Songsmith (Fragile Homes)

Interactive sound sculptures
M1, Kiaat, brass electroplating, speaker, circuit
Editioned work

Songsmith is a trade mark of Jenna Burchell

Click here to see a video of: Tortoise Shell from the Songsmith (Fragile Homes) Collection
Songsmith (Fragile Homes) is part of Burchell’s greater Songsmith project 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.

The Songsmith project is unfolding over time in different objects, places and countries. Artist Jenna Burchell shaped the word Songsmith (n. v.phr.) in her practice to refer to a golden instrument that she uses to repair or transform an object or place in order to reveal an aural narrative. In creating a Songsmith artwork Burchell follows a method based on the Japanese art and philosophy of Kintsukuroi; this is the art of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer, and in so doing the acknowledging that piece is more beautiful for having been broken and showing it’s time-worn history. The artist borrows from Kintsukuroi both visually and philosophically to allude to the passing of time in her work. Concurrently the songsmith repair has a functional reason; by forging a songsmith into an object or place it becomes a sensor. It is because of this that Burchell is able to create an interactive archive, holding within a song of time and memory: a song that can be revealed when the audience bring their hands near to the Songsmith artwork.
“I relate these artworks to ritualistic, artefacts of modern storytelling; they allow me to reveal hidden landscapes of knowledge, experience and memory to new audiences. I feel that a completed Songsmith’s beauty lies in its fluency between; the real world and digital technology, storytelling and people, contemporary art and untold history”  - Jenna Burchell



The Songsmith (Fragile Homes) collection consists of bones and other remains that Burchell encounters during her expeditions. She finds herself drawn to these vessels that once contained life. By rebuilding the fractured part of the bone, that likely caused death, Burchell’s delicate and ritual manner of embedding a songsmith is perhaps an attempt to restore life in the vessel. The song of the songsmith is created from the land whereon the vessel was found: a song of time and place. These Songsmith become talismen to Burchell; talismen that honour these fragile homes but also talismen that she hopes would safeguard her own fragile home.



Tortoise Shell
Songsmith (Fragile Homes)
41 x 41 x 40 cm
M1, Kiaat, brass electroplating, speaker, circuit

This skeleton of an Angulate Tortoise was collected, documented and archived during Burchells residency at Nirox Sculpture Park in the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa, during 2016. The Angulate Tortoise is native to Southern Africa. Although not endangered, it is on a CITES restriction list for importing and exporting alongside whale bone and ivory. This is because with improper monitoring it can move into the endangered category. In respect of this, the artwork is made of replica bone that the artist moulded from the original skeleton. There are 4 editions of the replica. The original skeleton is kept in reserve. Other works that came from this expedition were the rocks from the Songsmith (Cradle of Humankind) collection. 
Songsmith (Fragile Homes)
120 x 25 x 25 cm
M1, Kiaat, brass electroplating, speaker, circuit

(work in progress)

The Gemsbok is a beautiful creature native to the arid regions of South Africa. This skull was collected during Burchell's 2017 expedition into The Great Karoo, South Africa. At the time Burchell had set up base in the Rietfontein Nature Reserve, nearby Matjiesfontein, to continue her work on Songsmith (The Great Karoo). This gemsbok was known in the area for having only a single horn but it had not been seen in a long time. While Burchell was walking in the reserve she encountered its bleached remains and asked the farm owners if she could work with the skull to create an artwork. 


Songsmith (Bangor City),  installation | 2015
Songsmith (Cradle of Humankind) collection | 2016 - 2017
Songsmith (Yorkshire Sculpture Park) installation | 2017
Songsmith (The Great Karoo) collection | 2017 -2018
Songsmith (Fragile Homes),  collection | 2018 - 
Songsmith (Vredefort Dome),  collection | upcoming