Harp-like sculpture pulls at heartstrings

MUSICAL ART: Creator Jenna Burchell ‘plays’ her story
MUSICAL ART: Creator Jenna Burchell ‘plays’ her story

HOMING, created by Jenna Burchell, Rhodes School of Art Studio Gallery. Reviewed by Gillian McAinsh.

ALTHOUGH “homing” falls under Visual Art in the programme, it also is a mindbending aural experience as this interactive exhibition touches the senses, stirs memories and truly is memorable.

Festival visitor Jenna Burchell, a Pretoria performance artist, has created a giant harp-like sculpture of hundreds of copper strings, taking up one room of the Rhodes Fine Art Department.

What makes it much more than an instrument is how she and the tech team have “coded” each string to yield a different sound to the fingers of visitors.

“There are little sound clips loaded on to every string,” she explained yesterday. Play one, or more, as the fancy takes you. You can also mix it up like a DJ.”

Each cord is touch sensitive, with pre-recorded sounds which Burchell describes as “memories of home”, hence the title. Born in Maritzburg, Burchell’s family moved to Doha for a time.

“We lived neither here nor there and a lot of our life was defined by technology through Skype and social media.”

This also left her with a sense for home, and the memories of sound. Hence she collected sound bites from all over Pretoria before arriving in Grahamstown two weeks ago.

As the visitor moves through the strings, so your ears move from Pretoria to Grahamstown, from the rumble of heavy traffic to the sound of cathedral bells, with the chatter of children, a lone violinist, a poet, the sound of thunder and more.

The technical team consists of Leinster Grimes, Schalk Erasmus, A Skyline on Fire and Sebastian Jamieson.

The exhibition moves to Johannesburg and then Cape Town at the end of July.

I can just imagine it at the Athenaeum in Port Elizabeth …

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