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"Seattle Immigrants Given Visual Voice in Mixed Media Installation"
2001-04-03 until 2001-05-31
Jack Straw Foundation and New Media Gallery
Seattle, WA, USA United States of America

The Jack Straw New Media Gallery presents Heard Said, a unique installation of sound and sculpture by Stuart Keeler. Heard Said was created as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program. Keeler's project focuses on the personal sounds and stories of immigrants and combines his sculptural work with a sound design based upon interviews he conducted with 'Resident Aliens.' These immigrants live for the most part in Seattle. 'By removing the body, the voice and every audible nuance, pause and pitch become catalysts. Language and voice are the abstracted portrait experience of an anonymous non-native speaker.'

Keeler interviewed and recorded the voices of immigrants from over 20 countries spanning the globe, including China, Russia, Greece, Slovakia, Ghana and Thailand, among others.

Ranging from compacted thought forms held within the air of Ellis Island, ambient walks in Prague's Jewish Cemetery, a line of 34 people in front of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) building at 6am, to the poetics of the Ebonics of a first generation American-Ethiopian, Keeler sought to create a composite portrait of language and how it holds and separates the American experience.

Set to the humming frantic rhythm and chorus of the urban realm, the white noise of the world city experience becomes a backdrop. The ambient abstractions of world language tie American World together. The immigrants experience within the context of INS Democracy is fascinating and shocking, as much it sometimes operates on the other side of the looking glass of our American Democracy. In this work, the thread of immigration and arrival to My Country Tis of Thee is personal, but remains private and anonymous. The anonymity of heard said binds singularly through a common sense of removal.

Keeler sees Heard Said as an experience that uses sound and language as a multiple in the studio process. Fragments of voice, syntax and sigh are the tools for statement - to activate the viewer with impulse and memory, to trigger brain connections to private personal experiences. Keeler used his own immigration experience as the genesis for this work. I ask the observer to challenge assumptions of identity and belonging, to witness another caught between two worlds of belonging and never really belonging. For many North Americans, language is not a divider and immigration has never been an issue; Keeler hopes that Heard Said will open their eyes.

Stuart Keeler was a participant of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program which is supported by the King County Arts Commission, the Seattle Arts Commission, the Washington State Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, PONCHO, Corporate Council for the Arts, the Allen Foundation for the Arts, and individual contributors.


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