Viral Silence: Community Portraits in Response to COVID-19
Viral Silence is a statewide collaborative community commissioning and virtual touring program that captures community experiences and responses to COVID-19. Three commissioned Illinois artists/teams will collaborate within their communities to create and present sound compositions and workshops in venues in the three communities. Virtual audiences will be able to experience each artwork where it was created, via accessible, simultaneous streaming. Artists were commissioned in fall 2020, the project kickoff meeting was in January 2021 and commissioned artists will work with their communities from February through May, with all three projects presented in June. The result will be three collaborative processes and compelling community portraits that will help to heal and bind communities around memory, loss and rediscovery.
Creative artists and the cultural sector have been especially adversely affected economically by the pandemic. Viral Silence strives to address the needs of these accomplished individual artists and offer hope and support to a wide and diverse audience of viewers who mourn the closure of cultural and performance institutions. The project’s collaborative creative processes will help to heal and bind communities around these participatory artworks, and voices, sounds, communities, and ideas lost to the pandemic will be given new presence and life.
Viral Silence commissions audio works from three sound artists from different regions of Illinois. Three socially distanced local presentations will be simultaneously streamed to create a virtual tour so off-site audiences can experience each artwork within the environment where it was created. Artists will collect materials within their community, including recorded and live music, soundscapes, interviews, poetry, etc. and create original sound/performance works designed to convey the local, collective response to COVID-19. The result will be three collaborative works that will help to heal and bind communities around memory, loss and rediscovery.
Public Programming Calendar
The month of June, 2021 will showcase the three commissions with a live and virtual tour in Auburn Gresham, Champaign County, and Carbondale, Illinois. Each artist and community will conduct a live workshop/presentation and a live performance within their communities, and each will participate virtually at the other two locations. More information and a link to the virtual performances to come.
Adaptive Response – June 12, 2021, 7pm followed by a reception, Carbondale Community Arts, 304 W Walnut St, Carbondale, IL 62901
Ground/Work – June 19, 2021, Immediately following the Juneteenth parade, Community Garden at 90th and Loomis, Chicago, IL 60620
Champaign County: March 2020 and Counting – June 30, 2021, 7–10pm, Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, 202 S Broadway Ave, Urbana, IL 61801
Viral Silence: Conversations with Three Illinois Communities – July 7, 7–8:30pm, “Sounds Like Community live stream, Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center
Commissioned Artists and Communities
Honna Veerkamp and Jay Needham with Carbondale Community Arts
Honna Veerkamp is a community-oriented artist and educator. Her specialties include audio and video documentary, painting, and socially engaged art. Honna’s work explores natural and human-made environments and celebrates creative resistance—from tiny interventions to grassroots social justice movements, and the stories in between. Honna earned a Media Arts MFA at Southern Illinois University in 2015 and a diploma in Audio Engineering at the Institute for Audio Research in 2002. She was a CAT fellow in 2017-2018 and currently serves on the alumni advisory board. She has taught audio, video, writing, and fine art at university and community settings.
Jay Needham is an artist, musician, writer-editor and cultural producer who utilizes multiple creative platforms to produce his works, many of which have a focus on sound and site specific field research. As a hearing-divergent person, Needham makes work that often involves sensing and experiencing sound across many modalities. His sound art, works for radio, visual art, performances and installations have appeared at museums, festivals and on the airwaves, worldwide. Needham is the founding co-editor of Resonance: The Journal of Sound and Culture, published by The University of California Press. He is a Professor in the Department of Radio, Television and Digital Media at Southern Illinois University and he received his MFA from The School of Art at California Institute of the Arts.
Adaptive Response is a work for micro-FM transmission and live performance that considers the ways we respond to an ever-shifting landscape of risk and adaptation during the pandemic. Drawing from regionally gathered, pre-recorded stories, live music and audience commentary, artists Jay Needham and Honna Veerkamp live-compose an evolving radiophonic stream. Designed to be performed in community parking lots, Adaptive Response imagines the interiority of the automobile as a new space for socially distanced listening and isolated civic engagement. Listeners are invited to tune in locally on their car stereos or join virtually from anywhere in the world.
