Coco Fusco’s video Your Eyes Will Be an Empty Word (2021) grapples with the affects, temporalities, silences, and losses of the COVID-19 pandemic that continue to be unevenly experienced, even in death. The film centers on New York’s Hart Island, where a mass grave was reopened during the pandemic; those whose bodies were not claimed within forty-eight hours were buried there, interred by those imprisoned on Rikers Island. While critical receptions of the work have focused on its visual components, particularly the use of aerial drone images of the island and of Fusco in a rowboat, this article examines how the sonic components of the work—the sounds of the waves, the narration performed by poet Pamela Sneed, and the experimental violin music composed and performed by Pauline Kim Harris—draw the viewer into an affective engagement with the suspended grief of the pandemic. Drawing on works from ethnic studies, sound studies, and memory studies, this article argues that Fusco uses suspension as a visual and sonic strategy to reckon with how unresolved social histories accumulate and can be felt in the body, prompting movement toward modes of care and remembrance that refuse violent bureaucratic logics of desensitization and discardability.

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