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Breathe In Breathe Out: Susan Philipsz

Pathshala South Asian Media Institute & Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, 10 - 11 April 2017

As part of the Samdani Seminars 2017, Susan Philipsz conducted an open seminar for everyone to learn about her practice using sound and architecture at the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute. She then ran a half-day closed-door workshop along with her partner Eoghan James Mctigue at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. The project was a collaboration between the Samdani Art Foundation and Goethe Institut, Dhaka. Through the seminar and workshop, Susan Philipsz explored acoustic properties of sounds and the relationship between sound and architecture.

The workshop concentrated on sounds we make with our own bodies with a particular focus on breath as a metaphor for life and mortality. Breathing is a fundamental part of living, and it is something that unites us all. In classical music, wind instruments require the human breath to activate them. Philipsz wanted to develop a workshop where we use everyday objects to produce sound with our own breath. The workshop was conducted in two parts:



During the workshop, the participants began by focusing on their own breath: how their diaphragm shifts as they expel air from the lungs, making each aware of his/her inner body space. The physicality of producing sound is particularly emphasised when people sing, and Philipsz chose to focus on sound as a sculptural experience. When sound is projected out into the room, the participants defined the space with sound, drawing attention to the architecture while heightening their sense of self within the space.



The participants explored potential locations in their near-by surroundings with temporary play-back devices. They chose sites that have interesting architecture and acoustics such as corridors and stairwells. Everyone discussed each other's work in-situ and developed the workshop as a group.


Samdani Art FoundationGoethe Institut, Dhaka


Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy

Pathshala South Asian Media Institute


Susan Philipsz has explored the psychological and sculptural potential of sound. She uses recordings, predominantly with her own voice. Creating immersive environments of architecture and song that intensify the audience’s interaction with their surroundings while allowing for insightful introspection. Philipsz often selects music ranging from sixteenth century ballads or Irish folk tunes to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. The music is selected and responds to the space where the work is installed. While the works remain unique, all explores familiar themes of loss, longing, hope, and return. This creates a narrative that encourages personal reactions and also bridges gaps between the individual and the collective as well as interior and exterior spaces. Philipsz was born in 1965 in Glasgow and 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 P.S.1. in New York. She was the recipient of the 2010 Turner Prize and was shortlisted for the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award the same year. 

Philipsz's work has been exhibited globally at a number of institutions and venues. In 2012, she debuted a major work at dOCUMENTA (13) entitled Study for Strings, which was later featured at the Museum for Modern Art as a part of the group exhibition, Soundings: A Contemporary Score (2013). Philipsz has presented a number of solo exhibitions at institutions to include Museum Ludwig (2009), Cologne, Germany; Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State (2009-10) Columbus, OH; Aspen Art Museum (2010-11) in Aspen, Colorado; Museum of Contemporary Art (2011), Chicago; K21 Standehaus Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (2013), Dusseldorf, Germany; the Carnegie Museum of Art (2013), Pittsburgh; and Hamburger Bahnhof (2014), Berlin. She has separately created installations for the 2007 Skulptur Projekte in Muenster, Germany and for the Carnegie Museum of Art’s 55th Carnegie International in 2008. Major commissions include Turner Prize-winning work for Glasgow International (2010); SURROUND ME: A Song Cycle for the City of London a public project organised by Artangel (2010-11) London; Day is Done, a permanent installation organised by the Trust for Governors Island that opened on Governors Island in New York (2014), and a project for the Grace Farms Foundation (2015) in New Canaan. Philipsz’s work can be found in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Tate, London; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Baltimore Museum of Art; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Castello di Rivoli, Italy; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

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