James Webb

Mixed Signals
Live performance by James Webb

The War Of The Worlds
Stereo, 47’53”

A group of anonymous ear-witnesses recount their individual experiences of what happened on the night the voice on the radio announced the end of days. Was it a case of “fake news” or a glitch in reality that revealed an incredible truth? All that remains are oral testimonies of fear, survival, and strange beauty. Taking Orson Welles’s 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds as a starting point for rethinking recent history and contemporary politics, this artwork proposes to be a transmission of fugitive voices received and sheltered by the listener. Directed and designed by James Webb; Script Writer: Louis Viljoen; Recording Engineer: Dave Langemann; Voices: Emily Child, Brendon Daniels, Owen Manamela-Mogane, Dawid Minnaar, Denise Newman, and Lesoko Seabe. This artwork – originally conceived for radio – was made possible by the generous support of Linda Givon, and originally commissioned for documenta 14 radio’s “Every Time A Ear Di Soun” curated by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung and co-curated by Marcus Gammel.

James Webb_portrait2016_01lq

Autohagiography (hypnosis remix)
Quadraphonic, 30’00”
2007 / 2017

For a period of 2-years, the artist visited various hypnotists and hypno-therapists in order to experience hypnosis, and to make audio recordings of these sessions. The resulting artwork, broadcast from speakers sewn into the headrest of a black leather chaise longue, is a phantasmagoria of broken narratives that are both spooky and humorous, creating a sonic self-portrait of the artist and a rich tapestry of uncanny images. For Helicotrema, the artist revisits this piece as a quadraphonic performance, using the voice takes and room sounds, and transforming them to attempt to activate lucid dreaming and stimulate visionary projection. Prayer Stereo, various durations, 2000 ongoing James Webb will present selected extracts from his ongoing Prayer installation. Prayer is a multi-channel sound installation comprising recordings of prayer and vocal worship from religions in the city where the work is exhibited, broadcast simultaneously from 12 floor-based speakers. The project was started in Cape Town in 2000, and is created in situ every time. Collaborating faiths include, but are not limited to, most denominations of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism, as well as new religious movements and traditional, pre-Christian faiths. Prayer has been exhibited in 9 international cities, including Johannesburg, Birmingham, and Stockholm.

James Webb_portrait2016_02 lq
James Webb (1975) is a South African artist based in Cape Town. His work, framed in large-scale installations in galleries and museums, or as unannounced interventions in public spaces, often makes use of ellipsis, displacement and détournement to explore the nature of belief and the dynamics of communication in our contemporary world. Webb’s practice employs a variety of media including audio, installation and text, referencing aspects of the conceptualist and minimalist traditions, as well as his academic studies in advertising, comparative religion and theatre. Webb has presented his work around the world at institutions such as Wanås Konst in Sweden, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, U.K., and the Darat al Funun in Jordan, as well as on major international exhibitions such as the 13th Biennial of Sharjah (2017), 12th Bienal de la Habana (2015), 55th Biennale di Venezia (2013), the 3rd Marrakech Biennale (2009), the 2009 Melbourne International Arts Festival and the 8th Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon (2007). Recent projects include La Syzygie, a multi-dimensional reading of the Théâtre Graslin in Nantes, and the creation of Prayer (Stockholm) for Historiska, Stockholm (both 2016). In 2017, Webb participated in Tamawuj, the 13th Sharjah Biennale curated by Christine Tohme, Afriques Capitales curated by Simon Njami at La Villette, Paris, and The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, the 4th Prospect Triennial of New Orleans, curated by Trevor Schoonmaker.