Susan Phillipz: Muffled Drums

Curated by Nato Thompson, Kerry Bickford

illustrations of drums paired with typography that says "susan philipsz: muffled drums"

Muffled Drums is the result of a creative recalibration by the artist Susan Philipsz. Philipsz had been scheduled to debut a site-specific artwork in the historic mansion at the Woodlands, a home that sits in an active cemetery. As the pandemic made the possibility of opening this artwork impossible (a plight familiar to artists worldwide), she began to rethink it for an audience connected to each other by the internet but also spending more time in the confines of their home.

The original artwork, The Unquiet Grave, was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Tell Tale Heart." This haunting story features a murderous, paranoid protagonist who hears the heartbeat of his victim emanating from the cracks and orifices of his domestic space. Philipsz's spare sound installation was to emanate similarly from the holes and cracks of the building. In considering the plight of so many at home, with the world turned upside down in dramatic fashion, she made a version that allows you to install this unquiet work in the cracks and fissures of your own domestic space as you consider the world outside.

We encourage you to use the demonstrations and audio files included below to install this evocative piece in your very own home.

How to:

Muffled Drums consists of four audio tracks: three drum tracks, and one vocal track. We suggest using multiple devices, if available, to play each track from a different area of your home.

Use everyday household tools to assist in installing the work, such as pots, bowls, and vases, all of which help to amplify the tracks.

Muffled Drums