This video is in black and white.
The setting looks deserted and wild, spacious, grasses wave in the wind. There are fragments of masonry, something like a chapel, columns, carved words, an ancient site with no visitors, or only a few young people with bird whistles, making sweet trilling noises of various kinds, approaching and coinciding, falling into a rhythm and then silence as they are seen lying down.
Were they remembering some destruction? Were they reenacting deaths?
After a pause we see a drawing of the once large city of Ani. We read that this was a performance to imagine the place with birdsong revived, before a long past destruction. The bird whistle blowers were asked to perform until tired, when they lay down.
I was reminded of visits I have made to ancient sites, aware of lost long dead people. I was enjoying the way the filming was done, the swaying of grass, some blurred shots, the mingling of various trilling sounds, the movement before stillness.
My companion would have liked the explanatory titles at the beginning but I liked being aware of my reactions before the information came up. I had been expecting more current conflicts to be referenced but instead the message seemed to be a universal one of time passing, civilisations falling, cities ruined but treasured, an idea of people everywhere as fragile, as possessing a common humanity.
Volume 33.no.1 September / October 2018 p32
Francis Alÿs ‘The silence of Ani’ 13 minute HD video installation at Cast , Helston,July 2018