A Permanent Sea Inside Us


A Permanent Sea Inside Us, 2019
Immersive sound and light installation, HD video
Duration and dimensions variable

A Permanent Sea Inside Us looks at personal nar­ratives generated by the sea. For many people, the sea is merely a distant reality or fiction, with which they have never entertained an actual relationship, and probably never will. For them, it remains a myth or something impossible. Others, in turn, know it all too well for having placed their hopes and fate in it. What kind of portrait emerges from all these personal stories? How can we (re)think the sea based on these multiple individual abstractions? A Permanent Sea Inside Us is an immersive sound and light installation in the innermost part of the pavilion. Unfolding according to its own timeline, it can only be experi­enced at certain moments; visitors who are unaware of its presence are therefore likely to miss it.
The sound material for this work was collected largely during interviews and meetings held in Luxembourg – a country that has no coastline – with various local communities (visually impaired and blind people, migrants, exiles). Marco Godinho made his library of notebooks from Written by Water available to visually impaired people, who ‘read’ and explored with their hands the invisible stories written by the sea. Simple testimonies are transformed into dreamlike narratives that echo the countless imagi­nary worlds linked to the sea, to water, to the horizon and to infinity, but also to the fear of the sea and the fascination it holds. The voices become sound bodies. In an amnesic world ruled by new technolo­ gies, orality, the voice and memory, which is transmit­ ted through speech, are more important than ever.
Drawing on his numerous experiences, the artist developed a mantra-like chant based on voices, a kind of ‘sung itinerary’. These voices, as Bruce Chatwin wrote in The Songlines, the story of an initiatory jour­ ney into Aboriginal culture, let us explore a tradi­ tion perpetuated over several generations: that of songs describing physical and symbolic landmarks of Australia’s vast expanses – oral maps that enable listeners to walk in the footsteps of the ancestors.
The interior of the pavilion thus becomes a place of meditation turned towards inner experience and a spiritual and philosophical quest. The acoustic envi­ronment is interspersed with the breathing sound of an accordion that is pushed to its limits in an attempt to induce a trance-like state reminiscent of shamanic rituals. The songs also nod to Homer, the blind sing­ing aoidos (poet), as well as to the stories of Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine writer who became grad­ually blind and who entertained a special, intimate relationship with memory, sight and orality.

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