What isolation sounds like

Updated: Apr 10, 2020, 11:03 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

In a new project, video artist Pallavi Paul invites people to capture their experience of self-quarantining via 10-second audio recordings.

Paul's past work at Sunaparanta titled Far Too Close
Paul's past work at Sunaparanta titled Far Too Close

The Janata Curfew announced on Sunday, March 22, didn't only ensure that the sounds of taalis, thaalis and conch shells pierced through every ear but also had many break the rules of social distancing — the need of the hour — to take to the streets. "Rather than this display of public spirit, some of us felt that other questions needed to be raised. Not everyone was out in their balconies and not everyone has a balcony. We found ourselves retreating into a certain kind of quietude," shares Pallavi Paul. While social media was occupied with the same, resounding sound levels, Paul started thinking about ways of measuring silence.

As part of Sunaparanta Centre of Arts Goa's ongoing series Surviving SQ (self-quarantine) where they put out an open call for artists to share strategies on coping with this period creatively and positively, Paul, 32, developed Share Your Quiet. The project involved asking people what to send a 10-second recording of what they encounter in isolation. What it resulted in was a collective symphony created by merging clips sent from all around the world, including countries like Serbia, Portugal and Norway. There's the chirping of birds, the rustling of the sea and the clock that refuses to stop ticking.

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"I wasn't anticipating the wide range of sounds that would come in," the Delhi-based artist reveals. The project functions as an oral archive, and there's a reason why the word "quiet" gets its place in the title, and not silence. "There's a difference between the two terms. Silence can be an enactment of power while to be quiet is an active assertion. At the same time, this is not suggestive of tranquillity," she explains.

Having received over 100 entries, Share Your Quiet will be streamed every Monday on Instagram. While the loud sounds were homogeneous, Paul adds that the aural texture of the recordings is distinct from one another. That's why she feels that it resonated with people. "It wasn't the same as putting out dance videos, which are fun to share but have a resolved syntax; they come with an idea of productivity. This form encourages you to be alert, let go of the anxiety of being productive and think of the other possibilities of life."

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