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Artist and researcher
working at the intersection
of performance, visual arts
and critical theory. 


Just Songs  

Arabic Letter Seen س
Arabic Letter Wow و

Of Quiet Whispers and Loud Speakers 

A Loud Voice Never Dies

Lovesong Revolution
The Post National Anthems
Empty Orchestra
Watani Al Akbar  


Theater of Operations, Exhibition
MoMA PS1, New York
Research Fellow 2019/2020      
BAK, basis voor actuele kunst
Post Opera, Exhibition

Delfina Foundation, Residency

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Copyright © 2023, Urok Shirhan.
All rights reserved. 

Empty Orchestra

Empty Orchestra refers to the origins of the Japanese compound word ‘karaoke’: kara meaning “empty” and okesutora for “orchestra”. This performance project prompted my current body of research, which considers questions of the ‘voice’ (the ways in which it is performed, recorded and made audible) as well as a wider understanding of the ‘tongue’ (language, phonetics, accents and dialects). Underlying the work are (personal) notions of displacement and assimilation. Displacement and assimilation here are understood both in the sense of aesthetic form as well as geographic migration.

The practice of taking on a voice other than one’s own is the practice of embodiment. Taking on a voice that is at odds with one’s own is the practice of radical empathy. The aim of this performative research is to explore how power is performed, how power can be disrupted through (collective) performance, and to elaborate on the political agency of estrangement. My artistic interest is to disturb and disrupt ‘habitual’ readings (heimat, home, homeland) and to desynchronise, to produce the ‘unheimlich’, the uncanny.
To make sensible again.