Hold Up Half The Sky [in progress]

Hold Up Half The Sky, video still: NYC to San Francisco

Hold Up Half The Sky is an ongoing interactive sound & video installation project, using field recordings gathered while walking in rallies/protests in a handful of international cities from 2014 to the present. The protest footage is shot by holding a camera over my head and capturing the audio of the protest while walking, catching images of the sky above as we wound our way through the streets or lingered in parks, and leaving out any identifying images of the protestors. This is juxtaposed with video of clouds seen from above when flying, shot out the airplane window. The piece contrasts the raucous, human, emotional sounds with visuals of the slow, ephemeral, drifting clouds. Two scales and spaces coexist – one of focused, immediate human strife and one of the vast and common space of the atmosphere. The sky is the site of social power in many ways: surveillance devices, drones, satellites, missiles, and the like all occupy this space. And while the visuals of these videos are similar, the audio reveals the specificity of the experience of living under particular skies in particular moments: songs, police helicopters, screaming, chanting, different languages, alarms, etc.

Hold Up Half the Sky will use virtual reality or 3d projection consisting of video and sound made from a combination of the prerecorded audio and video, and some livestreaming of current protests. Instead of headsets, the piece creates an immersive space that viewers can enter, changing the typical isolation of VR technology into a communal space. Civic/participant media has played an important role in documenting and understanding current protest movements throughout the world, including in my hometown of Paris. In this piece, the content-creators/artists are the protestors who choose to livestream to the project, and the artist gathers material as a protestor. This piece provides a space to witness, experience, and consider the tensions of remoteness versus participation, of witnessing versus — or as a type of — intervention. The project comments on the fetishization of “the virtual,” the isolation encouraged by VR gaming, the role of the gallery in political activism, and the question of remote participation in political protest.

Hold Up Half The Sky takes its name from Mao Zedong’s famous saying that “women hold up half the sky.” 3D video relies on our perceptive apparatus to “stitch together” in the mind images shot from two slightly different locations – in this process we perceive depth. The piece considers how we could ever witness or understand multiple viewpoints at once, and uses the its title, and the protestors’ coordinated chants, to suggest the idea that collective efforts are required to hold a worldview in place — which might in fact be different in the eyes of each individual.

some examples of the recordings I am working with:

sunrise NYC to Porto, 2016

music & dance through the wall, U.S. – Mexico border, 2017

Protests following Trump election, NYC Union Square, 2016

Paris Manif for Palestine, 2014