Siren was born on the ground formed by the concept of the group exhibition Motion / Labour / Machinery,
curated by Manuel Segade in cooperation with artistic director Mariette
Dölle and curator Jesse van Oosten at TENT, Rotterdam in 2015. The
artwork sprang from the testing of air-raid sirens in the Netherlands at
12.00 sharp on the first Monday of every month. This emergency alarm
was adopted during the cold war and remained in operation. The artwork
produced as a result of my research is based on fieldwork, oral history
and soundscapes collection, as well as participatory observation
research on the thriving multicultural population of the city framing
the biggest port on this side of the planet.
Siren took the form of an installation consisting of sound, text, vinyl with embedded wood print, vitrine.
For ages, Sirens - those female mythological creatures with human head
and the body of a bird - have led sailors to catastrophe with their
During the Cold War, Sirens became a common presence in the Netherlands,
emitting signals to warn of imminent danger. Throughout the years, the
locals have appreciated them highly, considering their repetitive
rehearsals as part of their identity.
The melodic warning of the Siren of Rotterdam, albeit always the same,
is interpreted differently by different groups of people: it breaks down
the distinction between the Native and the Other and, paradoxically,
gives rise to new forms of segregation.
Some inhabitants experience her song as a familiar routine. For others,
it functions as a reminder of outlived traumatic experiences; bringing
together, in a state of threat, those who lived through World War II or
the wars in Indonesia, Eritrea, Iraq, former Yugoslavia, Israel,
Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria… When it is played, the Siren dissolves
time and space for the moment of its duration. It conceals a challenge
to the historical and social formation of citizenship.
Siren, 2015, sound, text, vinyl with embedded wood print, vitrine.