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mikromusik festival
Israel Martinez: Movements (2017, UA)
Commissioned by the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin program

August 23–27, 2017, Wed-Sat 10am–10pm, Sun 10am-6pm
August 22, installation opening, 7pm
Ort: Laube in the Prinzessinnengärten
Recording and production assistant: Diego Martinez


Mexican sound artist Israel Martinez investigates the acoustic dimensions of public spaces, their political or everyday traces of use and abuse and their backgrounds. Sounds do not always make audible what’s menacing. For the new installation presented at mikromusik, Israel Martinez (2012 ABP guest) made audio recordings in four Mexican ports known for drug trafficking. In Veracruz, Acapulco, Manzanillo, and Mazatlan, he recorded moving waters and beach life, port and machine noises that hint at local activities, which he edited into a spatial audio environment that captures the ambivalent nature of the sounds. A second ambivalence results from installation location in Berlin, which Berliners view and enjoy as a place of relaxation, as a non-threatening environment. A sense of the danger inherent to the drug war is experienced only when fully engaging the work.


"Mexico is one of the strongest processors and distributors of drugs in the world, its export reaches North America, Europe, Africa and Oceania. Mexican cartels are similar to transnational corporations, in collusion with the government and establishing businesses with all kinds of entrepreneurs around the world. Meanwhile, Mexico is plunged into an economic crisis in which precariousness has been regularized to the middle class, and poverty rates have grown radically. In addition, some states of the republic are placed among the bloodiest of the globe, like Guerrero, Tamaulipas and Chihuahua. The port of Acapulco is the second most dangerous city according to several international statistics, only after Caracas in Venezuela. Paradoxically, the level of drug consumption in Mexico is not worrisome.

Sea lanes are the main channels of drug distribution around the world. In a large number of Mexican ports, these illegal substances are stowed on all types of vessels, including interoceanic freighters, naval ships, modest fishing boats or luxurious private yachts. International seaports like Veracruz, Manzanillo, Mazatlán, Acapulco, Tampico and Lázaro Cárdenas, are involved in the global drug movement. During the summer of this year I have made field recordings in the first four of them.

The dynamics for the capture of sounds in these sites was to arrive repeatedly until the entrance of the port terminals, controlled by the naval force and in which usually the customs agents operate. In all of them I was denied access as to anyone who does not work on them or who is not part of the militia. From this failed experience, I began to record in the surrounding areas of the maritime terminals, which include warehouses, tourist beaches, fishing ports, public parks, town squares, restaurants, cafes and other sites characteristic of these port cities, as well as some container ships which I did have access until a few centimeters through tourist boats that have permission to approach. Most of these sounds contrast with a possible imaginary of the grayish spectrum around the drug business.

Besides making a punctual auditory recording of four international seaports in which drugs are mobilized to different geographies, I propose to explore the expressive and imaginative possibilities of field recording, of capturing the soundscape. Referring to certain notions expressed by Peter Cusack in his concept of Sonic Journalism: the auditory record can be as concrete and useful as ambiguous and expressionless. It is then that some extra element must complement the listening and its analysis, the reflection around this. Sometimes a text or some images help in this process, other times the listener must do it from an open, imaginative and, above all, active position."
Israel Martínez, July 2017

With support by Secretaría de Cultura Jalisco (Proyecta Traslados) and Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte del FONCA, Mexico

Photos Manzanilla, Verakruz, Acapulco, Mazatlan: Israel Martinez

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