Nothing Here Does Not Hear You

James Webb

“Nothing here does not hear you” is a site specific, sound installation created from research made into the space formerly known as the 1820 Settler’s Monument in Makhanda. The process began when a group of individuals were invited to take a walk through the building and its environs to talk about the situation. The guests included historians, cultural workers, political activists, and sangomas, as well as members of the building’s maintenance and technical staff.


All the interviewees spoke in different ways of blockages, barriers, clots, stuck places, and obstacles. The building, and the land in particular, was spoken of as an energy that needs to be listened and attended to: the Monument has to be rethought, opened up, and become many monuments.


The recorded interviews were shared with a writer who developed a series of texts that could, when spoken, work as blessings. These ideas form a manifesto of spiritual intent: an opening of channels, a putting to rest the uneasiness, a calling for creativity and wisdom, and a token of gratitude for lessons learnt and lessons to come. The text is vocalised in soft voices, reminiscent of lullabies, ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), and mantra, and in whispers, referencing stage cues as well as the focused transmission of special knowledge. When broadcast in the space these voices might be thought of as working towards a subtle, sonic reorientation of the building.


The blessings are punctuated by 5 sets of sonic indexes summoning various metaphorical blockages so that they may be named and dispensed with.


The artwork is installed in the Bridge, an architectural folly in the building that offers a breathtaking perspective of Makhanda and the surrounding areas. The audio component is diffused through transducers attached to the windows of the room, turning the glass into speakers, and allowing for the sound to be linked with the view of the land.


This installation is dedicated to the memory of Joseph Maart who worked in the building and contributed to the project in a site reading.


The work is live streamed below from “The Bridge” in the Monument Building looking out to the East over the city of Makhanda.

Genre: Soundscape

Format: Live Stream Audio Installation

Language: English

Ages: All ages

Duration: 13 to 31 July 2021


Research and interviews: Dr. Dominique Santos, James Webb

Invited site readers: Ayanda Kota, Brendon Wessels, Joseph Maart, Juanita Praeg, Prof. Julie Wells, Mbali Marais, Nicci Spalding, Nosipho Matini, Rev. Thebe Albert Shale, and Xolile “X” Madinda

Interview and location sound recordist: Kuhle Ngqezana

Writer: Louis Viljoen

Voices: Nombasa Maqoko, Dr. Hleze Kunju

Voice recording engineer: Elijah Madiba

Recording studio: International Library of African Music (ILAM)


James Webb is a conceptual artist, working with site-specific interventions and installations. His practice often involves sound, found objects, and text, invoking references to literature, cinema, and the minimalist traditions. By shifting objects, techniques, and forms beyond their original contexts and introducing them to different environments, Webb creates new spaces of tension. These spaces bind Webb’s academic background in religion, theatre, and advertising, offering poetic inquiries into the economies of belief and dynamics of communication in our contemporary world.

Webb has had solo exhibitions at, amongst others, the Art Institute of Chicago, USA (2018); SPACES, Cleveland, USA (2018); Norrtälje Konsthall, Norrtälje, Sweden (2018); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, United Kingdom (2016); Hordaland Kunstsenter, Bergen, Norway (2015); Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa (2012); and mac, Birmingham, United Kingdom (2010).

Major group exhibitions include the 13th Biennial of Dakar (2018), 4th Prospect Triennial of New Orleans (2017), Documenta 14 (2017), 13th Biennial of Sharjah (2017), 12th Bienal de la Habana (2015), 55th Biennale di Venezia (2013), 3rd Marrakech Biennale (2009), Melbourne International Arts Festival (2009), and the 8th Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon (2007).