Visual Art Exhibition   .   Freedom?  .   Special Projects

James Webb
"Le Marché Oriental," 2008

[English] [italiano]

James Webb’s on-going, world-wide intervention, "There’s no place called home," broadcasts foreign birdcalls from indigenous trees, expressing the notions of alienation and xenophobia inherent within national identity. In Marrakech, Webb places birdcalls in trees and presents the documentation of six other installations in different locations from the same intervention. The artist’s interest in displacement can also be seen in his film "Le Marché Oriental" (2008), which documents an intervention within an apartheid-era building in South Africa once used to control Indian trade.

There is logic in the way Webb’s works hide around the world. The hallmark project being There’s no place called home, also included in the multi stage exhibition project A Proposal for Articulating Works and Places. This work is a series of variations on a theme, much like in many musical traditions. From trees around the world we can at different points in time hear bird calls. These bird calls do not naturally belong to the site, and is in actual fact manifested impossibilities.
Webb’s interference in trees has moved from the autobiographically linked intervention with South African summer birds in Japanese winter trees, during his yearlong stay in Japan, to more complex and charged situations. One version hosted non-migratory Nigerian birds in trees in Johannesburg. The trees from where the sounds were played were in a park with a high population of Nigerian refugees. The sound would be possible to recognise only for those with a memory of the birds, which in turn are memories linked to a place they might never be able to revisit. Much like the birds themselves, they have possibly become non-migratory. Somewhere in Marrakech, a city populated with foreigners, birds will call in vain for contact, in alarm, to mark territory in November 2009. Through a hidden, yet logical track of associations the sound and the location of the trees are linked together. Like so many of Webb’s works There’s no place called home can be moved, but it needs to be transformed, translated and made local. He works with dualities, much like in myths where you have oppositions like good and evil he takes advantage of the duality known – unknown. The birdcalls are completely alien to the situation, as is the audience to the bird calls. Just like with oral history, the parts which are not re-told are just as important as what actually is told. So when the documentation and stories of the different versions of There’s no place called home only address the facts of the piece, the not communicated implications of these facts becomes just as important. By not addressing the associations of the bird calls and the site in depth when retelling the works, they become ambiguous with a tint of secrecy.
There’s no place called home is one of many of Webb’s works which hack into our social reality. He works parallel to the hackers in the digital world. The hacker looks for obstacles in a variety of complex technological structures and solves any problem there might be, to make the structure run as smoothly as possible. No problem should have to be solved twice, at the same time as the hacker realises that there is not only one solution to any given problem. Thus the information about the hack has to be spread through word of mouth for it to possibly be altered and consequently improved. In a similar way Webb creates politically suggestive works without promoting one particular direction of interpretation, he aims for discussion to happen and spread.

Venues Credits

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