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Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art
James Webb.There’s No Place Called Home (Riga). Songs of a Sichuan bush warbler, native to central China, broadcast from a speaker concealed in a tree in Riga, Latvia, 2017
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James Webb. There’s No Place Called Home (Riga). Songs of a Sichuan bush warbler, native to central China, broadcast from a speaker concealed in a tree in Riga, Latvia, 2017.

James Webb. Title Unknown (for the former Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia), 2017.

There’s No Place Called Home (Riga) is the latest iteration of Webb’s ongoing, worldwide intervention in which recordings of foreign birdsong are broadcast from speakers concealed in local trees. First produced in 2004, this artwork is remade afresh in each site using a recording of a different species. For SURVIVAL KIT 9, Webb employs the songs of a Sichuan bush warbler (Locustella chengi), native to central China, to subtlety affect the local environment, referencing themes of magic, migration, and ecological contingency.

Title Unknown (for the former Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia) takes the underwater calls of seals as its genesis. Using scientific recordings of Weddell seals, Webb worked with ethnomusicologist Cara Stacey to imagine these sounds for articulation by the human voice. The singer Julianna Venter was then invited to perform the scored recordings. The results are an eerie and visceral compendium of shrieks, grunts, and hisses, and are broadcast in the stairwells of the former Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia like a restless spirit inhabiting the building.