Allen Moore with the Auburn Gresham 21st Ward, Block Club 21 Community Garden
Allen Moore is a Black American Interdisciplinary Painter, Experimental Sound Artist, Educator, Youth Mentor and Curator born and raised in the Historic Village of Robbins, Illinois. His work examines both visual and experimental music, emphasizing the importance of nurturing the Black Imagination with social representation and converses with the signifiers of African American and popular culture, bringing to view the underlying themes of racial, emotional and socioeconomic conditions. Moore has exhibited and performed across Chicago and the greater Midwest, including exhibitions Experimental Sound Studio, Elastic Arts, Threewalls, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. His work is featured in the Netflix Original Series “Easy” Seasons 1 and 2.
Allen Moore’s commission has roots in the summer of 2020 with the creation of a weekly community member centered artist/volunteer-based initiative to create and cultivate the community garden located at 86th and Loomis. In collaboration with Kweli Kwaza, president of club 21 (21st ward) Block club in Auburn Gresham, and with a rotating group of artists, we are organizing outdoor, socially distanced workshops in response to the crippling blank of the pandemic.
For Groundwork Allen will continue to work with community members to maintain the garden, facilitate DIY workshops based on art and music, and use artifacts and materials generated during community workshops and weekly gardening sessions to create and stream a live performance on June 19, 2021.
MVVAM! (Keith Moore & Bourema “Ibrahim” Ouedraogo) with the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center
Keith Moore is a composer and sound artist, writer, curator, and community-media maker currently based in Urbana, Illinois. Keith uses the fields of acoustics and psychoacoustics to compose expressive and conceptually rich works that compel listeners to consider the beauty and breadth of perception itself. He has collaborated with numerous distinguished organizations such as musikFabrik WDR (Cologne), Ensemble de l’itinéraire (Paris), Ensemble Modern and the International Ensemble Modern Academy (Frankfurt), PRISM Quartet (NYC), Talujon Percussion (NYC), Ensemble 21 (NYC), and soloists including Tomas Bächli (Berlin), Karen Bentley Pollick (CO), Kevin Boyer (London), Maja Cerar (NYC), Juliana Snapper (LA), Taimur Sullivan (Chicago) and Kelland Thomas (Hoboken). In addition to creating original compositions Keith Moore pursues his research through writing, performance, curating and teaching.
Bourema “Ibrahim” Ouedraogo is a founder of VVAM!, on the production team of Urbana Public Television, and the owner of Global Visual Media Studio. He is married with two children and has lived in the US for the past ten years. He began engaged-community building in his home country of Burkina Faso, where he worked in community, arts, and cultural preservation; and he has continued that effort in Illinois as a board member and now active volunteer at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center.
Champaign County March 2020 and Counting combines a 52-minute audio and video performance documentary created specifically for Viral Silence with archival material from the past year, live commentary and interviews, and live performances from some of the cast members. Keith and Ibrahim will conduct three recording sessions—April 24, May 8, and May 15—with local musicians, poets, and artists at the Independent Media Center and ask what Sounds Like Community meant to them in the first year of the pandemic, and what their hopes and desires are for the arts and the community in the year ahead. The live and recorded program will air on June 30 from 7-10pm on WRFU 104.5, the internet live stream “Sounds Like Community, and the IMC television broadcast “VVAM!”, which is produced in collaboration with Urbana Public Television (UPTV).
Guests in the documentary range from Will Reger and Ashanti Files, Urbana’s first two poet laureates, to the Writer’s Oya, a group of young poets of color, to DJ Cerbo and Khalil, a father and son hip hop duo, and to community members like Aaron “A+” Wilson, who is poet, musician, and host of the renowned community poetry slam “Soul on Sunday.” Wilson’s appearance is suggestive of the documentary’s range, as we see him reading new work, discussing his personal life and appearances on the show, and reflecting on his own efforts to reestablish his monthly poetry slam online.
Sounds Like Community is a pandemic response live stream program that brings a diverse array of community artists and activists together with the public each week for two sets of performances and presentations followed by an open discussion. The show is also broadcast over the airwaves in central Illinois on WRFU 104.5. It’s first episode launched two weeks after the Governor Pritzker’s shutdown order in March 2020. Now entering its second year of programming Sounds Like Community has chronicled the city’s response to the crisis and was the forum in which many artists made their first pandemic era appearance.
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This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.