James Webb, “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out”
An animator of knowledge and concepts, for his last solo exhibition, in the autumn, he displayed his work by installing it within a thorough re-organization of 35 pieces of JAG’s collection (the Johannesburg Art Gallery)2 and designing a particular relationship between what the visitor hears and what the visitor sees, creating a path through the gallery that itself became the showcase of his entire œuvre. James Webb seeks to mesmerize the viewer, to transport their entire consciousness in the same way that a literary or musical work might do.
If the use of neon, loudspeaker broadcasts and Morse code are known signifiers in public spaces, whether in front of the JAG or in a park in Japan3
It is in this spirit that he conceived of his work There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. It was first created for the exhibition Sentences On The Banks and other activities5 in Amman, for the Darat al Funun foundation and Khalid Shoman6 and later shown as part of the Shuffling Cards7 exhibition at Art-Cade, Marseille, 2012.
The phrase There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is permanently installed outside the Foundation’s eponymous building in Amman, where the artist first arrived on the heels of the Egyptian revolution, and its light can be seen from far away in the city of seven hills. The second version of the work was conceived for an exterior patio in Marseille when the artist was invited to comment on the use of contemporary archives related to the African continent in particular.
This metaphorical work makes visible what was previously not, inviting the viewer to project herself outwards to the unknown, out to the horizon over the sea, to be made visible through reverberation. The phrase lends itself to infinite interpretation, and James Webb wished to see it in neon, translated into all the nonLatin alphabets – into Arabic, Korean, Chinese or Russian – a bright reminder of the Smiths lyric from the 1980s, when they were renowned for their staunch criticism of Margaret Thatcher and their stand against all forms of budgetary, cultural or racial restrictions.
by Cécile Bourne-Farrell
↑ 1www.theotherjameswebb.com ↑ 2XII, Johannesburg Art Gallery, http://bureaumancy.tumblr.com/image/ 33588214003 ↑ 3In a work entitled “There’s No Place Called Home”↑ 4http://soundcloud.com/theotherjameswebb↑ 5Organized by Abdellah Karroum in 2010↑ 6http://www.daratalfunun.org/main/activit/curentl/khalid_shoman/darkhalid.html↑ 7http://www.chooseone.org/spip.php?article180