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Conversations with a Dead Piano

The suspended installation “Conversations with a Dead Piano” made from old piano parts opens on the 17h of August at the National School of the Arts.

Conversations with a Dead Piano

The National School of the Arts (NSA) is proud to present the opening of the suspended installation “Conversations with a Dead Piano” on 17 August. Created by NSA Grade 11 learners under the guidance of acclaimed visual artist Usha Seejarim, this remarkable installation utilises old piano parts to craft individual and group works of art. The NSA was privileged to have Seejarim as an Artist in Residence earlier this year, thanks to funding from the National Arts Council of South Africa and the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme supported by the DSAC.

The learners were tasked with transforming “dead pianos,” two of which were available within the school, while two additional pianos were generously donated by a former NSA parent. The resulting installation will be suspended in the school’s atrium, where changing suffused light will enhance the dynamic nature of the artwork throughout the day.

Contrary to popular belief, pianos do not improve with age, despite their outward beauty. A piano is a machine with a limited lifespan, reaching a point where it no longer produces the desired sound. However, through the power of art, these “dead pianos” have been reborn into a new art form, symbolising redemption and beauty. They will continue to resonate with the vibrations of beauty and creativity within the imaginative and courageous space of a specialist art school.

The installation will open on 17 August at 18:00, with Usha Seejarim delivering the keynote address and discussing the creative process. Accompanying the installation will be featured recordings, possibly including live performances, of five original compositions titled “Compositions for a Dead Piano.” These compositions will be developed during a winter holiday workshop led by NSA alum and academic Chesney Palmer, who will also premiere his own original piece, “Conversation with a Dead Piano.” Palmer’s composition will narrate the story of a dead piano, reflecting on the decline of humanity and the immortalising power of music to remember and contemplate deeper issues. It will incorporate audio material from wars throughout history, including the current Russia-Ukraine war, along with images of a piano destroyed by war.

The opening event is ticketed, priced at R100 per ticket, which includes entry into a lucky draw. Bookings can be made through shop@artschool.co.za. Following the opening, the installation, along with source material, workbooks, designs, and related products, will be open to the public daily from August 18th to September 1st, between 09:00 and 16:00.

This extraordinary installation will remain in the atrium for at least the next 12 months, serving as a testament to the NSA’s commitment to realising dreams through excellence in arts and academics.

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