Ended project

Transmissions sound art residency exchange

The Transmissions sound art residency exchange fosters collaborative encounters between Norwegian and Greek sound artists and researchers.

Invited artists: Maia Urstad (NO) and Anna Papaeti (GR/CY)

Initiators / respondents: acte vide (GR)


The Transmissions sound art residency exchange fosters collaborative encounters between Norwegian and Greek sound artists and researchers, with an emphasis on remote or geographically isolated landscapes and their audible and inaudible past.

For 2020-2021, Anna Papaeti, a Greece-based researcher / practitioner focusing on the relationship between sound and trauma, especially in situations of detention, has been invited to collaborate with Maia Urstad, a Norway-based artist working at the intersection of audio and visual arts with a special interest in archival practices and obsolete technologies. The two artists were invited to spend a week together in Greece in june 2021 and a further week together in september 2021 in Norway, accompanied by Greek intermedia duo acte vide. Their joint, open-ended project sets out to explore traces of aural experiences and histories associated with two very distinct, yet eerily similar locations: the unpopulated cycladic island of Gyaros in the municipality of Syros, Greece; and the easternmost town of Vardø in Varanger peninsula, Norway.

While many centuries and miles apart, the liminal landscapes and dark histories associated with both locations resonate strangely alongside each other. Gyaros served as a place of exile already since Roman times, but more recently during the Greek civil war and the Greek military junta in the 20th century. The ruins of a 1947 prison, built by the exiled prisoners themselves, still stand on the island harbor. Prisoners included pregnant women, and reports of torture and inhuman living conditions abounded, resulting in the prison’s suspension several times until its permanent closure in 1974. The island has since been used for Greek military exercises, but more recently, given the absence of human inhabitants, has become part of a large WWF campaign for wildlife conservation.

Interestingly, just as Gyaros was colloquially known among its prisoners as “devil’s island”, “isle of death” or “hell on earth”, the area nearby Vardø in Norway was dubbed the “gates of hell”, due to its harsh climate and geographical location placed in the far north east. However, close to current Vardø city on Varangerhalvøya is the Domen mountain where most notably some of the latest witch trials in European history took place, with dozens of women burned to death during 1621-1663. The events are famously commemorated in Steilneset memorial. The city of Vardø is facing the Barents Sea and therefore perfectly located as a hub for an all year round coastal access for an important and sustainable fishing industry which is fought for and made visible nationally by the peoples movement Kystopprøret (Coastal uprising). As Russia is a close neighbour to Vardø there has been controversy concerning the visible radar systems, most recently upgraded in 2020. The city centre houses the Globus II and III, both originally developed and installed in California as a missile-detecting intelligence system and to observe outer space.

Transmissions sound art residency exchange in Syros / Gyaros, Greece (May-June 2021)
Transmissions sound art residency exchange in Syros / Gyaros, Greece (May-June 2021)

Just as these sites or locations stand testament to the violence of othering and the horrors of past injustice, their present is caught in limbo between monumentality and silence, openness and secrecy. How can we listen out for the silenced voices that have been confined to the edges of human activity? How can the present animate the partial records of a deliberately obscured past, be they archival data or remnants of past technologies? What kinds of mediations might allow for the darkest point of no return to be revisited and transformed into a place of consolation and repair?

About the artists and organizers:

Maia Urstad works in the intersection of audio and visual art, primarily with site specific and spatial sound installations. Technological development and communication technology are recurring themes in many of her works, often with the use of radio as a central auditory, visual and conceptual element. These problematize the volatility of today's technology and what traces and stories we leave behind when new inventions enter our everyday lives. Her work also tends to focus on flops, lost causes and developments that are on the border of obsoletion. Maia was appointed as City Sound Artist of Bonn, Germany 2017, and awarded the Rune Brynestad Memory Grant in Norway 2019. Her sound installation MURMUR was acquired by the Norwegian National Museum in 2020, initially commissioned by Borderline Festival in Greece and presented at The XIV Biennial of Media Art, Santiago de Chile (CL) 2019. Other recent solo- and collaboration works have been presented at: Kabuso Arthouse (NO), Bergen Kunsthall (NO), Bonnhoeren (DE), Struer Tracks (DK), Lighthouse Brighton (UK) and Sonic Acts (NL). Maia works alternately with solo projects and in collaboration with other artists. She is part of the collective MÆKUR with Eva Rowson (UK/NO)and Anton Kats (UKR/DE), runs the radio station RUMMUR with Eva Rowson and Peter Meanwell (UK/NO), and has developed sound- and light installations with Hilde Hauan (NO) since 2006. Maia was part of the international project freq_out 2004 - 2017 and freq_wave (seven seas) 2020 both curated by C.M von Hausswolff. Learn more about her at this website.

