Susan Philipsz - Lowlands
Susan Philipsz’ sound installation Lowlands, 2008 is a 3-channel sound installation and references an eponymous historical Scottish ballad which survived in three different versions.
Lowlands is a complex work in which the artist interconnects a number of narratives and association fields.
In it, she sings three versions of the Scottish seafarers’ ballad Lowlands Away. Written in the mid-16th century, several versions of the song of differing content gradually emerged. Philipsz’ texts, sung a capella, fill the space and only join to form a single voice in the refrain.
Susan Philipsz links each version with fictitious or historical narrative strands. On the one hand, the charismatic figure of Rosa Luxemburg plays an important part, a figure Philipsz already addressed repeatedly in her work. The artist first presented Lowlands just across from the Landwehrkanal, where Luxemburg’s corpse is said to have been dumped by her murders, in her Berlin gallery, together with an early edition of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. The multiple female figure of Anna Livia Plurabelle, to whom Philipsz dedicates another version of her seafaring ballad, appears in the last chapter of the novel. Joyce’s text is also shaped by a powerful rhythm; he called its language flow “fluid composite”, and it is intended to be read aloud. All three components, the voice, rhythm and flowing language recur in the 8-minute sound installation Lowlands. The ballad, sung by seafarers in chorus and in the rhythm of their daily work on deck, reminding them of their home in the Scottish lowlands, forms the third narrative strand, with which Susan Philipsz’s own history and background are connected.
Text: Regina Barunke, from the publication “Junger Ankauf”, Cologne 2012