On "And the Sea Gave Up the Dead Which Were In It" by Amita Kirpalani

Amita Kirpalani

The incident and the echo: these are the two propositions for engagement with And the Sea Gave Up the Dead Which Were In It. The exposition of the piece features worn tape of George W. Bush as he casually muses on a justification for the invasion of Iraq. The sound of a tape deck rewinding over this over-exposed rhetoric marks the  15 year anniversary of the invasion. Myra sets his words against the sound of soldiers in combat, in panic, calling out for each other, breathing. With her hands on this history, the sound of a bouncing ball becomes cross-fire, becomes wailing, then distortion, a Call to Prayer and again, tape.

Inspired by this piece I re-watched Watch this drive - also featured in Fahrenheit 9/11 - where Dubya is speaking to the press on a golf course. He says “We must stop the terror. I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you.  Now, watch this drive.” And then we watch that drive. In golf - an arena heavily associated with the current -occupant of the White House - ‘a shotgun start’ is when all players simultaneously tee off, with the goal that all players finish the game at the same time. Each set of four players begins at a different hole, together in the game, but really they could be anywhere.

In this piece, laughter and crying are indistinguishable; they are both distorted and sonically collaged. My own limitations were really clear where I couldn’t ‘read’ the short sections of the work in Arabic. But amongst the many layers of speech was a recognisable section from Samuel Beckett’s Not I (1973) which felt like a union of the listener and the artist. Stage directions at specific intervals for the third person ‘Auditor’ of Beckett’s work instruct the actor to undertake “simple sideways raising of arms from side and then falling back, in a gesture of helpless compassion.” So, here we both sit in a gesture of helpless compassion, alert to the fact of an unnecessary war with its unnecessary trauma as we watch another president do another drive.

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