Oswaldo Maciá

Oswaldo Maciá, Surrounded in Tears (installation view), 2004

Oswaldo Maciá, Surrounded in Tears (installation view), 2004

The English language has developed an extensive vocabulary to classify and understand the act of crying: weeping (associated with deep emotion) is very different from blubbering (colloquial, derogatory) or bawling (associated with children). Bypassing this mass of carefully nuanced and culturally specific linguistic signifiers, colombian-caribbean artist Oswaldo Maciá turned to the semiotics of the raw material of crying itself in his piece for International 04. In collaboration with renowned composer Michael Nyman and designer Jasper Morrison, Maciá created a sound installation entitled Surrounded in Tears (2004) which was compiled from one hundred individual cries. 

Crying is an elemental human expression, beyond words. Marking moments of extreme emotional and physical pain as well as intense pleasure, it is a universal language. Psychoanalytic theories suggest that the sound of the voice is related to the formation of ‘self’ and ‘other’. 

Oswaldo Maciá’s (b. 1960, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia) sources range from ethnographic and anthropological studies to informal sound-bites from everyday life – he asked midwives to record the screams of newborn babies. His work includes the oldest known wax cylinder recordings of crying, stored in the British Library: Australian Aborigines’ death wails from the Torres Strait, collected in 1898. `

Surrounded in Tears (2004) was a four-part composition sited in Liverpool Lime Street station, the Town Hall, the Community College and Tate Liverpool. Associated with regression and vulnerability, crying is usually a private activity, making the location of this particular piece within the public domain uncomfortable. A counterpart to another symphonic piece, Vespers (2003), made of one hundred women’s testimonies of joy in nine different languages, the work did not aim to rationalise crying but drew together personal and universal experience.

Oswaldo Maciá at Liverpool Biennial 2004

Surrounded in Tears, 2004
Sound Installation
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2004
Exhibited at multiple venues