Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Places and Spaces

A week ago yesterday, this year's Turner Prize winner was announced from among the four finalists: sound installation artist Susan Philipsz.

I'm inexplicably happy that this was the selection. I love the way Philipsz' work seems intent on allowing us to experience our material surroundings in a way that is sharpened and transformed, creating moments of beauty and transcendence in unexpected settings. I feel like the world could use a little more of that right about now.

Philipsz' winning entry, Lowlands, consisted of a voice recording of the artist singing a 16th-century lament for a drowned lover, originally played beneath three bridges over the River Clyde in Glasgow. A rough cut of the video that was submitted to the Turner Prize Committee is below.

Here is part of what The Guardian's Adrian Searle has to say about Philipsz:
[T]he way Philipsz sites recordings of her voice is as much to do with place as sound. She has haunted the Clyde and filled her box-like Turner installation with the ballad Lowlands; she has called across a lake in Germany and had her voice swept away by the wind on a Folkestone headland.

Her current Artangel project, Surround Me, insinuates itself down alleys and courtyards in the City of London, her voice like an Elizabethan ghost, singing melancholy works by John Dowland and other 16th and 17th century composers. I have stood in shadowy old courtyards and between gleaming office blocks, weeping as I listen. And how many artists can you say that about?

Her sense of place, and space, memory and presence reminds me, weirdly, of the sculptor Richard Serra at his best. Her art makes you think of your place in the world, and opens you up to your feelings.

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