Susan Philipsz: War Damaged Musical Instruments at Tate Britain
War Damaged Musical Instruments is part of the 14-18 Now arts programme, which commemorates the centenary of the First World War. It presents 14 recordings of British and German instruments that have been damaged over the last two hundred years. These brass and wind instruments play the notes of the military bugle call The Last Post, a final farewell during military funerals and Remembrance ceremonies.
Philipsz uses the majestic interior of the Tate Britain to fragment the melody, to the extent that it is almost unrecognisable. She utilises the length of the Duveen Galleries to produce echoes that are both intertwined and isolated. The towering pillars and splendid arches reinforce this effect, creating an imposing yet empty atmosphere. As the sounds surround the viewer they seem to be reduced and brought to an intimate level, allowing the individual to lose themselves in the mirage of notes. Phillipsz’s use of space and architecture is spectacular, highlighting that her work is not just defined by the sounds but the surrounding environment, which facilitates an interaction between the viewer and the artist. However, it is also easy to wander away into the more intriguing exhibitions that contrast with the repetitive and monotonous nature of this piece.
The lonely sounds, which echo and reflect along the hall, exemplify the artist’s purpose: “To see what sounds these instruments are still capable of, even if that sound is just the breath of the player through the battered instrument.” They enhance the sentimental atmosphere and provoke individual contemplation. Furthermore, this peaceful sensation is also a plaintive reminder of the conflicts and great losses that continue to this day.
Photos: J Fernandes
Susan Philipsz: War Damaged Musical Instruments is at Tate Britain from 21st November 2015 until 3rd April 2016 (closed temporarily between 17 – 24 February 2016), for further information visit here.