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Karikis, Mikhail & Uriel Orlow

Karikis b. 1975, Thessaloniki, Greece; lives and works in London, England
Orlow b. 1973, Zürich, Switzerland; lives and works in London, England

Sounds from Beneath, 2010-11 Video/DVD, 7 min. 

For the project Sounds from Beneath Mikhail Karikis worked with an ex-coal-miners’ choir from Snowdown Colliery in Kent (closed in 1987). He asked the group of miners to recall and vocalise the sounds of underground activity in the coal-mines. The subsequent sound piece is sung by the miners and captured in the video created in collaboration with Uriel Orlow. In it, the men unite in voice to reproduce the sounds of digging, drilling, grinding, explosions, alarms, machinery against the backdrop of the landscape of the mine in which they once worked. The daily workings of the mine are thus brought back to life in a song that rests on a sparse narrative of key words (“charge”, “stem”, “shovel”, “hammer”, “drill”) and the simulation of the sounds of the workings of the pit. Set against a charred bleak landscape of slag heaps, the prominent, aging figures of the miners and their resonating voices rise up above the desolation, intimating practices since rendered lost and obsolete.

At once political and poetic, the film cuts through conventional documentary realism and resonates with pathos, dignity and emotional force. It functions as a salvaging of memory, an ode, a tribute, and a requiem all at once, and the song echoes as an act of redemption. The work raises the spectre of dark subterranean excavations and captures the noisy routines, both mechanical and man made, of the act of coal mining, while recalling picket lines and the solidarity of sharing a common purpose in work and in song. The muteness of the barren, lunar landscape contrasts with the towering, poignant song, thus momentarily bringing the coal mine back to life. KG