Bethan Huws

BETHAN HUWS, b. 1961
Welsh, based in Berlin, Germany

Singing for the Sea documents a vocal performance organized in 1993 by Bethan Huws on the coast of the North Sea in England. Eight Bulgarian women – known as the Bistrista Babi or Bistrista Grandmothers – are seen singing and dancing in their traditional costumes at the water’s edge at high tide. The film juxtaposes sequences of this live “concert for the sea” with close-ups of the empty beach in the ebbing tide.

Presented outside their cultural contexts, the women’s voices become glossolalic, pure sounds that echo the sea’s structureless form and its deep noise. The seascape is therefore more than decor; it is an integral part of the experience, composing with the women a profound and dynamic surface at the limit of abstraction.

This meditation on the poetics of voice has also a political and social significance for the Welsh artist. It is a critical reflection on the British sentiment of insularity and politics of monolingualism. Here the presence of the European women and their polyphonic voices makes visible the presence of European neighbours beyond the water, including the existence of the Welsh community within the British territory.

Image: Bethan Huws, Singing for the Sea, 1993. Still.