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Artist's statement on the soundtrack of

Fear is a Man's Best Friend.

 

The gentle Mediterranean landscape of Cyprus, a divided island, is scattered with military bunkers which constantly remind hikers that officially the country is still at war. Despite appearances there is a deeply rooted conflict trapped in a labyrinth of traumas, prejudice and geopolitical interests and this is what the video tries to deal with. The descent into this haunted history is facilitated by both the image, a simple over-layering of the bunkers cut-outs, and the soundtrack.

The first sounds, recorded with a Zoom H4n on nearby locations, are chirpings of birds, insects’ buzzing and animals, evoking a sunny, peaceful spring morning which is what the opening shot signifies on the visual level. Deliberately no recording of anything mechanical, human or man-made was used throughout the video. Slowly the images become more claustrophobic and these natural sounds, slowed down, with a lower pitch and augmented echo, switch imperceptibly the mood into a darker mold.

The camera probes deeper until the first glimpse of a TV screen appears, showing a crime that took place some years ago on the dividing line, a live broadcast of man beaten to death by extremists. By now the chirpings have turned into the howling of beasts buried deep in the ground, the buzz of a fly sounds like the rattling of chains and the croak of frogs become messages from above. As the image disintegrates into white noise, the steady rhythmic bark of a poodle, slowed down to 5% of normal speed, is the only distinct sound, reverberating the chant of a ghostly chorus of militias.
As Zeynep Yasa Yaman puts it in an essay about the piece:
“As the camera moves through the maze-like defence structures - the eeriest example being the undefined bunkers - the point of view focuses on the peephole, and layers and layers of obscure sounds of people, combatants, and soldiers fill the screen. The rants and raves from the militarists swearing oath in unison to obey the commander, and obscure, almost inaudible rumble coming from the nationalists whose minds are jammed with dogmas. The blocked electronic sounds of the dead soulsĀ  fade into electronic ghosts.”

There is no attempt to unlink the coordination of sound and image; on the contrary they work in unison even though they came from different sources. But it is the soundtrack that dominates in its complexity and rhythm, coloring the visual minimalism and evoking the nightmarish atmosphere. References to feature film genres like the horror movie were not intentional, the similarities came about because the same techniques are probably employed. Interestingly many viewers felt that rainforest sounds were gradually introduced at some point. This, along with the fact that sounds from indigenous fauna alone, even in their distorted form, can produce a disturbing effect, reveals a certain discomfort of us with nature. Indeed a medieval fear of the forest, the dark woods is evoked here, which is another coincidental parallel with the horror film. Finally whereas there was no musical score, the structure of the soundtrack, its rhythm, climax and finale work in the same way as any musical composition, albeit it a concrete one, would.

Yiannos Economou 2013