collaboration with Arzu Ozkal
SRS (Silk Road Songbook) is a socially driven, interdisciplinary, multilingual project that weaves new songs into the land, broadcasting distinct, independent voices on a major ancient Eurasian migration route, while challenging Orientalist exoticism and cultural tourism.
SRS is a transcultural, multidisciplinary project consisting of the following: an immersive audio-video installation; a making-of documentary video; a song album; a digital ‘songbook’ publication.
SRS weaves songs into the land; women’s voices are the dynamic driving force, and land is the anchor. Songs enable us to mourn, dissent, and declare, turning sorrow and outrage into hope, fortitude, and joy. Songs about land, sovereignty, and cultural identity are created in collaboration with artists living in and between Istanbul (Turkey), Tehran (Iran), Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Kashgar and Xi’an (China).
What is the SRS social contract? Participants are from diverse ethnic communities. During this ruptured time of Covid-19 and the global slide toward xenophobia, we embrace the advantages of digital communication, nimbly traversing the invisible lines on the landscape called “borders.” Once physical travel/contact resumes, we will also work on-site. The ethos of SRS is based on shared decision-making; open, ongoing discussions; and experimental spirit.
We challenge the grand “Silk Road” narrative by conveying individual SRS stories. Cultural exchange on the ancient routes was mainly propelled by migrants and refugees. Our stories reveal what we left behind, what we rebuild. It is through collaboration with others that we tell not only their stories but our own. Harnessing our respective ancestries and migration stories to geographically tether SRS, we trace a narrative thread that is both historico-politically significant and personally meaningful.
From Fall 2017 to Winter 2018, I made research trips to Xi’an, Dunhuang, Hami, Urumqi, Kashgar, Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, (and with Arzu Ozkal) Tehran, Kashan, Abyaneh, Isfahan, Ankara, Bursa, Istanbul; since 2016, we have conducted numerous research workshops (in Canada, the U.S., Turkey, Uzbekistan, China) related to the project. Research and development for Silk Road Songbook has been supported to date by the Ontario Arts Council, American Turkish Society, University at Buffalo Humanities Institute, University at Buffalo United University Professionals, University at Buffalo Dept. of Art, San Diego State University School of Art & Design.