© Smadar Dreyfus. 3 channel HD video / 6 channel sound environment / custom designed architecture.
"Mother's Day stages a conflict in the visitor between emotional experience and political event. This conflict is fostered by the fact that we do not actually get to see any of the subjects whose voices we hear. We might rightfully ask: if we could see, what would we see, what relations would that image allow us to enter into, other than an objectification of the border which would merely consolidate it? At the core of this double-sided approach, lies a strategy for withdrawal as a dialectical counterpart to the spectral voices which appear as an interpellation from 'the other side', but which are already 'disturbing the picture' by occasional feedback noise and such references about the presence of a Reuters crew, all of which contradict their sublimity. Upon closer examination, the Caspar David Friedrich-like images of the border valley, that alternate with the voices, are also not quite what they appear to be. The subtle presence of intelligence installations destabilizes the picture"
Anselm Franke 'The Spectral Presence of the Modern Border', published in 'Smadar Dreyfus', Magasin III, Stockholm, 2009
Staged to question positions of witnessing, implication, and regimes of visibility and their politics,'Mother’s Day'originated in Dreyfus's unexpected encounter in 2006 with a community event, in effect a public performance of resistance in the occupied Western Golan Heights, where the Syrian Druze community has been geographically separated by the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line since 1967.
At the heart of the installation are sound recordings during the annual Syrian Mother's Day celebration in 2006, of dialogues between mothers on the Israeli-controlled side of the ceasefire line and their student daughters and sons who travelled from Damascus for the occasion. Under a rare program of cooperation between the warring states, mediated by the UN and the Red Cross, Syrian Druze youth from the occupied Golan Heights were invited to study in Damascus university, and allowed to cross the cease-fire line for one return journey per year.
Over the years the separated Syrian Druze families communicated via megaphones across the militarized fence, at an acoustically advantageous location known as the 'Shouting Hill'. This practice diminished with the advent of the internet and mobile phones. It became reserved to a few highly visible community events conducted as a moment of contact, commemorating their ongoing separation and stateless, liminal condition. (In 1981 Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights, offering Israeli citizenship to the Golani Druze which they resolutely refused; the vast majority’s nationality status remains officially as ‘Undefined’).
One of these events was the annual Mother's Day, when students would travel from Damascus to the Shouting Hill on the Syrian side of the lines, and exchange greetings with their mothers using a sound system especially erected for the occasion.Their call and response would echo across the valley acoustic topography, as the event was being watched from various outposts by Israeli, Syrian, and UN forces positioned on the surrounding hills, and significantly, by camera crews of news media.
“In 'Mother's Day' the voice is both a connection and a separation. It is the embodiment of the border and it crosses this border at the same time”.
Mladen Dolar, talk at Kunsthal Extra City, Antwerp, on the occasion of the first exhibition of Mother’s Day in 2008.
Dreyfus stumbled upon the event by chance in 2006. She recorded the vocal exchange as part of her research of landscape acoustics. However, at that moment of encounter, she found herself affected in an immersive sonic experience, while multiple positions were enacted in the hyper visible setting. Personal exchanges circled around something much deeper, and acted out in the open landscape during the orchestrated televised event. Mediated by camera crews on both sides of the fence, overlooked by a number of military installations, these voices breached the ceremonial tone.
Dreyfus decided to interrogate this multi layered situation by taking this form of spectating one step further into an installation situation. Audio recordings of the event are dislocated into a dark, theatre-like structure devised to place viewer-listeners within the spatial audio scene, so as to allow them to feel implicated in this staging, both as subjects and as spectators.
Mother's Day enacts an audio snapshot of a moment in historical time. Between 2011 and 2018, the Syrian government lost control of much of the area bordering the occupied Golan Heights in the Syrian war, and students journeys to Damascus stopped. The Shouting Hill in the buffer zone has been deserted, and currently an entirely new situation is taking shape.