Stefan Donath of the International Research Center “Interweaving Performance Cultures” interviewed meLê yamomo about the premiere of Echoing Europe – Postcolonial Reverberations.
I met meLê yamomo in June 2019 to talk about the very successful premiere of his sound-performance Echoing Europe – Postcolonial Reverberations at Ballhaus Naunynstrasse in Berlin.1 In the performance, that will return to the stage from 16-19 December, 2019, the spectators enter the grand ballroom radiating the representative aura of the 19th century. Technical objects such as phonographs, turntables, radio or tape devices are displayed on tables covered by white table cloths. The spectators move through the hall as if in an exhibition. From a safe distance, meLê yamomo and its co-performer Pepe Dayaw observe the interested appraisal of the objects. They wear suits reminiscent of uniformed museum guards. Later, when the spectators have taken their seats, they enter the stage area and start to use the machines by playing sound recordings from various Berlin archives. In the concrete performance situation, these sound recordings from the colonial period in Southeast Asia produce noticeable tensions. What do we hear in these recordings today? What does it mean to listen to these “trophies of a colonial sound appropriation”2 today? What do they mean for the construction of our image of Europe? Who do they belong to? What cultural appropriations are manifested in the re-staging of these sounds? In what ways do the technical devices overcome the volatility of sound building a bridge to the historical past? And what strategies of reappropriation of those sounds are pursued by and linked with the personal stories of meLê and Pepe?
I had the chance to see the performance and was very impressed by the critical reflection and differentiation of ‘music’ and ‘sound’ as colonial projects. Above all, I was interested in meLê’s artistic work because I had only encountered him in an academic environment as a former IRC Fellow. Numerous topics opened up in our conversation. In the following interview, we speak about the critical handling of archives, the different levels of impact of science and art, re-evaluating the critical potential of the arts as the recomposition of new utopia.