Written by Fotini Gouseti
Τhe idea for Siren was born in 2015 in Rotterdam, one of the most multicultural cities in Europe owing to its port. Fotini Gouseti’s research stems from the testing of air-raid sirens, which were adopted during the Cold War and remain to this day the warning signals for an imminent danger. Sirens in the Netherlands are tested on a regular basis, on the first Monday of every month.
Gouseti’s artwork alludes to the Sirens, the mythological creatures which, according to the ancient Roman poets Virgil and Ovid, were hybrids, having a woman’s head and the body of a bird, and used to trap passing sailors with their charming voices. The mythological Sirens symbolize the road to death and destruction. In this artwork, death is compared to people’s traumatic experience of war conditions. These people attribute the sound of the sirens either to a forthcoming danger or to the fear of death.
During her fieldwork research with people from different ages and social backgrounds, the artist observed that the sound of sirens gave rise to new forms of segregation; for citizens who never had a war experience the regular monthly test of the sirens was just a familiar routine, but for those who had experienced war conditions the sound recalled disturbing memories or outlived traumatic experiences.
According to the distinction of social anthropology between the Self and the Other, the notion of Self does not in this case refer to native people but individuals who carry the traumatic experience of war, whereas the Other does not refer to non-natives but people unaffected by the threat of the sound. When it goes off, the Siren dissolves time and space for as long as it sounds. This sound conceals a challenge to the historical and social formation of citizenship.
The installation consists of a text, a vinyl with the recorded sound of the sirens and an embedded wood print in the middle, depicting the mythical creature.