The Voice of Context: Susan Philipsz and Historical/Social Call

Posted: December 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

Susan Philipsz (b. 1965, Glasgow) is a Scottish Sound artist who was recently awarded the 2010 Turner Prize. Her pieces are usually (but not always, see You are Not Alone below, and discussion of Marconi and the aural landscape of radio) focused on her own singing of historically loaded  a cappella versions of songs which are replayed in specific architectural  locations or within aurally definitive spaces. Though haunting and bordering on the ephemeral/transcendental “voice” her works excavate the social/historical/economic values of the locations (which can be specific to a locale or encompass an entire culture) and detail the constructions and intersections which occur in the place of self, architecture and channels of community.

Susan Phillipsz

Below, to give you an idea of Philipsz’s direction, is a very general interview (the first video below), and few uncommented upon pieces themselves, and lastly, pieces and with her commentary on them where one can entertain the pathways of meanings tiered within the voice and the responding environment.

General Interview with the Carnegie International2008

Lowlands, 2009, Junger Ankauf Germany.   Excerpt of piece

Out of Bounds, 2008 ICA London

Check out these Pieces which are both 2010  :     “The Shallow Sea”, Guggenheim Museum 2010

I See A Darkness” New York, 2010

You Are Not Alone,  2009,   Radciiffe Observatory, England.  Piece and Philipsz discussion

When Day Closes, 2010.  Helsinki Finland work talked about by Susan Philipsz.

  1. maaretta says:

    Nice post. Didn’t know about this award until I read this.
    Here work seems interesting, even if I don’t care much for the “singing” you can hear in some of the videos.
    / Maaretta

    • hapstance says:

      Oddly enough there has been some controversy over her selection in the Guardian online newspaper. The author of the brief essay on Phillipsz has attempted to defend her through the use of Duchamp.

      Regardless of liking her voice or not, the question may be if she is “broad enough” The pieces, though they are thought through in relation to the space and ideas informing it, result in a art production which is remarkably “identical” for each location.

      However, the art community (artworld) may be hypocritical, if they take this argumentation, as they have consistently required a “signature” style from an artist (as some form of prerequisite of success). An artist which uses to many styles and large various mediums is hard to localize and really recognize and so is more difficult to understand and “value” (in both senses).

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