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Mizuma Art Gallery
Closes in 10 days

When one talks about going to a show, they normally use the verb “to see”; in the case of Susan Philipsz “to listen” is more appropriate. For a number of years, Philipsz has broadcast popular songs over public announcement systems in order to explore the emotive and psychological properties of sound. In the United Kingdom, she aired her own version of the band Radiohead’s “Airbag” across the aisles of a supermarket. Stateside she added a dash of melodrama to a Greyhound bus terminal by interspersing Hank Williams’s “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry” with her own composition of typical bus terminal noises.

Currently at Mizuma Art Gallery (mizuma-art.co.jp) she is offering four plain white walls, dim lighting and two speakers playing her own wistfully sung rendition of a song called “Did I Dream You Dreamed About Me.” Though you might consider this show similar to plugging in your iPod and closing off the world, its effect couldn’t be more different. First, there are no headphones to isolate you. Second, Philipsz’s pared-down recording is more a disembodied, confessional voice than a typical polished song reading. The result is a strangely heightened experience that both emotionally takes its listener away — deep into their thoughts and memories — while equally grounding them in the public reality of the gallery space. In an age when many of us block out the real by drowning our senses in game consoles and music devices, it’s refreshing to come across one situation that publicly refuses such escapism.

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