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Body in Transit


Body in Transit, 2016 

Working with sound composition, poetry, and moving image, Body in Transit (featuring movement by Shinichi Iova-Koga and text by Dorothy Santos ), explores the ways in which the human body travels through physical and imagined spaces. As countless individuals grapple with the imposed immigration ban, this work is presents the anxiety and disorientation of displacement through transit and forced migration.

Featuring movement by Shinichi Iova Koga and text by Dorothy Santos
Duration: 30 mins
Commissioned by Soundwave Biennial ((7))

Text by Dorothy Santos

Part I

The human body is electric. It is a technology. The original circuitry and infrastructure have been altered over time, across topographies and mythic terrains. From the electrical activity of our migrating motor complex to sonic hallucinations, the continuous intervals - the input, the output - need forms of sustenance and maintenance to prevent extinction. We have waited. We wait. We will continue waiting for someone, something to change our composition. Until then, we are perfectly imperfect specimens to a future kind.

As we wait with sweaty hands and jittery feet, legs shake with a heightened anxiety. From my peripheral vision, I see someone. Her heart races through her anatomy at the speed of light. Who knew organs could move? The nervousness asphyxiates and paralyzes her as she waits for the status of her survival, her thoughts of well-being, and her loss of comfort as she moves from one space to another. Each transition more difficult than the last. The distance and difference between waiting from a point of leisure to waiting from sheer necessity and adherence to a rigid system stunts her movement. Yet she waits.

Standing. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Weight from carrying baggage, babies, and unwanted secrets make the shoulders and arms grow tense and strong. Mabel Negrete showed me the weight she carried, the weight she persists and insists on carrying. She held open the curtain of the invisible punishing machine so we could see what has been programmed into black and brown bodies without our knowledge. Without our consent. Part of our punishment is the waiting.

Bodies. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Filing into a single line. Nodding off to sounds of songs that comfort her. She waits. She waits for papers. She waits to be recorded. She waits to be documented. She waits to be owned by the state. As her body matures and ages. It halts. It reboots. Her heart beats and breaks at every turn of yet another interval of waiting.

Her body. Waiting. Waiting. Wait.

Her fingers run across the crocheted network of white threads lining the brown corduroy dress that seems to envelope her pregnant belly and frame. In her tender state, her pensive eyes pierce through decades to reach me. The stoic contemplation riddles her brow, yet elucidates the migration she has agreed to. Her belly has grown larger than what she imagined. Her eyes squinting from an unforgiving sun. No retina display for her progeny to see the pristine and sharp lines of her last day in her homeland that would become foreign to her over time. No filter or caption to encapsulate the fear and anxiety of a life she felt obligated to choose.  The political upheaval and kleptocracy of an insidious regime drove her away. Patience rewarded her an exit. But she wasn’t equipped for her unlearning.

Remembered. Remember. Remembering.

Part II

lifeless and dying bodies
many of them, young
images make their way onto our small screens
two eyes watch, mediate, disseminate
two eyes become twenty
become hundreds become millions
these bodies
die millions of times per second
depending on the time and day
speed and connection
some of the most acerbic visions
mistakenly travel to my throat and gut
scorching the frailest parts
these bodies float out of and inside to the crevices of my mind
they haunt the living
they haunt me

breathing. breathe. breath.
breathing to break and crack
only to mend and meant to build fortitude

Part II

a convergence of senses
harmonious and away from
the touching, tapping, gathering, grabbing, and grasping
I constantly sought, I aimlessly searched for
I dreamed time and space would bend at my will.
the earthy elements recombined to show my likeness
the shiny gloss riddled with streaks of oil
it all diminishes
at the touch my fingers remembering a motion
touching faces, words, and bodies that my mind
are unable to keep steady, to keep still
I want to see my body travel through the mass of metal and clouds
connecting me to and through the tendrils of a complex networks
I want my likeness to melt, vaporize, and vanish
from the swelling of a trillions cries
to characters transmitting crises and victories

Part III

Silence and the hum of a generator as I jolt awake from my slumber
only to fall fast asleep from the exhaustion and desire to escape bright screens and lights
There has been only one instance in my life where I felt a belonging
the original home where I once listened to strange sounds
I speak it only at night when insomnia changes the clocks in the house
Sleep escapes me no matter how much I tug at its ankles
Your flesh takes me back
Your language is simultaneously unknowable, yet knowable
In parts, unrecognizable, but in other parts so familiar to the sounds I hear inside my own body.

The moments when I cry and the faint gibberish and utterances
indistinct to me are the moments I am home and where I belong
No mass of metal
No anxiety to ridicule me
In these moments, silence is the companion to the comfort of the language
nobody knows, but me.

not quite the underbelly, but where death and life
mutate and morph among the billions of souls
my consciousness seeks to break through
to a place serene and quiet - a stillness
that can be broken with a whisper
Am I am home? Where is this refuge I seek?