Katia Kameli (b. 1973)’s Ritornelle (once more, from the top) is the outcome of a residency at The Church of St John the Baptist, Newcastle. The multidisciplinary, site-specific artwork uses both light and sound to create a sensory experience that connects with themes of relocation and belonging. In partnership with Platforma arts and refugee networks, as well the initiatives undertaken by the church, the participatory nature of the piece ties in to an ongoing mission to support migrants in the city.
Using the medieval glass windows as a starting point, Kameli inserts coloured film into the original frames in ways that recall forms and designs from a selection of countries. These include patterns found on mosques, Iraqi mosaics and Congolese Kuba fabric. Such motifs connect both materially and visually with the diverse countries from which Newcastle’s residents originate, as well as to the history of the locale. As Curator Laura Purseglove notes: “On a spatial level, the project plays with perceived points of difference or tensions; in how to reflect the cultural heterogeneity of the city in a medieval church which has stood in the same place since 1130. Engaging the fabric of the building emphasises what cultures share whilst celebrating their differences.”
The sound installation, created in collaboration with community groups, invites migrants and refugees to engage in songs that are reminiscent of “home”. Created over a period of two days at St John the Baptist, a recording foregrounds these multiple voices and conceptual identities, keeping Kameli’s involvement to a minimum. The title, Ritournelle, a French word deriving from the Italian musical term “to return”, suggests not only the memorable melodic nature of the piece, but also its basis in other regions. Adopted by French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari to relate to territories, it is a term with multiple meanings that are particularly poignant in this context. In this way, the work links in to Kameli’s wider practice, which questions the notion of political and cultural territories, uncovering the forgotten origins of iconic literary milestones.
Until 15 January. Find out more: www.acetrust.org.
1. Katia Kameli, Ritornelle (once more, from the top), 2017. The Church of St John the Baptist, Newcastle. © Katia Kameli.