Susan Philipsz, Sokol Terezín, 2023
Susan Philipsz: Sokol Terezín
Sep 1 – Nov 4, 2023
Konrad Fischer Galerie
Düsseldorf, Germany

With her new work Sokol Terezín, the Scottish artist Susan Philipsz confronts the viewer with a sound and video installation that refers to her work Study for Strings, already presented at dOCUMENTA (13) in 2012. The sound installation, consisting of recordings of two isolated instruments  – a cello and a viola – is accompanied by two video projections showing subtle shots of empty rooms of the former Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt.

The work focuses on the sound of the two string instruments, which originally were part of the composition Study for String Orchestra by Czech-Jewish composer Pavel Haas (1899-1944). The piece was performed for the 1944 Nazi propaganda flm Theresienstadt: Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem jüdischen Siedlungsgebiet. The film does not show the German concentration camp in its reality as a collection and transit camp to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, but stages it as a “Jewish model settlement”, which in turn was shown to representatives of the International Red Cross. Haas was forced to compose the piece in Theresienstadt and perform it with the camp orchestra. Together with most of the camp inmates, he was deported to Auschwitz after the filming and murdered there.

[ . . . ]

Throughout her artistic career, Susan Philipsz has used the possibilities of sound to trigger an awareness in the listener, to temporarily alter their perception of themselves in a particular place and time. By locating the composition in its original context – the rooms of the former concentration camp – she creates an atmosphere that is at once compressed and exceedingly uncomfortable.

Parallel to the sound and video installation Sokol Terezín, Konrad Fischer Galerie is showing photographs and works on paper by the artist. These include works from her early sound installation Two Part Harmony from 1995, for which Susan Philipsz was inspired by the works of the American sound artist Max Neuhaus. These works will be exhibited together with drawings and editions by Neuhaus from 1979 to 2007, including his works for Documenta IX and the Stommeln Synagogue.

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