The Burdened Land

Bassel Al-Rahim

Myra writes:

Heather's tape appeared to me like a haunting. The crackle of snow beneath her feet as she walked across that icy plane, the distant call of trumpeter swans, the all-engulfing sky above her. The feeling of aloneness conveyed to me through the recording was immense. When I began developing “The Burdened Land”, I knew I wanted to create an environmentally-conscious piece, though not in the traditional sense of the term. I wanted the work to have a distinct feeling of space and scale. I sought to explore the thematic interconnectedness between the migratory paths of birds and the sprawling supply chains of capital. Heather's original tape appears close to the beginning of my piece and continues throughout Act 1. I imagined she was taking a new journey through the sonic landscape I created for her to explore.

In his book Birds of the Pacific Flyway, author Robert Wilson says, "No group of animals crossed more boundaries than migratory birds. They traversed every border the modern nation-state constructed." When I read these words, I couldn’t help but think of the arbitrariness of borders; how nation-states, like the bird refuges, are incapable of neatly containing the bodies and species within their boundaries. I think of bird migration patterns in conjunction with sprawling supply chains that are so large they lack fundamental accountability. Birds of the Pacific Flyway, as well as the work of economist, Saskia Sassen have helped me to consider humans’ inability to contain things, species, processes of capital, that are inherently uncontainable. “The Burdened Land” investigates questions around man-made borders, non-human migration patterns, and networks that are fundamentally too large to be contained. I wondered: What happens when humans/government agencies make themselves responsible for the management of massive networks, systems, and processes, both human and non-human, that are fundamentally too large and complex to manage?

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