Windows live (states), 2021
6 minutes 10 seconds
Animation in collaboration with Haemin Ko
Sound design by Jonny Tanna
Text by Tamara Hart and Anna Pigott
Courtesy the artist
This animation begins with an urgent call for action, handwritten by the artist in blue ink. Its words are from a policy document issued by the American Movement for Black Lives, demanding cuts in US military expenditure and re-investment in community wellbeing. Its demands, in support of free speech, protest and ending the occupation of Palestine, include a fight against the proliferation of bills opposing boycotts of Israel. As the text grows, it becomes enmeshed in a rapidly spreading system of lines that eventually fills all available space. For El-Sayegh, this passage is a point of departure to explore the interwoven fabric of solidarity movements.
Within this viral expansion, the original message is obscured by abstract imagery and spoken dialogue. The sound element, composed by collaborator Jonny Tanna, draws on El-Sayegh’s conversations with friends and family including Tanna, Saudi-American artist Samar Al Summary, and the artist’s parents. The voices recount experiences of displacement and identification, from the heart-rending lyrics of an Arabic song, to empathy with plants, and the feeling of being removed from one’s home. Pulsing through the dialogue is a radio signal known as the Russian woodpecker, used by the Soviet Union during the Cold War to detect foreign radars and disrupt broadcasts. As with the signal, the rapid growth of the line drawing interferes with our understanding of the text. Meaning is lost within a non-descript mass.
Windows live (states) forms part of El-Sayegh’s ongoing blue ink Windows series, which she has produced over the last decade. Within the intricate pen and ink drawing the repeated and unevenly spreading pattern recalls biological growth and replication, a recuring motif in her practice. The Windows works also take inspiration from the patterned interiors of envelopes designed to protect sensitive information. Embedded in their surfaces are concealed messages, barely visible and partially erased. With this new animated work, El-Sayegh reveals the gradual build-up of markings, making visible an underlying testimony, just as the accompanying sound foregrounds the voices of those whose marginal experiences cannot be neatly categorised.
- ‘A Vision For Black Lives: Policy Demands For Black Power, Freedom, & Justice’, The Movement for Black Lives, 2016. https://m4bl.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/CutMilitaryExpendituresOnePager.pdf
- Abdel Halim Hafez’s لا تكذبي (La Takzeby), roughly translated in English as ‘Don’t Lie’.
Read more about Mandy El-Sayegh here.