Silence as a Room

Within each Silence is you in your fullness. Within each Silence is the whole world.

What is Silence if not the absence of sound? Silence as a Room recognizes the shape and sound of silence as object and as verb; through the lens and body of a woman in southern Africa; where she experiences silence as inviting, as the recognition of softness, whispers and breezes carrying the scents of an African landscape saturated in ‘the living’, not the ‘looking at’ as land as space as place as access.

Much like AlterEgo in Dreams as R-evolution, the Silence Shadow Diary presents a silent witness to the making of Silence as a Room. At times, she’s sacred, sometimes quirky, often playful, but always…present.

ABOUT….Silence as a Room #1 of #5 is a 5m diameter sculptural structure developed in the land. The first of  5 such structures lies just 5 km outside of Richmond, Karoo, in the Northern Cape and within walking distance from the town or a mere quick drive in the veld.

I have spent 3 months firstly, to locate the most appropriate and accessible site for this work and then working the land, which at times defeated me with its resistible attitude, nonchalant about my meagre efforts to shift the earth from within my 5m mark.  Though I was offered a site on a beautiful sheep farm nearby called Stillewaters, my main concern was one of accessibility for a broad as well as local audience. As such, the work developed on ‘open’ land and is easily within reach. The public land art and built piece gifted to the “boekbedondered” and artistic town, Richmond that sits midway on the N1 between Johannesburg and Cape Town making it a perfect destination for work travel and/or holiday stopovers. The Silence as a Room? Right now, the work is still under development and will be completed soon.

BEHIND THE SCENES… While in Richmond, I have been kindly hosted by the MAPSA residency who has also supported this process by covering the costs of the bricks.  MAPSA has had a long relationship with local entrepreneur/ brick maker, Trevour Synders of Werk, Vrek of Trek– a business which he had inherited from his dad. The specially designed brick was to be light, but strong and easily manipulable to enable the development of a dome structure over the 1m enclave. Thus far, 4000 bricks have been produced and fired typically in an eco-friendly way for Silence as a Room by Trevour, team members, Kankie Lombard and Dawit Booi… and Bismarck the donkey. The bricks have been fired in an outside kiln in the veld over a 2-week period, with a further week for cooling and are now ready for use.  

Silence stairwell in progress

levels… layers …listen to silence as it grows

PROCESS…I have chosen to engage directly with the land, using nothing more than a pick, shovel and spade, my hands and occasional help from local people such as the CPW team who arrived on the first day headed by supervisors Claudine and Thabisa. Foregoing machinery to dig the 1m enclave in the unrelenting earth was a deliberate decision drawing attention to our often patriarchal, capitalist desire to ‘speed up’  processes, often indiscriminately clearing sites without awareness…each swing of the pick, each lifting of the red earth became a conscious action. In this way, you cannot miss the displacement of creatures from their homes or rocks from their nestled comfort; and insects, reptiles, birds and things darting this way and that. You also cannot miss communing with the Earth…red, rich and laden with stories embedded in its ancient past. You cannot miss the intense heat from the sometimes scorching sun or when working late into the night the sparkle of a myriad stars so close you can reach out to touch them… 

The Silence is therefore made all the more special. As I’ve said to the constant trickle of visitors to the site…”I am not creating the Silence as it already exists; I’m rather shaping it so that you may understand and experience it a little better.”

Within each Silence is you in your fullness. Within each Silence is the whole world.

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