Susan Philipsz in Skulptur Projekte [Munster]


This summer, the inhabitants of Munster, Germany and a stream of international visitors are traversing the city’s parks and cobblestone walkways in search of sculpture. Inaugurated in 1977 and recurring every ten years, Skulptur Projekte brings a series of outdoor sculptural interventions to this charmingly modest German town. For this fourth iteration, curators Kasper Konig, Brigitte Franzen, and Carina Plath have invited 36 international -- but primarily Western European -- artists to install site-specific works that reflect or disrupt life in Munster.

Scotland’s Susan Philipsz employs a bridge’s smooth, shaded underside to amplify and echo The Lost Reflection (Das verlorene Spiegelbild), one of the exhibition’s few audio pieces.

In her work, Philipsz sings 'Lovely night, oh night of love, smile upon our joys!,' the barcarole from Jaques Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann. The score is based on The Story of the Lost Reflection by the German romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. It is the story of the seductive yet unfortunately vicious charm of the courtesan Giulietta, whose spell men cannot resist, thereby losing their own reflection, so that neither their wives nor their children are able to recognize them.

The story is set in Venice, and when Susan Philipsz's amplified voice resounds under the Torminbrucke across Lake Aa and back again, it reflects the lagoon city with its many canals. The human voice is unable to change the space it fills, but it completely alters the experience of that space. Standing under the Torminbrucke at Lake Aa, you are swept away to the balcony of a palace on the Canale Grande as you listen to Giulietta and Niklaus intone: 'Time flies by, and carries away our tender caresses for ever! Time flies far from this happy oasis and does not return.' Susan Philipsz sings both voices recorded on two separate tracks, and it almost seems as if the voices were calling to each other across the lake and back joining only to lose each other once more. The singer, too, has vanished -- only her voice is lingering.

Philipsz was born 1965 in Glasgow. Her performances and sound-installations have been included in shows at the Consortium Gallery, Amsterdam, the Old Museum Arts Centre, Belfast, the New Works Gallery, Chicago, and in the Melbourne International Biennial. Susan Philipsz lives and works in Dublin.