Blind Alphabet Letter B
Collaboration with Willem Boshoff
Various (acoustic and electronic)
c. 35 minutes
Year of composition
- Bar gemel
Blind Alphabet is a series of sculptures for visually impaired people created by the South African conceptual artist, Willem Boshoff (https://www.willemboshoff.com/product-page/blind-alphabet). This ongoing series was started in 1990 with sculptures depicting concepts starting with the letter A. Sculptures for the letter B were created in 1993 and the first forty works are held in the art collection of the MTN Foundation. With the support of the MTN Foundation and the University of Johannesburg, sound was added to these sculptures in order to complement, enhance, and enrich the conceptual aspect of each individual artwork. Due to the increase of technological aids, the future of Braille is unclear and possibly in jeopardy. In order to increase the inclusivity of the sculptures, which were initially intended to be exclusively for visually impaired people, voice-overs of the accompanying essays for the sculptures were added. The voice-overs were recorded by Louise van Wingerden. The addition of sound to these sculptures will be launched digitally on 4 November 2020 on Moving Cube, the virtual exhibition space of the University of Johannesburg.
The sounds can be added into different categories:
- Sounds with a music-conceptual equivalent to the concept of the sculpture, like the preposterous musical ornaments that are similar to the grotesque ornamentation in Babery.
- Sounds that are metaphorically perceived in a similar way to the concept of the sculpture, like that of the short and detached violin pizzicatos that represent the prickly thorns in Barbated.
- Sounds that create a certain context through learned association, for example the sound of cows lowing and cow bells that create the context of cows grazing.
- Sounds that amplify the sound of the sculpture itself, like the wooden clicks of Bascule that are similar to the sounds one will experience when tipping the seesaw-like sculpture forth and back.
- Sounds of instruments that are referential to external concepts, like the sound of a scraped güiro that is associated with the croak of frogs in Batrachian.
Various electronic sounds, field recordings, acoustic recordings, and found sounds were used and manipulated in order to create the desired sounds to accompany the sculptures from Blind Alphabet. The conceptual work in creating the sounds, as well as the implications of the voice-overs on the conceptual framework and intention of the body of works, is more complex than presented here. Persons who are interested in more details on this collaboration can view the documentary videos that accompany the virtual exhibition.
4 November 2020-current. Moving Cube, University of Johannesburg Art Gallery. The Blind Alphabet: Letter B – Babery to Bigeminate. Curated by Niel Nortjé and Annali Cabano-Dempsey. https://movingcube.uj.ac.za/
Willem Boshoff and Jaco Meyer in conversation during the making of the documentary series. Photos: Hélène Smuts.