Ex-Situ

Yusuph Suso recording himself by smart phone in Palermo, Italy

Ex Situ is a multimedia performance and EP which explores how human beings can exist in past, current, and future homeland(s), simultaneously. It has been awarded a Musikfonds FEB grant.

As part of Foreign Bodies, a series of performances, compositions and research exploring the phenomenon of human bodies in motion and migration, HYENAZ collaborated with the Gambian singer and migrant Yusuph Suso on the island of Sicily. Suso comes from a line of musicians stretching back to the ancient kingdom of Mali and now works as an interpreter for others navigating the Italian migration system. HYENAZ and Suso recorded music and interviews in Mandinka and English that connect Suso back to Gambia, to his life in Sicily, and to us as European musicians.

HYENAZ and Suso will develop these recordings into a composition and performance called “Ex-Situ” (a Latin term which has been used to describe a form of belonging not tied to space), to be performed simultaneously in Palermo and Berlin. The idea of “Nation Ex-Situ” — a nation of stateless people, no longer able to live in their homelands — coined and explored by professor Maxine Burkett, was inspiring to us in the formulation of this work.

As societies emerge unequally from a global health crisis which has extended restrictions on movement, Ex-Situ explores how performers and audiences can be present for one another without being physically proximate. It asks audiences how we can create and sustain communities when we are not physically present with the people and places at the core of our identity.

We are now preparing a sound installation in which we will present a “mobile of mobiles”–a hanging sculpture made of mobile phones which will be designed and installed by Lau Bau, each playing the unique sonic elements of the song simultaneously, on endless loop. The elements will be the stems of the track–the electronic instruments, the spoken interview, and the vocal hook sung by Yusuph. Each phone will also play video content that was created together with Yusuph in Italy and in Gambia. As each of the loops are of different length, they will begin to interact and create one long sonic piece that interacts together in different ways out of chance.

For the opening of the event we will invite Yusuph to call in and sing live over the song, creating a simultaneous event in Palermo in order to stage his singing. As much of our interactions have been done over the phone and through mobile communication, this would be the a nice way to further illustrate our connection.

Adding to the sound installation will be contributions from visitors and virtual visitors from around the world. We are working with creative coder Rodrigo Frenk to create a mobile app that will record visitors migration stories. They can do this at their own leisure or when they visit the event. The stories are then sonically manipulated with a vocoder to play in tune with the key of the installation. Therefore, as visitors or end-users add their migration stories, these two will become part of the sonic landscape of the installation.

Ex-Situ is the fifth release in our on-going Foreign Bodies project: a series of singles, mixed-reality performances and a/v installations that engage with relational bodies–bodies in motion, bodies in migration, bodies in resistance.

Along with the gallery installation and launch of the web interface, we will also release the Ex-Situ video and EP, which will include a remix by Sky Deep.