Nothing's going to happen to us ...

The video trailer of   Nothing’s going to happen to us... It uses a stereo mix of the original quadraphonic surround sound installation.

Nothing’s going to happen to us... was originally created for the centennial commemoration of World War I. It was shown in one of the Atlantic Wall's bunkers at Raversyde in Ostend (BE). The piece investigates how our perceptions of an armed conflict relate to a lived reality. I started speaking to people who had spent time in conflict zones. I found the story of a young nurse. She talks about the time she was working in a camp in a conflict zone, and how that camp was being shelled one night. She speaks about the sounds she heard, and the emotions those sounds elicited. She happens to do this in the juicy dialect of the Westhoek, where the WWI trench war was fought.

detail at Private Shelter Exhibition.

I was lucky to grow up in Belgium, during the longest period of peace that Europe has ever known. Living just a few dozen kilometers from the WWI battlefields, I still I didn’t know what war or armed conflict was. I just heard some family stories passed down the generations of a time so long ago, it was another reality. I certainly couldn’t imagine how it would be to live through an armed conflict. But I grew up with action movies, war stories, conflicts on the screen. Growing up, I’ve seen so much of them that somewhere in the back of my mind I had formed an idea, a subconscious image of what it could be like, a horizon of expectations. Consciously, I knew this was completely wrong of course, but that is not how our subconcious works.

This inspired me to turned to a few sound designers, specialised in action movies. I asked them to describe how they would design the sound for the nurse's story if it were a movie scene. By confronting these two perspectives Nothing’s going to happen to us... wants to research the no man's land between imagined emotions on the one hand and real memories on the other. Between an artificial ‘presentation’ of danger, and an authentic, lived memory of it.

At the same time the installation also refers to Flanders own history by using the sound of exploding WWI and WWII bombs. To this day DOVO, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group of the Belgian army, still finds and neutralises around 3000 bombs per year from both world wars. They are buried in the soil, as silent witnesses, hidden memorials. When DOVO disposes of these explosive remnants, they blow them up in a controlled manner. I recorded the sound of these explosions. The installation also refers to contemporary conflicts by using sounds from current or very recent conflict zones as well. A war journalist friend gave me recordings from, among others, conflicts in Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The sounds of these bombs and battlefields aren’t heard directly, but are modulating the voices of the people speaking, enforcing a chaotic framework on the memories and perceptions of the testimonies. All three perspectives are delivered to the audience at the same time, using a surround sound setup. The voices are cut up by the modulation and they tell their stories over, under and against one another. The spectator needs to construct his or her own story from the continuous entanglement of information delivered to him or her.

Back in 2014, Nothing’s going to happen to us... was shown in an underground bunker of the Atlantik Wall and there, between these three very distinct versions of reality, the listener’s own private shelter  takes shape.

Nothing's going to happen to us...   was a finalist at and nominated for the DISCOVERY Award at the 2016 LOOP festival in Barcelona (ES). Nothing's going to happen to us... was also a finalist at the European Sound Art Award 2016 and was part of the award exhibition at the Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten Marl (DE).


Nothing’s going to happen to us... was commissioned by Vrijstaat O for the Private Shelter exhibition. The exhibition was organised in the frame of GoneWest, the artistic commemoration of the Great War in the province of West Flanders (BE).  Nothing’s going to happen to us... was developed during a residency at Overtoon.

Production: Vrijstaat O

Co-production: Kunstenwerkplaats

Sound recordings by Stijn Demeulenaere and Daniel Demoustier

Video consulting and support by Sam Vanoverschelde

Color grading by Andrei Mândrescu

Thanks to: Sam Vanoverschelde, Jolien Colpaert, Daniel Demoustier, Andrei Mândrescu, Arnout Colaert, Charles Maynes, Leen Lacroix, Erik Nerinckx, Hendrik Tratsaert, Kerlijn Van der Cruyssen, Mathieu De Meyer, Co English, Ruth Timmermans, Vrijstaat O, Visual Kitchen, Pianofabriek Arts Lab, Overtoon, Provinciaal Domein Raversyde and DOVO.