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December 6, 2010 8:10 pm
The Glasgow-born artist Susan Philipsz, who made her name by singing unaccompanied songs over supermarket PA systems, is the winner of this year’s Turner prize. It is the first time it has been awarded to an artist who works primarily with sound.
Ms Philipsz, 45, who lives in Berlin, won the award for two shows, one of which, “Lowlands”, was part of the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art.
The work consisted of the artist’s voice singing three versions of an old Scottish lament under three of the bridges that cross the river Clyde in Glasgow.
She was also nominated for the £25,000 prize for “Long Gone” that was part of a group exhibition in Vigo, Spain.
The Turner prize jury, chaired by Penelope Curtis, director of Tate Britain, said it “admired the way in which [Ms Philipsz’s] work provokes both intellectual and instinctive responses, and reflects a series of decisions about the relationship between sound and sight”.
It said the work “draws on the immersive properties of sound, and uses her own voice to create powerful sculptural experiences”.
With “Lowlands”, Ms Philipsz said she wanted to explore the “darker and atmospheric side” of her native city.
“I am interested in the psychological effects of song. People hear an untrained voice singing unaccompanied and find it quite strange. It is like putting something very private in a public context,” she explained in a film that accompanies the Turner prize show at Tate Britain.
“Sound is very visceral: you have to respond to it,” she said.
Ms Philipsz, who was favourite to win the prize, studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee, and the University of Ulster. Her work has been defined as “sound sculpture”, and the artist has said she is interested in “how sound can define space”.
Her early works included “Filter” in 1999, in which her versions of songs by Nirvana, Radiohead and The Velvet Underground were played at a bus station and a Tesco supermarket. She was nominated for the Beck’s Futures prize in 2003.
The other nominees for this year’s Turner prize, who will each receive £5,000, were Angela de la Cruz, Dexter Dalwood and the Otolith Group.
Although the Turner prize shortlist used to attract controversy, there was now a greater public acceptance of the selected work, Ms Curtis said.
“Twenty-six years after the prize was initiated its accompanying furore has generally declined,” she said. “This leaves us a space in which we can think about how varied art can be, and how challenging it is to make an exhibition – never mind a prize – which conveys its many possibilities.”
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