While visiting the former potassium mines in Alsace, I was struck by the changing-room system there in the so-called “Salle des Pendus”, or “Hall of the Hung”. The work-clothes hanging from the ceiling are richly symbolic, suggesting the ghosts of miners past.
Suspended Voices is a sound installation using 32 small loudspeakers, which are suspended like the miners’ clothes in the “Hall of the Hung” at the Kalivie mine museum in Alsace. Hung right above the visitors’ heads (about 2m high), the loudspeakers broadcast a spatial sound composition consisting of the recorded speech of women from the area, the wives, daughters and mothers of the miners, as well as women who themselves worked at the mines.
The long-silent voices of these women, conspicuously absent from the history of the mines, at long last resound where their husbands, fathers and sons used to change into and out of their work-clothes every day.
The 32 loudspeakers broadcast the sound at such low volume that, when you enter the hall, all you notice is a murmuring of mixed voices. You have to draw closer and mill around under the loudspeakers to make out the spoken words. This is a way of inciting visitors to listen closely and actively to these women and to their account of 20th-century industrial history.
Beside the installation, Cécile Babiole has created an audio documentary Femmes de la mine for ARTE radio