Artist Statement: ‘Polyphonic Practice’ and the artist as conductor

I am a visual artist, singer-composer and performance maker, working in Bristol UK.

My work spans the mediums of performance, voice, drawing, music composition, sound art, video and artistic direction.

Current ongoing project: Site Singing - a pilot project to create voice-based sound works for English Heritage sites.


  • RECENT EXHIBITION 10 -16th November 2014 ENGAGED VOICE

I am very pleased to have been selected to make a new work for the Edwardian Cloakroom, as part of Bristol City Council’s autumn programme for
Bristol Creative Spaces.

Engaged Voice is a site-specific vocal sound installation which was created and installed in the Edwardian Cloakroom, a disused public conveniences built in 1904. The work explores being in this space vocally, with all the sound being generated using my own voice and a basic recording device.

I used the particular acoustics of this unusual place to vocalise the sounds resonating in from outside, such as sirens, alarms, the distorted chatter of passers by, as well as imitating the many voices of the site such as the sounds of its surfaces, pipes, flush chains etc. With this approach, I aimed to draw attention to the sounds of space itself, and open the ears to what it is like to be within it.

The work invited visitors to spontaneously contribute their own voices, encouraging the kind of secret singing many people do in bathrooms etc. Also, in scheduled participatory performances, I used the installed recordings as a basis for further experimentation, by singing an additional vocal layer live from the other side of the building, and by inviting visitors to contribute their own voices, creating spontaneous ‘choirs’ of strangers.

Hear audio excerpts here - including visitors adding their voices to the installation, and full audio from a participatory performance (16mins)

Selected visitors comments:

“Thankyou, a whole immersive experience – really enjoyed the sound work, very specific use of space”

“Great show – thanks for opening up my mind and ears to sound” Jami

“Very enchanting and interesting concept – made hairs stand on end!” Liz, Bristol

“Interesting sound textures breathing life back into a classic building. Well done!” Matt, Bristol

“Beautiful show – atmospheric and enigmatic” S.O

Read more about the work

Feature and artist response in

Engaged Voice - work in progress from Ellen Southern on Vimeo.

Engaged Voice eflyer

Ellen Southern- Engaged Voice - work in progress

Ellen Southern-Engaged Voice-sound installation

Ellen Southern-Engaged Voice-drawings and video

Ellen Southern-Engaged Voice- live performance

Above images: work in progress, the sound installation in situ, accompanying video projection and drawings exhibited in the other side of the building, and a still from one of the live performances.