Review: James Webb – Nothing here does not hear you, NAF 2022, May there always be a seat for yourself
|James Webbs’ Nothing here does not hear you -National Arts Festival, Makhanda #NAF2022
No charge- direct info link: https://nationalartsfestival.co.za/nothing%20-here-does-not-hear-you-2/
Duration: The installation runs is on June 23 to July 3, 2022 – audio plays for about 40 minutes
Where: The Bridge- 1st floor at The Monument
#NAF2022 #ItwillChangeyou NAF is on June 23 to July 3, 2022
Visit www.nationalartsfestival.co.za for the full programme and bookings
“May there always be a seat for yourself… may you never need to explain yourself … May every story be told with reverence… May we return to life as givers – not poisoners…Peace upon the invited and peace upon the uninvited… Blessings on the ghosts who have not yet made themselves known… blessings on those who leave those behind … Become a participant and become a keeper of peace…. May words flow easily and the royalties be plentiful… May no pothole stop you…”
These are blessings which are relayed by audio voice-over at Nothing here does not hear you, an installation on at the 2022 National Arts Festival, Makhanda, by internationally acclaimed visual/sound artist James Webb, who also works extensively in theatre, creating soundscapes for productions. I was there at sunset and was captivated by the depth of the words – the blessings- reflective, reverent, respectful and ultimately threaded with hope and inspiration. It was magical to sit on the bridge and listen to these blessings and I think at this point in time, we can all do with blessings.
I expected to stay for five minutes. I was captivated and lulled by the voice over and sat in the space for over 40 minutes – the time that it takes for recorded interviews to play. One can either sit on a bench and listen or walk around the space and listen as the “audio is diffused through transducers attached to the windows of the room, turning the glass into speakers, and allowing for the sound to be linked with the view of the land.” Someone referred to the transducers as microphones. They are doodads which dangle down and you stand and receive the audio.
Webb has assembled the installation from interviews, conducted with individuals who “were invited to take a walk through the building [formerly known as the 1820 Settlers Monument in Makhanda] and its environs to discuss the situation”. He spoke to a diverse range of people – including “historians, cultural workers, political activists, and sangomas, as well as members of the building’s maintenance and technical staff.” They were asked to reflect about the building which has hectic Colonial past and the surrounds.
The recorded interviews were 0distilled by writer, Louis Viljoen and he constructed a “series of texts that could, when spoken, work as blessings.” The result is magical. As Webb puts it in his festival bumph: “The text is vocalised in soft voices, reminiscent of lullabies, ASMR, and mantra, and in whispers, referencing stage prompts as well as the transmission of special knowledge.” It is dreamlike to sit on the bench and/or linger by the transducers and be enveloped by this overlay of words, voice, sound. It is soothing; a balm. I was there, at dusk, sunset and I highly recommend that you get and soak up the blessings.
At the heart of this work is hearing each other and listening to each other, taking cognizance of the past and how it is shaping our present and being hopeful about the future. It is about gratitude and always looking for blessings in the sacred and the prosaic. There is even a reference to potholes (a feature of Makhanda) and a prompt that “no pothole may stop you…” I loved being immersed in Nothing here does not hear you.
© Nothing here does not hear you, an installation on at the 2022 National Arts Festival, Makhanda, by internationally acclaimed artist, James Webb. Pics – TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen