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13 December 2023

Immersive soundscape and reading of the final report of the Colombian Truth Commission

The Visual Embodied Methodologies (VEM) network with former commissioner Alejandro Castillejo, hosted a ritualized reading of Colombia’s Truth Commission Final Report.

1 December 2023, VEM on the verge event, reading by Alejandro Castillejo, former commissioner

Ahead of the beginnings of the new VEM project in 2024, the event, titled 'On the Verge of Silence: Sonic and Poetic Fragments’, blended soundscapes and testimonies to create an immersive atmosphere and disposition to listening, in the Chapel in the King’s building. Subtle lighting and illumination in the space with surround-sound, immersed the audience with the sounds of nature, communities and machinery recorded in areas of Colombia affected by the conflict.

Readers presented ritualised readings in Spanish and English, taken from the section “Conversations with Nature” in the Truth Commission report, which looked at nature as a subject of suffering. The readings premiered former Colombian Truth commissioner Alejandro Castillejo’s coproduced sound work.

On the Verge of Silence explored memories of violence through the rhythms of sounds, voices, and languages that accompany testimony to the Truth Commission in Colombia.

Professor Jelke Boesten, Professor of Gender and Development & Principal Investigator on the VEM Network

The Colombian Truth Commission is the official body established to investigate human rights violations, war crimes, or other serious abuses that took place during the armed conflict from 1958 to 2016.   The Commission was established in 2017, after the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed the “Final Agreement to End the Armed Conflict and Build a Stable and Lasting Peace”. The final report was released in June 2022.

The soundscape invited the audience to reflect on their own interest in or connections to Colombia, the Commission’s findings, and the stories that are entangled within the experiences during the conflict and in nature - the forests, mountains, and trees. Where the Final Report itself is a dense and difficult to take in, the use of sounds allowed audience members to take in its findings in new ways.

We have learned so much from Alejandro’s use of the sonic landscape - voices, languages, rhythms, the sounds of nature and machines - to share resonances of memories that are so difficult to speak and absorb in text only.

The event drew members of the Colombian diaspora in London, scholars and practitioners interested in visual and embodied methodologies, and scholars of memory and violence. We are tremendously grateful to Global Visiting Fellow and former truth commissioner Alejandro Castillejo for sharing this sonic work with us in King’s Chapel.

Professor Jelke Boesten

Find out more

The recording below is from the Chapel event on 1 December. This piece begins with the sound ‘Caminar’ (Walk), followed by readings of the first talk: ‘Raíces vestidas de muerte’ (Roots dressed up as death.) - read firstly in Spanish by Alejandro and in English by Camila.


In this story

Jelke Boesten

Vice Dean (Research), interim, SSPP