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Inspiring Meeting of November 30, 2023

On November 30, 2023, SMRN had another warm meeting with a group of members including Mena El Shazly, Laura Marks, Juan Castrillon, Azadeh Emadi, Mansoor Behnam, Nina Czegledy, Farshid Kazemi, Niusha Hatefinia, and Millie Chen.

During this meeting, our member Juan Castrillon presented his recent project titled 'Sense of Touch' (KOSKETUS). Afterward, we had a general discussion about an important issue concerning the future activities of SMRN.

In the first part of this meeting, Juan Castrillon talked about his recent project, "Sense of Touch" (KOSKETUS), a collaborative effort with Finnish contemporary artist Vilja Happala, completed during the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. "KOSKETUS" is a short film presenting the journey of a painted touch into the world through the temporality of a Ney flute solo recorded in a well in Al Quds, Jerusalem. The genesis of the collaboration between Juan and Vilja can be traced back to a fortuitous encounter with Vilja in Helsinki, where Juan was delivering a lecture at the University of Helsinki and the University of Arts. Vilja's departure from conventional Orthodox icon painting, eschewing gold due to its ties to extractivist economies, ignited a profound dialogue on theophonic expressions of art and sound. Her decision to explore colors from the Earth resonating with auras and the usage of light within her paintings fascinated Juan, sparking a deep exploration of resonance, art, and spirituality. The Ney solo recording in Jerusalem emerged as a poignant reflection of personal resonance, capturing Juan's pilgrimage to sacred sites in Jerusalem, including the Shrine of the Prophet Samuel, and his experience of performing at a Palestinian neighborhood nearby the Old City. Through Vilja's artistic lens, the film "KOSKETUS" materialized as a convergence of visual and auditory realms, intertwining drawing and sound to create a multisensory exploration of human experience. Juan further delved into his improvisational performance, rooted in the traditions of Turkish Ottoman music, as a means to navigate moments of disorientation and introspection within sacred spaces, blending cultural heritage with personal expression. "KOSKETUS" stands as a testament to the resilience of human connection amidst adversity, inviting viewers to contemplate the profound depths of shared experience in the face of global turmoil, resonating with themes of connection, loss, and hope amid uncertain times.

In the second part of the meeting, the general discussion revolved around planning future meetings and addressing issues of engagement within the group. Laura Marks expressed concerns about the lack of engagement, inactive website, and the need for more dynamic participation. She suggested that organizing events like podcasts could help energize the group. Additionally, she talked about the possibility of using remaining grant money to support activities. Some members suggested the idea of meeting every three months instead of monthly to reduce workload pressure and  hopefully get more people to attend. The group decided to schedule the next meeting for January 30th and then consider moving to tri-monthly meetings afterward.