Sira Ayats

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Do we know how to be in silence?

There are few moments, in our day-to-day, in which we are. Truly in silence. Without music playing or the sound of traffic, without the television going on in the background or the neighbours making noise; without the sound of phone notifications from time to time; without speaking or listening to anyone. And yet, I feel that life urges us to accept it time and time again. The latest instance, as a result of the pandemic. I think that this one has given rise to a special kind of silence.

 

At first, let us remember, there was a silence that came from the ceasing of all human activities, rapidly overtaken by a burst of life from nature, which reclaimed, with joy and with strength, all of the space that we’d stolen from it. But this is not what we are going to focus on today.

 

Another silence that I identify, and that I would like to speak of today, is a much sadder one. It is a grey silence, that holds back tears; a silence that, with resilience, reflects – “if we had known to listen much earlier, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten to the point where we are at now”. If we listen carefully, we will understand that this second silence speaks to us of forgetting, of an excess of riches, of exploitation, of avarice. In fact, right from the beginnings of history, we can trace a trail of greed running through all epochs and civilisations.

Pocs moments hi ha, al nostre dia a dia, en que hi estiguem. Realment en silenci. Sense música o el soroll del trànsit, sense la televisió sonant de fons o els veïns fent fressa; sense notificacions al mòbil sonant de tant en tant; sense parlar o escoltar a ningú. I tot i així, sento que la vida ens empeny a acceptar-lo una vegada i una altra. L’última, arrel de la pandèmia. Crec que d’aquesta n’ha derivat un silenci especial.

 

Al principi, recordem-ho, hi va haver un silenci derivat de l’aturada de totes les activitats humanes, ràpidament aclaparat per l’esclat de vida de la natura, que va reclamar amb alegria i força tot l’espai que li hem robat. Però avui no ens endinsarem en aquest matís.

 

Un altre silenci que identifico, i del qual m’agradaria parlar avui, és molt més trist. És un silenci gris, que aguanta el plor; un silenci que amb resiliència reflexiona – “si haguéssim sabut escoltar molt abans, potser ara no ens trobaríem on ens trobem”.Si parem bé l’orella, entendrem que en aquest segon silenci se’ns parla d’oblit, d’afany de riquesa, d’explotació, d’avarícia. De fet, des del principi de la història, en totes les èpoques i civilitzacions es pot seguir un rastreig d’aquesta cobdícia.

 

I think that despite the disgrace that the pandemic constitutes in and of itself, we can all agree that it has also gifted us some lessons for us to learn from. I would say that the first one is the opportunity for us to stop and listen, to turn our gaze inwards.

 

So, given the offer by NIU to take on the theme of Silence, the first thing that occured to me was to hop on my cycle and ride around the diverse landscapes of l’Empordà, beginning from the pharaonic site of Empuriabrava, emblem of the predatory planification and the collective failure that the Catalan coast has become.

 

In these places I have seen remnants of human activities that are already ancient despite their abandonment dating back to just a few years ago. Shops of long-standing tradition, swallowed up and rendered extinct by franchises, chains and large multinationals, forgotten by the wreckage of our age that we, inexplicably, define as a period of progress and advancement. Yes, I speak of a silence rooted in an absence, of a common dispossession that many will not even miss because it happened years ago when many of the roads that I have walked experienced sounds that will never ever be heard again.

 

The silence of a deteriorated nation has become evident to me, with its soil corrupted by asphalt and cement, an ancestral territory that has forgone its roots by trading integrity for greed and that, naturally, has wasted away all the beauty that used to edify its sunsets, substituting it with luxurious seaview apartments, that has killed all of the life that used to flow through its streets in favour of urbanizations where existence is interlaced with architectural pretentiousness and social isolation. As Raimon once said, they who lose their origins lose their identity, and indeed some people have betrayed l’Emporda; and our silence, which was also ancient and very long, as the boy from Xàtiva used to sing, is now taken over by the sterile and lifeless calm of an empty apartment with views on the sea.

Crec que malgrat la desgràcia que constitueix en sí la pròpia pandèmia, totes podem estar d’acord en que també ens ha regalat algun que altre aprenentatge. El primer diria que és l’oportunitat de parar i escoltar, de mirar cap endins.

 

Així que davant la proposta de NIU de tractar el Silenci, el primer que se’m va ocórrer va ser agafar la bici per anar a voltar per diversos paratges de l’Empordà, començant pel faraònic paratge d’Empuriabrava, símbol de la planificació depredadora i del fracàs col·lectiu en el que s’ha convertit la costa de Catalunya.

 

En aquests indrets he vist restes d’activitats humanes que ja són antigues malgrat que van ser abandonades fa ben pocs anys. Les botigues de tota la vida engolides i extingides per franquícies, cadenes i grans multinacionals, oblidades pel desgavell d’aquesta època que, inexplicablement, definim com un període de progrés i avanç. Sí, parlo d’un silenci que prové d’una absència, d’un desposseïment comú que molts ni tant sols trobaran a faltar perquè va succeir fa anys quan molts dels carrers que he recorregut coneixien sorolls que ja no s’escoltaran mai més.

 

Se m’ha fet palès el silenci d’un país malaguanyat, amb la terra embrutida de ciment i asfalt, un territori ancestral que ha perdut les arrels fent un bescanvi entre cobdícia i integritat i, naturalment, ha malbaratat tota la bellesa que omplia els seus capvespres substituint-la per uns luxosos apartaments amb vistes al mar, que ha matat la vida que onejava plàcida pels carrers a canvi d’unes urbanitzacions on l’existència transcorre entre el fanfarroneig arquitectònic i l’aïllament social. Si en Raimon deia que qui perd els orígens perd identitat, alguns han traït l’Empordà i el nostre silenci, que també era antic i molt llarg, com cantava el noi de Xàtiva, ara l’ocupa la calma, estèril i erma, d’un apartament buit amb vistes al mar.

Do we know how to be in silence?
I have this thing with.. doors.
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Sira Ayats

 

hola@sirayats.com
+34 666 334 344
Instagram: @siraayats

Within Sira’s work I see a photographer blessed with the nostalgic longing and sensibility of a poet. In her hands, the camera becomes an instrument capable of portraying introspection and contemplation in intimate detail; as if her soul, questing outwards through the lens, found its way into the images she crafts, making every picture also a portrait of her own gaze. There is an evident profound reverence towards her surroundings that is present throughout her work, highlighting the artistry of a photographer whose observant gaze, while inevitably personal, raises a mirror to our shared human spirit, for us to find the brightest and warmest of colours reflected there.

— Words by Luca M. Bergamin.