The song, which became a popular Appalachian standard during the early 20th century, recounts a tragic story about a married woman who is seduced by a former lover and abandons her husband and son. The lover, who is actually the devil in disguise, lures the woman on to a ship filled with treasure, which he then destroys over the deep sea, drowning them both and sending the woman to hell.
Within Forum Gallery, the artist’s voice, imperfect and ethereal, is heard singing three different versions of the song, each one coming in and out of focus, intertwining and diverging, as visitors move around the space or linger in the center of the room. Like much of Philipsz’s work, it evokes both personal and collective memories, contributing a new, layered interpretation to an oral history that stretches back into time.
Susan Philipsz is the 71st installment of Carnegie Museum of Art’s Forum series. The exhibition is organized by Amanda Donnan, assistant curator of contemporary art.
General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.