Between Earth & Sky: Cordoban Ceilings

2001-2003, 5 min, color, sound

In June 2001 during an artist's residency in Spain, Peter d'Agostino performed video walks through Cordoba's three architectural monuments: The Great Mosque, Alcazar, and Synagogue, looking up with the camera toward the ceilings. When he began to edit the videos in September, 2001, the events of 9/11 were unfolding live on television. His research for the project later included a book by Maria Rosa Menocal, "The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain".

"It was in Andalusia that men of unshakeable faith, like Abelard and Maimonides and Averroes, saw no contradiction in pursuing truth, whether philosophical or scientific or religious, across confessional lines."

Reflecting on this 'culture of tolerance' provides a rich blend of cultural, historical and aesthetic associations meant to resonate with viewers during two key historical epochs: Spain during the the 10th century and during the present era of global crises at the outset of the 21st century. Ironically, the 'Cordoban Ceilings' installation premiered at the University Paris, Pantheon-Sorbonne Art Gallery in March 2003 on the night George W. Bush launched the Iraq War, as part of the 'War on Terror'.

Peter d'Agostino writes: "The walks I performed in Cordoba allow viewers to witness the past through presence and to interpret the work on a human scale. Creating the sound space for this work was particularly crucial for its effectiveness. The challenge was to maintain the integrity of a real-time video-audio aesthetic. For the most part, the previous walks were performed outdoors, with all the environmental sounds and noise intact, a method akin to sensibilities of Futurist composer Luigi Russolo's The Art of Noise, and John Cage's concepts of Silence. Composer Maurice Wright, collaborated with me on this work to resolve the issue of the cacophony of sounds made by visitors to the Cordoban architectural spaces while I performed my walks. The soundtrack we created combined a unique blend of acoustical models designed for each interior space to mix my walks with the other ambient sounds. For the installation, an interactive surround-sound component includes the recorded sounds from each of the historic places combined with the real-time sounds of interactors walking through the exhibition."

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2012, 63:53 min, color and b&w, sound