Songsmith (The Great Karoo)

Interactive sound sculpture
Fossilised volcanic ash, kiaat, brass, steel, sound, circuitry
15 x 100 meters
Spier Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa
2017

Songsmith is a trade mark of Jenna Burchell
Songsmith (The Great Karoo) represents a mass extinction event that took place over 260 million years ago leaving behind a ghost-like mark on the earth. 
 
Its formation coincides with catastrophic volcanic activity, the ash of which gives it the whitish colour. Like a chalk line this extinction horizon marks the boundary between two ancient geological times, on the one side a time a great dying, but on the other a new beginning.
 
In 2017 the artist Jenna Burchell embarked on an expedition to walk along this extinction horizon. As she walked she collected twelve fractured rocks that had fallen from it. These rocks, made of fossilised volcanic ash, were then carefully repaired with golden seams.  Once this golden repair was integrated into the rocks it became a sensor for human contact.
 
Upon brining your hand near to the rocks each will sing a unique song. Each song is generated from the raw electro-magnetic reading recorded from beneath a rock’s original resting place. The resulting sound sculpture acts as a time capsule imbued by a place in time, connecting the present with an ancient history. 
 
The installation of the 12 sound sculptures at Spier Wine Estate proportionately represents the geographical locations of where each rock was found along the extinction horizon in a ratio of 1: 0.011. This allows the audience to symbolically walk, as the artist did, along the extinction horizon and experience the installation.
 
Songsmith (The Great Karoo) is part of Burchell’s on-going international project, Songsmith, consisting of a series of sound instruments, embedded into places and objects chosen for their age long histories and rich narratives. Songsmith explores how to re-connect people to each other and to the world around them by activating the exquisite cracks, places and objects that narrate the beauty of life lived.
 
Burchell explains ‘A Songsmith’s beauty lies in its fluency between art, history, story telling, modern society, technology and people’.
 
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1. Songsmith TM (n.). In Burchell’s practice she has created the noun ‘songsmith’ to refer to a golden object that is embedded with a sound instrument.  In creating a songsmith the artist follows a method based on the Japanese art and philosophy of Kintsukuroi (n.) (v.phr.), which translates as “to repair with gold”. This is the art of repairing pottery with gold lacquer and sense that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken and showing it’s rich history.
 
2. Songsmith (The Great Karoo) is one part of a triad series that embeds songsmith into ancient rocks connected to significant prehistoric events that took place in South Africa but had a global impact.  The collections in the series are named after the three geographic locations of the chosen sites namely: The Cradle of Humankind, Vredefort Dome, and The Great Karoo. Connected to life and death, these events changed the course of our history.

Interesting Notes: 

The rocks from Songsmith (The Great Karoo) were collected in an expedition like processes that took place in 2017. You can see documentation of this expedition by clicking 'Development' below.