Susan Philipsz

The Waters Twine


8-channel audio installation, duration 7 minutes.

Vibraphone: Julius Heise

I like that the boardwalk is tidal and that the small rivulets that run out under the boardwalk are merged and submerged with the harbour at different times of the day

Susan Philipsz, 2013

The first GASP! art project, The Waters Twine, by Scottish artist Susan Philipsz, was launched by the Premier Lara Giddings on the GASP! Boardwalk on 16 January 2013, during the MONA FOMA festival.

The Waters Twine is an 8-channel site specific sound installation which plays for approximately 7 minutes on both sides of the boardwalk. It represents a speculative conversation between two washerwomen on opposing sides of the rivulet.

The Waters Twine takes inspiration from James Joyce’s 1929 audio recording of the chapter Anna Livia Plurabelle from his (then forthcoming) novel Finnegan's Wake. The recording was set to music by composer Hazel Felman based on the pitch of Joyce’s voice in the key of D. Philipsz had a vibraphone player record the music, but asked the musician to record each tone from the score separately, so that the music is de-constructed and the sounds fragmented. The individual notes are heard from the underside of the boardwalk and are projected out into the bay.

This chapter of the book is said to be the most musical of Joyce’s writings. The text is full of alliteration and onomatopoeia, composite words that have several meanings. Joyce merged hundreds of river names into the text to give it a flow and a rhythm that was reminiscent of moving water. Philipsz wanted to capture this ebb and flow in the sound work and have the recordings projected over moving water. In the final lines of the book there is a majestic ending when he describes the freshwater of the river rushing to the point where it meets the salt water of the sea.

Due to earlier damage from vandalism, The Waters Twine is installed only for special events.

Susan Philipsz was born in Glasgow in 1965. Trained as a sculptor, she received her BFA in Sculpture from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in 1993, and her MFA from the University of Ulster, Belfast in 1994. Philipsz considers herself a sculptor, though her materials are more likely to be sound and time.

Philipsz won the Turner Prize in 2010 and she has had in solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2008); Wexner Centre for the Arts, Ohio State University, (2009); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2010); and IHME Project 2010, for the Pro Arte Foundation, Helsinki (2010). She has undertaken commissions in Oxford, United Kingdom (2008–09); Burgos, Spain (2009); and for the Glasgow International (2010). Her work has featured in group exhibitions at, for example, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010), the Tate Britain (2010), Walker Arts Centre, Minneapolis (2009); and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (2008).

Curated by: Juliana Engberg

Video of the project

Our thanks to the following organisations for their generous support of this work:

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