The singing stones of Spier
Artist Jenna Burchell has transformed twelve ancient rocks into interactive sound sculptures, which have been installed along the dam at Spier’s wine tasting room. The collections in the three part series are named after three geographic locations where rare and significant prehistoric events occurred: The Cradle of Humankind, Vredefort Dome, and the Great Karoo.
From the Karoo to the Cape
Burchell collected beautifully fractured rocks at these locations and repaired these following a method inspired by Kintsukuroi. This Japanese art and philosophy typically involves repairing an object (normally pottery) with lacquer mixed with gold, silver or platinum dust. The result acknowledges both its brokenness and repair, celebrating this as a part of the object’s history, not as a flaw that should be concealed.
Songsmith (The Great Karoo) represents the Permian-Triassic Extinction when almost all of Earth’s species – land and sea – were lost around 260 million years ago. This dramatic event’s catastrophic volcanic activity left behind a ghost-like mark on the earth: a distinctive white rock bed (bleached by the volcanic ash) running for kilometres, like a chalk line, across the mountains of the Great Karoo.
In March 2017, Burchell began walking from a farm near Matjiesfontein towards Laingsburg, following the extinction line where possible, searching for rocks using four selection criteria:
· A rock must be found on or nearby the extinction line.
· A rock must be naturally fractured in two or more pieces.
· The fractured parts must become a single whole.
· A rock must be beautiful in form once made whole.
Over 30 rocks were collected and shipped to Burchell’s studio in Pretoria. A narrowed-down selection of 12 were restored, their fragments bound together with gold seams.
The installation at the Spier dam proportionately represents the geographical locations of where each rock was found along the extinction line.
Each rock’s unique sound were generated from the raw electro-magnetic readings captured from beneath the rock’s original resting place. Embodying a place in time, the resulting sound sculpture sings of its creation and of the land wherein it has existed for millennia – connecting the listener in the present with the rock’s ancient significance.
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About Spier and the arts
Art is as much part of Spier as good food and fine wine are. Spier believes that the visual arts are a powerful tool for transformation – sparking new insights and inspiring us to engage with our world in new and imaginative ways. Spier supports and stimulates the arts community in South Africa through projects that honour our African arts heritage and enriches its future.
Many of these projects are managed by the Spier Arts Trust, which was established to generate shared value for the makers and buyers of South African art. Through curating art portfolios and managing visual arts projects, the trust facilitates collaboration as well as growth opportunities for visual artists and artisans in South Africa.
Sculptures and artworks from the Spier Art Collection – one of the largest contemporary art collections in the country – can be found throughout the farm. Works are rotated every year to give exposure to as many artists as possible, and to keep the spaces fresh for staff and visitors.
Spier was awarded the Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) Chairman’s Premier Award in 2014 in recognition of its sustained and extraordinary commitment to the arts in South Africa. This award is made at the discretion of the BASA Chairman, and only during years when nominees are deemed exceptional.