Lowlands, Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, 2010. Galron066


Susan Philipsz, Turner Prize 2010. Channel 4 News


Susan Philipsz, interview, 29th November 2010. artnet


Turner prize 2010: Adrian Searle’s video verdict. www.guardian.co.uk


Susan Philipsz, Turner Prize 2010 award ceremony, 9th December 2010. artnet


Lowlands, Tate Britain, London 2010. cherri gilham


Lowlands, Ludwig Museum, Cologne, 1999. eiskellerberg

Anne Briggs The Hazards of Love

  Anne Briggs, Lowlands, The Hazards of Love, 1962


Stan Hugill at the International Shanty Festival Workum, The Netherlands, 1990. Joe Stead

Clydeside walkway, Glasgow, 2010.
Three-channel sound installation. 8 minutes,
35 seconds. Glasgow International Festival
of Visual Art.


Lowlands takes its inspiration from an old Scottish ballad of the same name. There are three versions of this ballad, which I learned from Stan Hugill’s Shanties of the Seven Seas. Each version tells the story of a drowned woman returning as a ghost to mourn the fact that she will never be with her lover again. I recorded myself singing each of the three versions and the three recordings were layered over each other. They all begin the same but then gradually change so the lyrics intertwine and overlap, coming together and then parting again. Each version varies in length so that at the end only one lone voice can be heard.

I developed this work for Isabella Bortolozzi’s space on Schöneberger Ufer in 2008. Standing in the gallery looking out over the Landwehrkanal I was reminded the Spartikus leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were both murdered on the night of the 15 January 1919 and Luxemburg’s body was thrown into the Landwehrkanal. The underwater currents carried her body through the weeds and silt until her corpse was finally lifted from the water in May that same year. I also began to think of the character Anna Livia Plurabelle in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. In this chapter hundreds of river names are woven into the text. The rivers and the sounds of water lend a flow to the words that carries the story along. In the closing lines of the book the female character takes the form of the river Liffey and flows out to where the fresh water of the river runs out and merges into the saltwater of the ocean. In my mind these characters merged with the ghost from the song Lowlands “All green and wet with weeds so cold” just like the lyrics merge and separate.

The Glasgow Bridge, the Caledonian Railway Bridge and the George V Bridge say so much about the history of Glasgow and the undersides of the bridges are like the dark underbelly of the city. The bridges have very particular and powerful acoustics and I immediately knew that this would be the perfect place for a large scale outdoor installation of Lowlands. We installed the speakers so as to have the three versions of the ballad playing from under each of the three bridges. Even though the speakers were in plain sight it was difficult for people to locate the source of the sound and I think this added to the piece.

Anne Briggs

I loved Anne Briggs version when I first heard it. It evoked a dark and murky land beneath the sea while at the same time it made me think of the lowlands of Scotland where I’m from. This is a quote from her 1962 debut EP The Hazards of Love. “ I first learned songs from people in Nottinghamshire who’d moved about a bit and and picked them up in their travels. Then I went to Scotland, Whitsun 1962, and got to know about traditional music and what it meant, and I worked on from there. I prefer long rambling story ballads with wild modal tunes, movable ones, the older the better. I love singing in the open air, especially on hills and by the sea.”