January 2, 2011
Susan Philipsz ‘Lowlands’ 2010
The Turner prize is the most prominent and often controversial British art prize, and Susan Philipsz has now become the first person in the history of the award to have created something that you can’t see or touch. The artist, born in Glasgow, Scotland, created a sound installation featuring her own singing voice, singing a 16th century traditional Scottish song named ‘Lowlands Away’; a song about a drowned sailor that comes back to bid a final farewell to their lover.
Her exhibition at the Tate Britain museum in London consisted of her recorded voice filling an empty room through speakers. However, the work she actually won the prize for was an installation originally made for the art festival Glasgow International in May 2010. Beneath 3 bridges in Glasgow’s city centre she installed recordings of 3 slightly different versions of the song. At first the words are the same, but the verses start to veer off to take their own paths before returning to unison at the end. This could be heard under the George V Bridge, the Caledonian Railway Bridge and the Glasgow Bridge.
Glasgow has a strong association with the Turner Prize as around 10 artists with connections to Glasgow have been nominated for the prize between 1997 and 2010. Five of these artists went on to actually win the prize, including Glasgow-born Philipsz who now lives in Berlin.
The chairman of the Turner Prize judges said of Susan’s work: “Susan’s presentation, both in Glasgow and in the way it transferred to the Tate, was quite extraordinary. The way she’s managed to make you look at things differently by hearing things differently is really quite exceptional.”
To hear the innovative sound installation, click here.