AboutLadies and gentlemen, your attention please. You are reminded that everything is fine.
James Webb constructs situations that court our imagination. In this, his first substantial exhibition in the UK, Webb introduces us to a collection of works which serve to both reassure and unsettle.
Here, in the relative safety of the arts centre, the South African artist makes a series of interventions to trigger a sense of something happening, something undeterminable, provocative and ultimately disquieting. With a distinctive and subtle application of sound, image and installation, Webb creates an environment in which powerful sensory experiences can occur and the casual encounter can leave a lasting impression.
In The Black Passage, a monumental sound installation, a recording of the empty elevator cage descending and ascending the South Deep mine in Johannesburg is broadcast from a wall of speakers at the end of a deep, black tunnel. Here, the industrial sound penetrates, vibrates and permeates, rattling the walls and rumbling through the floor in a raw and intensely physical manner.
In contrast is the quiet display of 50 exhibition title cards from the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum in Japan. Untitled (9th August) features texts such as âSteel helmet with the remains of a skull', âMelted rosary' and âStatue of angel exposed to the blast'. Unaccompanied by the objects they describe,these haikulike texts contribute to an inventory of memory and evidence relating to the devastating events of 1945.
The extremity of a particular circumstance is also prevalent in the performancebased work September 1st. In collaboration with the sound artist Francisco Lopez, Webb depicts a consensual kidnapping. Video documentation of the event shows an audience blindfolded, transported and exposed to a concert of experimental music, before being uprooted and returned to their respective homes. They were told nothing of what went on that evening.