarkis.org
Festival site: www.xarkisfestival.org
Interview about Song Cycles : xarkis.org/2018/08/08/2008/
All photography by Emma Louise Charalambous
Recording December 2018