10 minutes 10 seconds
In this sound piece, Urok Shirhan thinks about the act of “just singing”, which carries both a frivolous meaning (as simply singing) as well as a more significant understanding that brings together the act of singing with the concept of justice.
As part of the work, Urok revisits an anecdote that involves her own mother as a young schoolgirl in Baghdad, Iraq. In doing so, she touches upon the potential significance of embodying (political) songs across vast geographic distance, beyond notions of rootedness, national identity, and state agendas. Just Songs is a continuation of Urok’s interest in the ways in which modes of speech, sound transmission and listening are intrinsically bound up with power and affect. As an Iraqi-born, once asylum-seeker turned Dutch citizen, issues surrounding identity and displacement are of particular interest, and her projects are often informed by her family’s history of political struggle and perpetual migrations. As such, she aims to conceive a different understanding of outdated systems as ‘singularity’ and ‘purity’, instead seeking to underline the ideas of rhizomatic roots and multitudes, of diversity, multiplicity, and fragmentation as wholeness.
The title Just Songs borrows from Naomi Waltham Smith’s conception of “just listening”, which she elaborates in her 2021 book Shattering Biopolitics: Militant Listening and the Sound of Life.
Text, voice, composition, sound editing by Urok Shirhan Sound engineering and mastering by Andreas Nikoloulias
Originally commissioned for the exhibition From the Sea to the Clouds to the Soil, curated by Ilga Minjon at Stroom Den Haag in The Netherlands (1 October-18 December 2022), featuring works by Femke Herregraven, Yeon Sung, Urok Shirhan, Natasha Tontey, and Risk Hazekamp (in collaboration with Scape Agency, Netherlands).