ELEGY (2018)

Standing on the edge, teetering. Feeling the pull of the deeply dug hole, as the claustrophobic space around me pushes me down and into it. The sounds create inside my head. The sound of things falling out of the rumbling trucks, and a voice ominously reciting the name 'Medellín' and the number '13'. An oppressive feeling surrounds me and all I can think of is death. This minimal mise en scene allowed the metaphoric dimensions of the work to be more strongly experienced.

What is at the bottom of this hole? As the camera slowly zooms towards its bottom lumpy shapes seem to be at once emerging and being covered in the dirt. What is calling me from the swelling sounds and images around my head and beneath my feet? Am I swaying and trembling before the very gates of hell? It seems, as I endure the 7 minutes or so of this work, that this could very well be the case. The image of the bottom of the pit seems sometimes to be going forward and sometimes back as if history could turn back and erase itself and in particular the fluid and frightening history of Colombia, which lurches through its violent cycles and repetitions. But Clemencia Echeverri's new work is not just a horror show, because in my terror I must also resist its pull, resist the languorous release of the fall, and so endure the horror of hell's open mouth. To resist this pull and to endure this work means confronting the violence that killed so many that night in Medellín, that swept those countless people onto trucks and deposited their bodies in a hole the government later said didn't exist. Even though people "looked". Now we look at the hole and not the bodies, and hear the scraping sound of things falling off the back of trucks, the thumps as things land at the bottom of the hole. But we don't see it. Because it supposedly didn't take place. Against all this horror we must hold our place, we must open our eyes and ears and we must witness.

We are experiencing something that has been made invisible, that has been made to disappear, to evaporate into the dark, black night. And we are forced to listen to its murmuring horrors, its faint traces, the dusty tracks of its efficient erasure. All that is left is a whisper, a shadow, a memory that even when spoken remains unheard because it officially didn't happen. This is what happens in Colombia: bodies are buried, memories are forcefully "forgotten", and violent acts remain hidden in darkness. This is what happens when people "disappear".

There is sound but no image of these disappearing bodies. Like the forward and rewinding image, this disjunction tells us about the contingency of the evidence and the fragile nature of truth with-in the complex stories of Colombian violence. But these themes and metaphors also have a wider connotation as well and speak about violence and its unconscious powers everywhere in the world. So the murmurs we hear – the breath of the dead – the mysterious and threatening sounds of machines dumping things into holes, and even the hole itself, these are signs of absence that can be heard all over. Or more, they are signs of disappearance (as so much of Eche-verri's work is), the dark sounds of things buried in a hole. Our place there, on the hole's edge, is to withstand the pull and to remain a witness. Even if it is only to finally say that the murmuring hole, its invisible pull, and dark and shadowy shape, they exist.

Stephen Zepke



Director: Clemencia Echeverri
Camera: Camilo Echeverri
Edition: Víctor Garcés
Edition and sound design: Juan Forero. 

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