T H R O U G H  T H E  W A L L

Installation. 30-minute composition from field recordings, looped, 2013

In November 2013, near Bethlehem, Kirkegaard recorded on both sides of the Israeli West Bank Barrier, an 8-meter tall concrete wall commonly referred to as “the security fence” by Israelis or “the apartheid wall” by Palestinians, using both sensitive air microphones and vibration sensors that he placed on the concrete surfaces.

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Through the Wall is an attempt to listen to the wall the Israelis are building to define their border with Palestine. While in 2014 the German capital celebrates the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, somewhere else in the world another wall is still being built.
I wanted to go there and listen to the wall itself. Like other places I’ve traveled to – Greenland, Chernobyl and Fukushima – it is impossible not to recognize the political issues that surround them. But in my works I find it important to refrain from directly expressing an opinion, mine or that of others, on the political and social issues raised: global warming, nuclear reactor safety or in the case of Israel/Palestine, the conflict surrounding the presence of the wall that continues to be built on occupied territory. I know what my feelings and political standpoints are about the whole situation, but my work should emphasize the importance of listening. And in this case I wanted to listen to the wall, and to both sides of it. To hear what the wall itself has to say.

I wanted to place my vibration sensor on each side of it, in a manner similar to leaning my ear to the wall. Since the Israelis have equipped their wall with several control towers from which they can shoot, I didn’t like to stand in sight of the towers fiddling with my audio cables and electronic looking devices. So I tried to do my vibration recordings in places that weren’t directly guarded. But I found that the wall, which is a massive slab of concrete, doesn’t resonate much anyway. So most of my recordings were made with my acoustic microphones held close to the surface of the wall. The microphones I used are very sensitive, creating sonic access to lower vibrations, and I was able to record a deep rumble every- where along the wall. I also picked up sounds like the call to prayer from the Palestinian cities and villages that fly freely over the wall and into the Zionist settlements on the other side.
I wanted to record at the same place on both sides of the wall, but this became absurd. I would have to travel far along the wall to reach and then wait in line at armed check-points. Then when finally reaching the other side, it was impossible to figure out exactly where I had stood on the other side. This difficulty only emphasized the feeling of separation, alienation and forced isolation the wall creates.

The wall is dense, stubborn and present. While it is difficult to clearly differentiate between the sounds from the two sides of the wall, there is a world of a difference between the physical environment and the realities of life on the two sides. On one side the wall sometimes surrounds a tiny house, or creates dead-end corridors where the shops have lost most of their customers, while on the other side a large new recreation area with park and playground is being constructed.

The installation Through the Wall is shaped like a round, cocoon-like barrier that one can move into or around. Whether you are inside or outside the barrier, you can will feel trapped by it. The barrier itself will be transparent, referring to the way the sound from one side spills into the other side. Within the structure, visible loudspeakers encourages the audience to lean their ears to the surface and listen to the recordings of the wall. The installation provides no information about which side of the wall the audience is listening.

By Jacob Kirkegaard. Edited by Julie Martin. From Kirkegaard's book Earside Out. Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark 2015


Photos by Jacob Kirkegaard, 2013