It is with trepidation that this reviewer approaches an installation exhibit. These conceptually clever forays into visual definitions, while potentially intriguing, frequently fall into the “things stacked/glued/hanging together” mélange that is almost desperately dependent on a tome of the artist’s intellectual ideology. The actual experience for the bemused onlooker can thus be limited to a transient academic titillation, a cerebral ice cream lick.
Jenna Burchell’s Homing exhibition in the new spaces of the Lovell Art Gallery in Woodstock, would at first glance appear to be composed of a bare room in which wires sprout in parallel unison to the ceiling, a vision that might cynically whisper of yet another space/negative space study. That limited idea is quickly washed away the instant a string is touched. The wires are purely a technological bridge to an aural end, linked to speakers which deliver a unique sound loop that suddenly elevates the entire setting into a compulsive pilgrimage into an audio-driven world of memory and of delight. Each strand speaks with its own special voice. Dogs bark, wind soars, bell tinkle and I am sure that I even heard a pig grunt in a mud pool. Some of the loops are ingeniously soft and short, such as a sublime natural bass tone that hovers for a nearly invisible split second, while others are lengthy narratives of dance and creativity.
The room thus becomes a musical playroom, in which an audience reduced to childlike wonder can strum, pluck and arrange the multitude of nostalgic voices to create tiny sonic symphonies. It is in the seemingly endless permutations of sound that each lucky participant can find their own resonance.
“This meticulously hand-built interactive environment has been designed to be an accessible and exciting meeting of contemporary art, sound and live interactive participation,” reads a fraction of the blessedly minimal description on the wall.
The exhibition combines the three soundscapes that have been exhibited in Cape Town, Pretoria and Grahamstown as part of a moving touch sensitive show.
Light as a daydream, free of angst and foreboding, the wires sing of creaky farm couches and of milk poured lovingly into a glass. An audio family scrapbook that is full of almost forgotten inner visions, Jenna Burchell’s Homing relegates the present to a background hum.
Homing by Jenna Burchell runs at the Lovell Gallery from 31 July to 19 September 2014.