May 21, 2020 - Philadelphia Contemporary - Susan Philipsz: Muffled Drums
May 21, 2020

Philadelphia Contemporary

Susan Philipsz: Muffled Drums

Susan Philipsz
Muffled Drums
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Philadelphia Contemporary is pleased to present Muffled Drums, a digital, DIY sound installation by the internationally renowned Glaswegian artist Susan Philipsz. The project will be presented as four streamable audio files, which participants can use to create a site-specific sound installation in their own homes.

The work was set to debut as a site-specific commission at The Woodlands’ historic Hamilton Mansion. As the pandemic made this presentation impossible, Philipsz started to rethink the project for an audience spending more time in the confines of their homes, but connected to each other by the internet. 

This new iteration, Muffled Drums, becomes one of the first artworks created specifically for these times, extending beyond the browser window or digital facsimile by allowing the audience to sonically activate the shelters keeping them safe.

Hosted on Philadelphia Contemporary’s websiteMuffled Drums consists of four audio tracks recorded by the artist herself: three percussion tracks, and one vocal track. Embracing an interactive spirit, the audio files are meant to be streamed from different devices and placed inconspicuously throughout one’s home. Philipsz also recommends using everyday household tools to assist in installing the work, such as pots, bowls, and vases, all of which help to amplify the sounds and disguise their sources. 

The original immersive auditory experience, titled The Unquiet Grave, took inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s famed story of murder and madness, “The Tell Tale Heart.” Published in 1843, while Poe was living in Philadelphia, the story follows a narrator who believes a sound eminating from the floorboards is their murder victim’s still-beating heart. The vocal track features the artist singing variations of the Francis James Child ballad “The Unquiet Grave (Child 78).”

Philadelphia Contemporary will also be rolling out more exclusive, digital-native projects and video series in the coming weeks.

About Susan Philipsz
Born in 1965 in Glasgow, Philipsz currently lives and works in Berlin. She received a BFA in Sculpture from Duncan of Jordanstone College in Dundee, Scotland in 1993, and an MFA from the University of Ulster in Belfast in 1994. In 2000, she completed a fellowship at MoMA PS1 in New York. She received the Turner Prize in 2010 and was awarded an OBE in 2014 for services to British art.

Since the mid-1990s, Philipsz’s sound installations have been exhibited at many prestigious institutions and public venues around the world. The artist’s major commissions include Lowlands, her Turner Prize-winning work for Glasgow International in 2010, SURROUND ME: A Song Cycle for the City of London, a public project organized by Artangel in London (2010-11); Day is Done, a permanent installation organized by the Trust for Governors Island in New York (2014); New Canaan, a project for the Grace Farms Foundation (2015); and Prelude in the Form of a Passacaglia at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (2020). 

Philipsz’s work can be found in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Beyeler Foundation in Basel, Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Castello di Rivoli in Italy, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany, SFMOMA in San Francisco, The Tate in London, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. 

About Philadelphia Contemporary
Founded in 2016, Philadelphia Contemporary presents visual art, performance art, and spoken word across the city of Philadelphia. A nomadic contemporary art organization with ambitions to establish a freestanding, globally oriented and locally aware non-collecting arts institution, Philadelphia Contemporary has pioneered a vibrant and sustainable model based on partnerships and collaborations. Having commenced pop-up programming in October 2016, Philadelphia Contemporary continues to develop an ambitious roster of projects that will be mounted in the coming years, while planning for a permanent home.

Press Contact
Ed Winstead, Director, Cultural Counsel, ed [​at​]

Philadelphia Contemporary
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