James Webb || Playlist

This Playlist is a selection of works by Southafrican artist James Webb from 2006 to 2013.
His work explores the power of voice and sound as a tool of suggestion, freedom, protest, introspection and discovery.

“In Webb’s work sound is often used as a kind of avatar, to bring together a concern with mystical or deeply buried psychological experience, physical contextual meaning and ephemeral aesthetics.” Minnette Vári, “Currencies of change,” .ZA Giovane Arte Dal Sudafrica catalogue, Palazzo delle Papesse, 2008

is scheduled to be broadcast on August 30th at 2.00.



00:00: Telephone Voice, 2011 – The artist used a clairvoyant to contact Orson Welles, interviewing him and transcribing the resulting speech for a voice actor to perform. Conceptually, the deceased American auteur directs the clairvoyant and through him the actor, who in turn influences the listener. The title refers to a style of telephonic enunciation often used to convey not only clarity but also a sense of status. The project was commissioned for the Palais de Tokyo’s Répondeur, a monthly, curated show where artists make works for the exhibition space’s answering machine. This artwork was curated by Rahma Khazam.

03:21: Let Me Lose Myself (excerpt), 2013 – For an invitation to make an audio guide to Stockholm’s Skogskyrkogården cemetery, the artist invited a group of people to send him their positions on the subject of uncertainty. These submissions included mathematical formulae, photographs, diary entries, intimate text messages, recipes, literary quotations, audio recordings and scenes from films. Webb then commissioned the poet and playwright Genna Gardini to spend time with these ideas and to be influenced by them. Gardini collated and edited the material and wrote a text that would become the underlying script for Webb’s piece. The text was then read by Josefin Ljungman and shaped and moulded into a headphone-specific artwork to be listened to in the Skogskyrkogården. This project was curated by CCseven.

05:24: Autohagiography (excerpt), 2007 – Voice recordings of the artist under hypnosis, broadcast from speakers sewn into the headrest of a black leather chaise longue. Visitors lie on the couch in the semi-darkness of the installation space and listen to the artist’s disembodied voice describing fantastical scenes experienced while under hypnosis. The audio was edited from over 20-hours of footage collected during hypnotherapy sessions between 2005 and 2007.

09:28: Untitled (Sultan Bahu), 2013 – An excerpt from a series of recordings of a Sufi Dhikr performed by 70 patients at the Drug Rehabilitation wing of the Sultan Bahu Centre in Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town, South Africa. The project is ongoing.

13:25: Title Withheld (Black Tuesday), 2011 – An audio recording of some of the protests outside the South African Houses of Parliament on the 22nd of November 2011, when the National Assembly approved the Protection of State Information Bill, more commonly referred to as The Secrecy Bill. This recording forms part of a new work in progress.

19:20: The Black Passage, 2006 – A sound recording of the empty elevator cage descending into and ascending out of the South Deep mine, the deepest twin-shaft goldmine in the world, broadcast from a wall of speakers installed at the end of a 20m black tunnel. Visitors enter the narrow space and are drawn towards the frame of golden light emitted from a location behind the speakers at the rear of the tunnel. The sound is diffused at high volume and can be experienced as both an auditory and a physical sensation.

You may find other sounds by James Webb HERE on Radio Papesse and you can listen to an interview recorded back in 2008 at the Palazzo delle Papesse.

BIO || James Webb (b. 1975, South Africa) has been working on both large-scale installations in galleries and museums as well as unannounced interventions in public spaces since 2001. His work explores the nature of belief and dynamics of communication in our contemporary world, often using exoticism, displacement and humour to achieve these aims. Webb’s work has been presented around the world at institutions such as the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, CCA Kitakyushu in Japan and the Darat al Funun in Amman, Jordan, as well as on major international exhibitions such as the 2013 Biennale di Venezia, the 2010 Marrakech Biennale, the 2009 Melbourne International Arts Festival and the 2007 Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon. His work is represented in the collections of the Iziko South African National Gallery, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, the Darat al Funun, Amman, and Domaine Pommery, Reims.