Crossing Over (2016)
Crossing Over is a live performance and surround sound installation for community choir, 302 recorded voices, mobile telephones and ocean drums. Crossing Over can also be experienced as a sound and film installation in darkness. Marking the anniversary of the mass murder of 133 enslaved Africans on the slave ship Zong in 1782, which JMW Turner painted in 1840, and inspired in part by John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea installation, Crossing Over seeks to draw parallels between Turner’s The Slave Ship, Akomfrah’s exploration of the sea as a vehicle for migration, and the current refugee crisis. Crossing Over asks: ‘What does ‘home’ mean to you?’ Audiences are invited to experience the live work blindfolded.
Crossing Over is a project that was commissioned by Turner Contemporary to premiere at the commemoration of the mass murder of 133 enslaved Africans on the slave ship Zong in 1781, painted by JMW Turner in 1840. Crossing Over was also commissioned to compliment John Akomfrah‘s video installation Vertigo Sea, a work that explores migration and lives lost at sea. Crossing Over draws a parallel between JMW Turner’s The Slave Ship and the current refugee crisis where 1000s of people travel across the ocean to find a new home, often losing their lives.
Crossing Over was based in my hometown of Thanet, a place where migration is a contentious issue due to communities of refugees and asylum seekers. I wanted to find a way to look at migration differently and unite a diverse and divided community of people who had and had not experienced migration through focusing on creating common ground, aside from politics. I decided to do this by asking: ‘What does ‘home’ mean to you?’ I view Crossing Over as a vehicle to explore views about migration through its musical content and the act of forming and performing with a united, cross-cultural community choir. Crossing Over explores what home means to each and every one of us. The lyrics and recorded voices are inspired by stories of people who have crossed over the sea in search of a new home and have or have not experienced some form of migration.
Upon launching a social media campaign asking people to record their answer to: ‘What does ‘home’ mean to you?’ on a mobile telephone and send it to me by text message, 302 recordings were received from people throughout the UK and Europe. The recordings feature alongside a choir of 59 community singers brought together for the project, mobile telephones, and ocean drums. Audience members experience the live performance of Crossing Over blindfolded so they can hear but not see a ‘performance’, and to remind them of the uncertainty of travelling in the darkness of night, or travelling on a small boat across the ocean.
WHAT DOES ‘HOME’ MEAN TO YOU?
|29 November 2016||Premiere at Commemoration of the Zong massacre||Turner Contemporary|
|6 January 2017||5.1 sound/video installation||Sidney Cooper Gallery, Centre for Practice-Based Research, Canterbury Christ Church University|
|6 January 2017||Conference presentation: Crossing Over: How to get people to ‘care’?||British Forum for Ethnomusicology/Royal Musical Association Research Students’ Conference, Canterbury Christ Church University|
‘I thought it was absolutely incredible. I’m an ex-refugee. My family were evacuated here in the 70s. There were a lot of people in Thanet at the time that were anti-refugees, didn’t like them all living in Cliftonville and didn’t understand what was going on. But today I’ve just heard a piece of music that answers the question and says the answer as I was trying to say at the time. People are not coming here to take your houses, they’re coming here because someone else has taken their home’ – Audience member.
‘Really moving… Watching it with a blindfold on heightened the experience. It really hit home the privilege that a lot of us are in, and not everyone feels that sense of home’ – Audience member.
‘You were transformed as soon as you closed your eyes into a different world and a different perspective’ – Audience member.
‘Crossing Over has changed the way I feel about refugees and now I think of them as individuals with their own families and all that entails and that their lives are changed forever through no fault of their own and that they don’t want to leave their own countries but have no choice’ – Performer
‘As a child of ‘economic migrants’ myself I have lived through ‘times’ – especially during my early years that made me feel like an ‘outsider’. The feelings evoked by this piece of music serve as a reminder of how important home as become’ – Recorded voice contributor
‘It was good to sing with a diverse group, from teenagers to older people from all walks of life, some who have experienced migration and had defined ideas of what is ‘home” – Performer.
‘The first movement consisted of selected recordings of politicians and other figures int he media that oppose migration and refugees. This was juxtaposed with recordings of people in the community describing what ‘home’ meant to them. Many audience members, and performers, afterwards were left with a new sense for the meaning of ‘home’. The choral part of the second movement was complex in its simplicity. Starting with a powerful “Ex Patria” moving into a soft lullaby, and ending with the performers calling home to their loved ones, you really did get this sense of longing, of belonging, with a hint of sadness, mixed with melancholy. I was astounded to learn that [it] was performed by an amateur choir with members from all over the Kent community. Peasgood provides the right mixture between experimental, contemporary, and community’ – Jason Hodgson, Composer. Read the full review here.
Commissioned by Turner Contemporary with the support of Canterbury Christ Church University.