Silencer – Maja Zećo

As part of our Xylophobia season artist Maja Zećo negotiated one of the largest urban woodlands in Europe – Hazel and Thoroughsale Woods, and the adjoining Corby town centre.

Participants were guided through Maja’s explorations on a Sonic Environment Walk – a composed sound journey through the different acoustic areas of the woods that Maja had previously identified.

Refraining from speaking for the duration participants were encouraged to listen to sounds near and far, loud and quiet, constant and sudden, natural and artificial, low, middle and high, of the body, of the place and of the mind.

Amongst the sounds of wind and birds in the trees, buzzing electricity pylons, nearby roads, mobility scooters, the crack of conkers falling or twigs under foot, participants were invited to ponder thoughts such as “Who is listening?” and “Who is performing?”

This prompted Maja’s following Silencer performance in a sensory impairment soundwalking suit complete with earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones. Where Maja experienced the environment in complete silence the suit made ‘the other’ visible in public while concealing gender, body shape and voice. At once both a playful intervention and an unexpected encounter, the work has connotations of protective clothing and social distancing that speak to larger fears of walking through woodland spaces.

With binaural microphones hidden in the suit recording the environmental sounds while the surface of the suit absorbed all external noise and vibrations, edited recordings will feature in a later episode of the Fermynwoods podcast.

Maja Zećo is an interdisciplinary artist who creates immersive art through performance, sound art, video and installation. Born in Sarajevo (Bosnia) and resident in Aberdeen, many of her works investigate sonic phenomena through performance art where she explores her relationship with place and ways in which soundscapes shape our sense of belonging, identity and locality. Maja is a Lecturer in Contemporary Art Practice at Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University, was Aberdeen Art Gallery’s first artist-in-residence following the gallery’s landmark redevelopment.

Commissioned as part of Xylophobia, Fermynwoods Contemporary Art’s new two-year programme funded by Arts Council England. Named from the fear of wooden objects or forests, Xylophobia addresses issues of place and belonging which go to the heart of community feelings of exclusion from both the art world and woodland spaces.