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Act V

Act V is a continuation of a project by artist collaborative Postcommodity The Ears Between Worlds are Always Speaking, featured in 2017 at Documenta 14 in Athens Greece. Imagining that this sonic work initiated at Documenta 14 is not an opera completed in 4 acts, but in fact an opera with infinite continuing acts, Act V offers an additional chapter of voices to this opera. Act V, opens the reality that beyond the Documenta 14 exhibition and the physical duration of The Ears Between Worlds are Speaking, the music and stories continue until the root causes of migration and displacement are resolved. As one whose work and life are situated in the liminality between worlds through my partnership with my husband Ronnie Khoder, Act V seeks to honor his voice and the voices of our family members as they share the stories and sounds of migration, and acknowledges the problematic role of a global economy of whiteness which perpetuates the endless acts of this opera preformed throughout the world. 


The narratives of migration are accompanied by an undercurrent of whispered text from the Cassandra Press Reader on the white savior. These whispers represent a parallel narrative that haunts the experiences of those moving across borders. My voice as a white, American, embodies the source of the whispers in a white ideal that forms the roots of mass displacement. The whispered text is an excerpt from W.E. B. DuBois The Souls of White Folk transcribed below. 

The audio features excerpts of conversations between myself my husband and members of our family. My position in the conversations reveals an additional layer of whiteness, privlege, and removal as I ask and listen from a place of insulation. Sharp, percussive, vocal sounds illustrate the sounds of moving herds of sheep through the desert to smuggle into Syria and Saudi Arabia  as a source of income. My partner describes his experience as a career smuggler and the use of the sounds as a method of communicating to the herd and to those traveling with him as they move through the night. My nephews share about moving through the night to cross borders from Iraq to Turkey. My brother-in-laws speak of life under ISIS occupation and fleeing by boat from Turkey to Europe only for the raft to sink in the middle of the ocean. All the while my whiteness stands audience trying to understand, and Dubois' text calls me and the collective audience into a refusal of these experiences as inevitable. These movements and sounds which happen under cover of night need not be repeated again today.

"The discovery of personal whiteness among the world's people is a very modern thing...This assumption that of all the hues of God whiteness alone is inherently and obviously better than brownness or tan leads to curious acts; even the sweeter souls of the dominant world as they discourse...on weather, weal and woe are continually playing above their actual words an obligato of tune and tone, saying: " My poor , un-white thing! Weep not nor rage. I know, too well, that the curse of God lies heavy on you. Why? That is not for me to say, but be brave! do your work in your lowly sphere, praying the good Lord that into heaven above, where all is love, you may, one day, be born- white!" ...Then always, somehow, some way, silently but clearly, I am given to understand that whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen! Unfortunate? Unfortunate. But {who's} is the misfortune? All this I see and hear up in my tower , above the thunder of the seven seas. From my narrowed windows I stare into the night that looms beneath the cloud swept stars. Eastward and westward storms are breaking_ great, ugly whirlwinds of hatred and blood and cruelty. I will not believe them inevitable. I will not believe that all that was must be, that all the shameful drama of the past must be done again today before the sunlight sweeps the silver seas."

W.E.B. DuBois

The Souls of White Folk

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