Notes From Underground connects the Stockholm metro and Susan Sontag’s sojourn in Sweden during the late 1960s, with a cavern system 5,000 miles away in New Mexico—not far from where the artist was raised. With Sontag as guide, the video takes a journey through geological time, through experiences of liminality. What’s discovered are persistent questions of violence, felt reverberating between strata of personal and cultural history.
The video was made between the Swedish general elections of 2010 and 2014, when the populist, anti-immigration party garnered enough votes to reach parliament for the first time since the party’s founding. Sontag’s voice reappears as a sound-wave, translating her words into the language of stalactites, a cardiograph, the path of a subway moving above and below the the surface of the earth. Distinct horizontal and vertical movements mingle with frequencies from the underground—and with the specter of Sontag. She answers a question posed to her on the cusp of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, not long before her own death: what should the artist’s role be in confronting a society’s ills?