Featured Artist: Pauline Theart
Photo Credits: Christo Doherty
Pauline Theart is a Johannesburg-based artist who is not afraid to push boundaries or (sound) limits when it comes to her live musical performances where she explores the integral nature of voice. She first caught our attention when we heard her singing a lullaby about Sheep while standing in the heart of Hillbrow.
The haunting words “Slapie Kanini ons wees in die kraal, almal ons skaapies…” travelled 45 stories up the Ponte tower, a location she boldly chose as a sound instrument for its unusual acoustics. The end result was an ‘unforeseen voice’ that was created by the echoes and refrains of the famous Hillbrow tower.
When it comes to performing Theart
is a true Black Sheep who does not like to be confined to a conventional space where you won’t find that ‘third voice’. She explains: “The norm irritates me. I always work in spaces that are often left to uncertainty like the sound pieces I do at public spaces."
"One of my latest projects is a series of sound art interventions in historically and culturally significant architectural spaces in Johannesburg.” As part of this series Theart performed traditional Afrikaans lullabies on the 9th of July 2015 at the old Sky Rink Carlton Centre Johannesburg. These performances at the Ponte and Carlton were not the first unconventional spaces Theart inhabited and grazed with her majestic voice. In 2013 she descended down an open stormwater manhole into Cape Town’s historical tunnels where she performed extended lullabies that were stripped of words. Unsuspecting Capetonians who were above ground where pleasantly surprised by the “Underground Music” that drifted up at them.
I caught up with Theart in a quaint coffee shop in Greenside and she was eager to discuss the role of female artists in today’s society. “I’m thrilled that we get to celebrate women in August and for South Africans to place emphasis on the role of femininity in society. If I had to compare being a woman in 2015 versus when my Mother was my age, I’ll have to say that technology and social media has opened a lot of doors for us. I’ve found blogging and using a platform like Facebook more prolific than any other medium to connect with the audience I wanted to reach.” Media Organisations have supported Theart via their social media channels and she is very grateful for Media 24, Beeld and Die Burger who helped with exposure via YouTube videos and Facebook posts.
Theart is conscious that there are still ‘gender restrictions’ placed on women even in this day and age and expectations from society about a woman’s role. She lights up when I ask her about female role models that inspire her: “I’m interested and closely follow the work of female sound artist like Susan Phillipz who won the Turner Prize in 2010 for her sound installation called Surround Me.” Local artists who inspire Theart is Diane Victor, known for her satirical and social commentary about pressing issues in the political landscape.
The best way to connect with Pauline Theart is on her website, where you can follow her journey as she continues to go places with her art where no one has been before.