NGV Triennial

A Single Voice



A Single Voice 2017 is inspired by the work of Swedish writer Harry Martinson whose 1956 epic poem Aniara was adapted by Karl-Birger Blomdahl into a modernist opera of the same name. Aniara is a sci-fi tragedy following the fate of a group of would-be colonists on a spaceship that flees a poisoned planet Earth to start a new life on Mars, but after it strays off course it is doomed to drift endlessly in space. In A Single Voice Philipsz isolates the first violin from the rest of the score and then deconstructs the violin’s music into its 12 separate tones. Each note is then assigned its own speaker causing the sounds to emerge at different times and from different points in the room. The sound installation is anchored by a film, which depicts a violinist playing alone in a darkened space. Here the camera closely orbits the musician’s body, precisely locating the source of the sound in stark contrast to the disembodied noise emanating from the other speakers. The film and sound are stripped back to create a very intimate portrayal of isolation and solitude that touches on the core issues of the human condition.

Borne out of an ecological disaster on Earth, the dystopian story of Aniara remains relevant today as we continue to pollute and make it vulnerable.

Susan Philipsz’ work deals with the spatial properties of sound and the relationships between sound and architecture. She is particularly interested in the emotive and psychological properties of sound and how it can be used as a device to alter individual consciousness.

Selected exhibitions include Seven Tears, Pulitzer Art Foundation, St. Louis (2019); I See a Darkness, The Tanks, Tate Modern, London (2018); Separated Strings, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (2018); Resonating Spaces, Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2019); Machines a Penser, Fondazione Prada, Venice (2018); Soundings, A Contemporary Score, MoMA, New York, (2013); dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel (2012); Haunted, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010); Turner Prize, Tate Britain, London (2010); Sydney Biennale, Sydney (2008); Skulptur Projekte Münster 07, Münster, (2007).

The NGV warmly thanks Triennial Champions Barry Janes & Paul Cross for their support.