Susan Philipsz

Susan Philipsz

Exhibition: Mar 13 – May 11, 2003

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 them-selves in a particular place and time. Exploring the line between private memories and the 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 ArtPace 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 passers by, her sound interventions touch on themes of longing, escape, and sympathy. For Public Address the artist selects popular melancholic songs that might be sung while alone, like Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and Radiohead’s Airbag—making unsuspecting shoppers 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 Banks of the Ohio, an American folk song about a murder. As with many songs, its haunting lyrics have evolved over time. Philipsz sings two versions—one from the female perspective and the other from the male point of view—which sound from separate horn speakers in the style of a call and response duet. The speakers are fitted with large solar panels that gather energy to power the recording and control its volume. The oversized devices, sited on ArtPace’s roof terrace, have a commanding sculptural presence, and 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 at sunset. Her title refers to a composition describing a lifestyle that has since passed away. Philipsz reiterates this theme of loss not only through the song’s melancholic lyrics, but also through the actual passage of time.

In Guadalupe, a piece developed at San Antonio’s Greyhound Bus Station, Philipsz draws attention to the sound and feel 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.


Susan Philipsz

Belfast, Northern Ireland

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.

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Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

Turin, Italy

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev is an art critic and curator who is interested in the relationship between art, ethics and society and the shifting meanings and relationships between nature/culture, center/periphery and local/international. Christov-Bakargiev has recently been appointed the chief curator of the Castello di Rivoli, the contemporary art museum in Turin, Italy.  She was most recently a senior curator at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center.  At P.S. 1, she curated numerous group exhibitions including Some New Minds and Around 1984: A Look at Art in the Eighties, as well as one-person shows including Janet Cardiff, Sol Lewitt, and Georges Adeagbo. Prior to her appointment at P.S.1, she was the co-curator (with Hans Ulrich-Obrist and Laurence Bosse) of the international exhibition La Ville, le Jardin, La Memoire 1998-2000 at the Villa Medici, Rome. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev is a regular contributor to numerous art publications and catalogues and is the editor of Arte Povera (Phaidon, 1998), a major volume that considerably deepens the discussion around the Arte Povera movement— the late 1960s’ Italian movement toward loosely-formed sculptures or environments made of rustic natural materials.

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