It’s “old news” at this point, but still worth pointing out – and listening to.
Piotr Szyhalski’s Labor Camp Orchestra is an ongoing work that has been the site for much of his public artwork over the past several years, including two installations in at LABoral in Gijon, Spain for the exhibition FEEDFORWARD – Angel of History, which I co-curated with Christiane Paul.
As the website states, Labor Camp Orchestra is
“the Aural Branch of the Labor Camp. Since it’s gradual inception between 1998-1999 Labor Camp Orchestra remains committed to construction of auditory experiences, which follow no singular philosophy, process or idea.”
Back in June, the Labor Camp Orchestra was featured in an NPR story by Lara Pellegrinelli, “Evolution of a Song: Strange Fruit.” The words of the song were originally penned in 1936 under the name Lewis Allan by Bronx schoolteacher Abel Meeropol in reaction to a photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to Billie Holiday’s memorable rendition of Strange Fruit the same again after viewing this photograph, which is part of the point of Szyhalski’s “cover” of it via Labor Camp Orchestra – to make visceral the Iraq war. To take us beyond the blaring headlines, patriotic jingoism, and national security fervor to a place that is literally unforgettable. According to Pellegrinelli,
“The group’s version of “Strange Fruit” passes for perky, tidy electronica on first listen. In reality, it emerged from a conceptual thread on events in Iraq and specifically addresses the execution of Saddam Hussein. Based solely on Meeropol’s poem, it juxtaposes his words with a woman reciting the names of fruits in Arabic. An archival recording from the Hussein execution and Koranic recitation plays in the background.”