“The Day of Wrath from the Machine”
4-channel spatial audio installation, 21 min, 2023
installation created in collaboration with Alexey Shmurak (composition) and Oleksandr Chornyi (sound production)
This art project is the result of the joint reflection of the What Cannot Be Lost collective. What can a memorial be for people who are still in the middle of a war? When the world is collapsing every day, it is impossible to build memorials of marble or bronze. But the work of memory requires the development of an idea of a memorial, at least in an imaginary or virtual space. If the CST proposed a spatial study in a virtual architectural form, and Oleksandr Burlaka imagined a spatial and temporal model, the artist Sasha Kurmaz went the route of creating a memorial beyond the idea of materiality. Sound can carry a powerful message, but it is devoid of materiality. In collaboration with the composer Alexey Shmurak, Kurmaz creates a sound memorial born out of the memory of the genocide and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian Army in Ukraine.
According to Shmurak: “The title of the work refers simultaneously to two well known Latin expressions — Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) and Deus ex Machina (God from the Machine). These expressions have an opposite mood; while the Day of Wrath refers to judgment, punishment, the inevitability of catastrophe, and non-empathy; Deus ex Machina refers to unexpected, miraculous salvation, the intervention of higher forces.”
In a musical composition, this title has a multilayered meaning. Firstly, the sound itself is emphatically artificial, sometimes as if it were a toy, not fully alive; this is how an inanimate being (golem? homunculus? artificial intelligence?) might feel, given the task of being convincing, angry, empathetic, emotionally intelligent.
The sounds of the composition are sometimes threatening and physically striking, sometimes trying to evoke empathy, sometimes soothing and lulling; the music balances between dramatic, comic, and therapeutic effects, but always maintains a certain distance.
In Old Testament mythology, the Day of Wrath is a day of condemnation for some and salvation for others; but is such condemnation and salvation possible in reality? Not unless it involves a "god from a machine," an expression from the professional jargon of screenwriters that means a clumsy attempt by the author to quickly and easily resolve the situation in favor of one of the parties.
In the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, occupation crimes, sadism, mass deaths, and destruction of culture, the scale of events, both quantitative and qualitative, is such that it seems to cause psychological and mental trauma even without direct physical intervention. The impossibility, inadmissibility, and inappropriateness of a direct statement gives rise to a specific statement, one that requires additional efforts to experience, perceive, and understand.
The composition ends with a long, calm episode of a therapeutic nature. This is a prediction of inevitable reflection, a long period of trauma treatment and acceptance of the irreversibility of the new reality.