In the sound work If I With You Would Go, artist Susan Philipsz sings eight different versions of the traditional ballad “James Harris,” also called “The Daemon Lover.” It tells the story of a married woman seduced by a long-lost lover, who is secretly the devil in human form. With promises of adventures and treasure, he lures her onto his ship, only to scuttle it with his cloven hoof, drowning and sending her to hell.
Philipsz uses sound, song, and site to heighten awareness of space, emotion, and memory. Her choice of song, that of a young woman lured away to sea, might be understood as a mythical and cautionary echo of the mercantile and maritime history embodied in PEM's historic East India Marine Hall. Shaping sound like a sculptor, the artist used recordings of her unaccompanied singing voice to define and articulate the space.
Credit: Overview from museum website