Sparrow Come Back Home

Exhibit Dates: 
Mar 1, 2014 - Jun 8, 2014
DuPont I Gallery



Sparrow Come Back Home is a project by British-born collaborators Mark Harris and Carmel Buckley whose ceramic installation archives the legacy of Trinidadian singer/songwriter, The Mighty Sparrow. Born Slinger Francisco in 1935, The Mighty Sparrow’s oeuvre is visually represented as 270 digital ceramic decals on tiles depicting Francisco’s multitudinous album covers. Growing up in England, Harris first heard calypso music at home while listening to his Trinidadian mother’s record collection. This exhibition evolved as a result of Harris’ early exposure to Caribbean music. The viewer is invited to consider the function of this silent sound monument as a conceptual work of art that metaphorically echoes the unheard voices of many historic figures like Franciso. Full of dynamic, colorful, and evocative imagery, the work also functions as a visually-striking display that reflects album cover design from the 1950s to the present.

This exhibition provides a forum for discussing the nature of Mighty Sparrow’s achievements. In comparison with African and South American examples of celebratory popular music, acclaim for Sparrow’s remarkable achievement has not spread far beyond West Indian communities. Despite its hi-octane beat, its lyrical humor, its carnivalesque bawdiness, and frequent political commentary, the music has not enjoyed the kind of wide audience typically drawn to world music.

The project applies research in sound ecology towards a better understanding of issues facing the conservation of Caribbean popular music and it extends recent studies in silence to experiment with the impact of a large repository of silent artifacts on enhancing an understanding of marginalized music.

In this way the project engages with what is coming to be known as “non-cochlear sound” (the non-acoustic indexing of audible phenomena through image or recording) in order to reflect on the unprecedented accessibility and ubiquity of music through streaming audio. Sparrow Come Back Home develops its model for a displayed archive in the context of current exhibition practice and theory by questioning the alternatives facing galleries for the presentation of material culture.

This ceramic work explores the potential for an index and archive to stand as an alternative kind of monument.