Labor Camp

Theater of Operations

The First Sonic Reenactment of Operation Iraqi Freedom

July 25-27, 2008 at The Historic Allen Theatre, Cleveland

Sound, video, custom software, printed matter, installation
by Piotr Szyhalski
and Labor Camp Orchestra

Theater of Operations fills the vacant interior of the historic Allen Theatre with a sound environment that echoes events in Iraq--a sonic reenactement that explores perceptions of war. The emptiness of the space is evocative and rich in the context of war, whether we are thinking of soldiers "over there," simply gone from our lives, or those who were killed.

The spoken texts were transcribed from numerous YouTube videos of American soldiers in Iraq during military related operations and activities. This dialogue was then performed in the studio by a cast of players (see the PROCESS page). From ultra quiet, intimate voices to aggressive and confrontational language and sounds, the recordings span the range of human emotions as the soldiers' reenacted dialogue reflects a sobering and at times discomforting truth.

The multilayered sound piece also includes a repeated score based on Erik Satie's musical composition Vexations. Satie wrote a number of compositions with the intention of having them performed not onstage, but in the lobby of a concert hall, not during the performances, but rather during intermission. This strategy is adopted for Theater of Operations by placing the centerpoint of the content in the lobby and rotunda. Hidden onstage behind the curtain, or on the Internet, the actual videos from Iraq are displayed. In this layout, we absorb more readily the artificial rendering of war, while allowing the reality of it to unfold elsewhere, unacknowledged.

What do we really know and understand about this historical event? How do we see our own personal involvement in it? What is the role of physical distance in defining our relationship to the war? What is the role of mass media--both the one-way media such as television, and two-way character of the Internet--in shaping our emotional response to the ongoing war?


A Labor Camp Orchestra CD containing audio selections from the "Theater of Operation" Project is now available.

   Fig. 01 : Theater Of Operations

   Fig. 02 : Outside of The Historic Allen Theatre in Cleveland

   Fig. 03 : Theater Of Operations: The Rotunda Reenactment area

   Fig. 04 : Theater Of Operations: Theater proper and stage projections

   Fig. 05 : Theater Of Operations: House board and setup

   Fig. 06 : Theater Of Operations poster


All instruments and voices by Labor Camp Orchestra, with the following additions:

Double Bass:
Sara Thompson

Arabic Voice:
Ahmed Zikiri

English Voices:
Rebecca Alm
Emmet Byrne
David Goldes
Oliver Grudem
Justin Heideman
Joan Johnson
Pamela Johnson
Kristin Makholm
Abinadi Meza
Rosie Szychalski
Piotr Szyhalski
Paul Wenzel

All tracks written, produced and performed by Piotr Szyhalski.
Musical compositions are based on Erik Satie's "Vexations".

All Arabic texts are based on messages from American and Coalition Forces leaflets disseminated over Iraq and Afghanistan during the current Iraq war as well as during the 1991 Gulf War.

All English texts are based on the transcripts from YouTube videos shot in Iraq (see the PROCESS page).

Video text transcriptions:
Rosie Szychalski

Generous support from the 2008 Ingenuity Cleveland Festival of Art and Technology
and the Minneapolis College of Art + Design is gratefully acknowledged.

Theater Of Operations page at the Ingenuity 2008 Festival

Additional materials:

Theater Of Operations: PROCESS: Notes on the methodologies and development of the Theater Of Operations project.
Theater Of Operations, The Second Sonic Reenactment Of Operation Iraqi freedom: Second installation in Minneapolis, 2009.
White Star Cluster, The Third Sonic Reenactment Of Operation Iraqi freedom: Third installation in Gijon, Spain 2009-2010.
IF / THEN: You Decide: Leaflets deployed within the Rotunda area of the Allen Theatre.
Theater Of Operations CD containing the audio content of the "White Star Cluster" and "Theater Of Operations" Projects.
Labor Camp © 2008
All rights reserved.