Anna Papaeti (Phd, King’s College London) writes about opera, trauma, and the intersections of music, power and violence. She held two Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowships, exploring the use of music and sound in detention as a means of terror and humiliation in cold-war Greece (University of Goettingen, Germany; Panteion University, Athens). She has sought ways of translating her research into other mediums, such as the installations ‘The Dark Side of the Tune” (2016, Onassis Stegi) and “Néos Parthenonas” (2019) with Nektarios Pappas, and the podcast “The Undoing of Music” for Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2018). Her research has been supported by the European Commission (FP7, Horizon 2020), Onassis Foundation, Research Centre for the Humanities, Athens, and DAAD (UK). She has co-edited two special volumes of scholarly journals on music in detention. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC Consolidator Grant titled Soundscapes of Trauma: Music, Sound and the Ethics of Witnessing (University of Cyprus; 2021–2026). Learn more about her projects at her website here.

acte vide ("empty act") is the elusive duo project of Yannis Kotsonis and Danae Stefanou. Active since 2006 as an improvisatory unit, they persistently explore noise and silence in ever-changing real-time formations, usually unrecorded, and often in ad-hoc dialogue with other musicians, visual artists and directors. Past commissions include collaborations with Raed Yassin (Irtijal & Borderline 2019), Vicki Bennett (In Mute 2014) & Tarek Atoui (Locus Athens 2015), as well as live improvised soundtracks for Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (Goethe Institut Athen 2016) and early French animation films (Festival du Film Francophone 2013). The duo has appeared in numerous performances and installations in Greece, Italy, the UK & Ireland, and has participated in several international festivals (Borderline, Moving Silence, ΜΙR, Thessaloniki International Film Festival, etc). They organise and convene improvisation and active listening workshops for children and adults in Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as residencies on sound art and site-specific sonic experimentation in the island of Syros, Greece, having hosted over 100 artists in the past seven years, including Stine Janvin & Felicity Mangan, David Toop, Graham Lambkin & Aine O’Dwyer, Michael Pisaro, Mike Cooper and many others.

Syros Sound Meetings, located in the island of Syros, has been organizing workshops and international residencies for sound artists and researchers since 2012. Focusing particularly on field recordings and site-specific performances & installations, the initiative has hosted over 150 artists and researchers in recent years, many of whom first met in Syros and have since gone on to develop long-lasting collaborations. Syros Sound Meetings operates under the umbrella of Syros Institute, and is a member of Interfaces Network. Collaborations include both local and international partner institutions, such as the Onassis Stegi and Syros International Film Festival.

The North Norwegian Art Centre (NNKS) located in Svolvær, Lofoten is a regional centre for contemporary art, comprising the entire region of Northern Norway. It carries out an extensive range of activities, curating exhibitions, commissioning works and projects by artists in the whole region and runs the NNKS AiR program in the NNKS owned building, Kunstnerhuset. NNKS organises and owns the art biennial Lofoten International Art Festival (LIAF), is an advisor for public and private organisations, distributes a number of artist's grants and initiates different discursive activities and an educational program of visual art. The NNKS AiR program has initiated artist led thematic workshops establishing temporary communities of international, peer-to-peer platforms for learning and sharing between professional often cross- generations artists aims to support professional artists in their long-term processes and in-depth work. NNKS has collaborated with several partner institutions and hosted sound based works highlighting sound based practices. Most comprehensively with the Lofoten Sound Art Symposium which assembled international sound artists to present and exchange throughout four days and nights with live performances, talks and sound installations.

The residency is co-organized by Syros Sound Meetings (Greece) & North Norwegian Arts Centre (Norway and is part of the Transmissions project, supported by the EEA Grants program and the Norwegian Financial Mechanisms 2014–2021. Transmissions is coordinated by ONASSIS STEGI (Greece) in partnership with Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival (Norway).

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