about the exhibition
New Works 03.1
March 13–May 11, 2003
about the artist
In previous work Philipsz has used national anthems, love songs, pop songs and even the sounds of bell towers in Cork, Ireland, to draw the viewer/listener into an awareness of their own presumptions. Philipsz manipulates the perceptions of space and the meta-messages of sound with particular attention to the human voice. In her Combs of the Sea, a love-song projected from a spectacular sea vista re-shaped by sculptor Eduardo Chillida, her work interrupted the viewers’ sense of place, inviting them to reflect on an inner experience.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Philipsz studied Fine Art at Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee, Scotland and then completed a Masters in Fine Art in Belfast, Ireland. Philipsz has participated in Manifesta 3, Ljubljana, Slovenia and The International Studio Arts Program at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY. In 2001 Philipsz was short listed for the Glen Dimplex Artist Awards Exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland. She has recently been chosen to participate in the Triennial of British Art, Tate Britain, London, England. The artist lives and works in Belfast, Ireland.
about the project
Susan Philipsz deals with the spatial properties of sound and the relationships between sound and architecture. Interested in the emotive and psychological properties of song and how they can alter individual consciousness, the artist utilizes public address systems in various spaces to interject through the ambient noises of the everyday. Philipsz’s unselfconscious melodies trigger awareness in the listener, temporarily altering their perception of themselves in a particular place and time. Exploring the line between private memories and communal experience of song, Philipsz’s works evoke both nostalgia and a sense of dislocation. She employs her disembodied voice in unconventional settings, ultimately intensifying the listeners’ sense of self and connecting them to their environment.
During her residency Philipsz has produced a number of projects, including a solar-powered sound system and a live performance at the Quarry Market in San Antonio. Intended for an audience of unsuspecting passers by, her sound interventions touch on themes of longing, escape, and sympathy. The artist uses popular melancholic songs that might be sung while alone, like Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and Radiohead’s Airbag, making listeners feel as if they are overhearing something private or personal. In the gallery space, the artist’s live a cappella performance is played back.
For Sunset Song, Philipsz has recorded herself performing The Banks of the Ohio, an American folk song about a murder. As with many songs, its haunting lyrics have evolved over time, and Philipsz sings two versions: one from the female perspective and the other from the male’s point of view. Each version sounds from a separate horn speaker, in the style of a call and response duet. Each speaker is fitted with a large solar panel which gathers energy to sound the recording and to control the volume. The oversized devices, sited on ArtPace’s roof terrace, have a commanding sculptural presence, yet their sounds extend well beyond the building to the streets below. As the volume is guided by the intensity of the sun, Philipsz’s song ricochets off neighboring buildings during the afternoon peak and gradually fades away with the setting sun. Her title refers to a composition describing a lifestyle that has since passed away. Philipsz reiterates this theme of loss not only through the composition’s melancholic lyrics, but also through the actual passage of time. In Guadalupe, a piece developed at San Antonio’s Greyhound Bus Station Philipzs draws our attention to the sounds and sense of a downtown bus station. By combining recorded ambient sounds with bits of melody from a lone country singer/harmonica player, as well as a boarding call for a kind of mythical place, Philipsz recreates the familiar and nostalgic atmospheric sounds of a timeless urban locale.