University at Buffalo
Department of

Art

Art & Design

Art History

Visual Studies

Professor Millie Chen’s “Tour” on View in the Project Space

April 8, 2016  by: Natalie Fleming

Tour
April 7th – April 16th, 2016
Exhibition Reception: April 14th, 5-8PM
The Project Space, 155 Center for the Arts, University at Buffalo

Tour, by Department of Art Professor Millie Chen, is on view in The Project Space from April 7th until April 16th, as part of the 12th Annual Indigenous and American Studies Storytellers Conference held in the Center for the Arts from April 14th until April 16th.  Chen will be speaking at the conference about Tour and other related work during the conference on Saturday.  Tickets for Saturday may be purchased on the American Studies Graduate Student Association website.

Tour is an audio-video that embarks on a global journey contemplating ‘healed’ genocide sites. Events that occurred over the last century retain heat, as some victims and perpetrators are still alive, and justice, truth, and reconciliation processes are still underway. How can we sustain the memory of that which has become invisible? When we look, what do we not see? A history of human atrocities can become easily absorbed back into the land. But the brutal facts remain. It is only through the persistent retelling of past events that we keep these histories alive, even as acts of atrocity continue to be perpetrated.

In Tour, four instances of genocide are “toured” and memorialized, from the more recent and prominent in short-term public memory, to the more obscured, poorly memorialized, and largely unrecognized:

Murambi, Rwanda (April 16–22, 1994)

Wounded Knee, United States (December 29, 1890)

Choeung Ek, Cambodia (April 17, 1975–January 7, 1979)

Treblinka, Poland (July 23, 1942–October 19, 1943)

The lush, picturesque landscape, seemingly innocent of the traces of atrocities, is juxtaposed with the raw and infectious human voice, lulling the listener from one land to the next. The audio consists of four lullabies that are specific to each cultural location. Based on traditional lullabies, the audio is composed by Juliet Palmer in collaboration with producer Jean Martin and the four female vocalists. There is no lyrical content, only hummed and chanted melodies that pay close attention to the nuances of each cultural context, while trespassing geo-political boundaries.

As we listen, we identify these lullabies as those that may have been sung and heard over generations by the victims of these genocides. The fact of the matter is that, in some of the contexts, these were also crooned by the perpetrators.

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