project image
Shirin Shahidi

first performed on June 29, 2016
7a*11d, Toronto, Canada
performed four times in 2016


London, England / Frankfurt, Germany


“White Masks” is a project that revolves around a cycle for cello, live electronics, and resonating masks, and that focuses on loss. In particular, the project refers to the loss people have to face alone in an increasingly individualistic society, and the loss of communities and musical traditions refugees go through when they are forced to leave their countries. Our idea was to build a community in the form of objects that resonate with memories from the performance of the cycle, entangled with pre-recorded texts from Frantz Fanon, Samuel Beckett, Hans-Peter Dürr, and Hilde Domin, and the audio contributions collected from the audiences with which the project gets in contact. During the premiere of the project, compositions such as Rebecca Saunder’s “Solitude,” Silvia Rosani’s “White Mask,” and others, alternated with the intermezzi, which composed of live electronics and the resonances of the objects positioned in the performing space—thus what we refer to as ‘the masks’.

The performance was shaped in waves, so that the compositions resulted as wave crests and the intermezzi as troughs. In fact, the intermezzi had been conceived to help the audience’s memory process the connections among some of the sonic objects illustrated by the cellist. Based on the comments by some members of the audience, it has been easier for them to attend this kind of music event without interruptions rather than a concert with the traditional alternation between music and clapping.

On November 21, an interactive audio-visual installation enabled people to leave an audio contribution that we will embed within the installation of future performances of the project, so that it will progressively be enriched by contributions from the local communities of the areas to which it will travel and that the masks will assume the identity of a community.

The performance in November offered an excellent opportunity to create an environment in which South East London communities and Goldsmiths students and staff had the chance to get in contact, and hence question a segregation that, although not necessarily physical, is still quite palpable.