Bridging the Silence
Deirdre Cartmill - Beatriz Churruca - Hrvoslava Brkušić
They say history is a guessing game, a work of fiction. You take a bone hairpin and invent a life around it. Now it's time to tell the truth.
Bridging the Silence is an audio walk and installation shown on a pedestrian bridge that represents the emotional journey survivors move through as they pass from the storm inside to peace.
It mixes a fictional narration with real testimonies from survivors of political violence, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, homelessness and transgender issues.
All three artists are survivors who wish to make the invisible visible, confront unspeakable truths and break the silence.
We collect testimonies from survivors across Europe and bring their stories to other cities as part of our evolving audio walk. We also run workshops, empowering people to write poems about their experiences. We’ve seen that what unites us all is the common human experience; our stories are reflected in other people’s stories.
Bridging the Silence is a collaboration between Deirdre Cartmill (a poet and playwright from N. Ireland), Beatriz Churruca (a visual and performance artist from the Basque Country) and Hrvoslava Brkušić (a sound artist from Croatia).
The following audio clips contain excerpts from personal testimonies people have shared with us and poems that groups have created during our workshops with them. It is highly personal and emotional, and some people may find some of it disturbing.
I step onto the bridge, walk forward. I look to the other side. How many steps will it take me to cross?
My feet clack on the path. I want to run, but I walk steadily forward. Just keep walking.
Image courtesy of: Lana Spiler
The smell comes back first - the smoke on his breath, sweat. Then the hands, cold on my skin. I keep saying no. His weight bears down. I struggle but his hands are around my neck.
I am alone in the blackness. I cry out, but nobody sees me, nobody hears.
I watch people pass. Are they staring at me, whispering? I pretend not to see, wish myself invisible, walk on.
I clench my hands into fists, beat them against my legs, beating time with my steps.
His fists were like a constant drumming. Now I scream for silence.
Image courtesy of: Dorleta Oregi
I focus on the flow of the water, let the constant din of the distant cars, the passing feet, the half heard conversations fade, until the noise is deadened.
Who am I?
Who am I?
Who am I?
If you can liberate yourself from your anger, you are free.
The first time I said the words, I cried until I choked. I thought it was my fault, that I'd done something wrong.
The second time was easier.
Now I know I am not alone. I no longer cower back when a hand reaches out. I know a touch is just a touch.
I focus on someone near, try to keep pace with them, like a bird in a flock, moving and turning in unison. I am part of the pattern. My presence makes a difference.
It doesn't matter where I have come from. All that matters is where I go now.
I am here because I have chosen to walk.
I walk on.
As we’ve journeyed through the corners of Europe we have experienced the similarities between people rather than the differences. It doesn’t matter what country you come from, what your background is, what language you speak. Everyone is a survivor in some way or another, and this human connection transcends all differences. When we meet on a bridge and open our hearts to another something happens beyond words, something that is felt in the silence – a silence born of love, instead of fear.
Thank you to NDAS (Northumberland Domestic Abuse Service), England, Anja Weber and others for sharing their stories and poems here, and huge thanks to all the groups and individuals across Europe who have worked with us and entrusted us with their stories.
The song on Silence is in memory of Jose Mari and was written and sung by him, recorded by Jose and Amaia as part of the Eutsi program in Aterpe, San Sebastian.
Produced with Dominic Smith in conjunction with ISIS Arts, Newcastle, UK.