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'Sculptor in sound' wins £2m Birmingham Big Art Project

Turner Prize-winning artist Susan Philipsz lands prize to build new piece of public art which will sit in Eastside City Park

A 'sculptor in sound' has won the commission to make the most ambitious piece of public art in Birmingham's history.

The voices of up to 1,000 ordinary Brummies will be used in Station Clock, the winner of the Birmingham Big Art Project.

Turner Prize-winning Susan Philipsz is the artist behind the 'aural clock', costing up to £2 million.

It will be mostly flat, with 12 underground speakers beneath grills situated around a clock at least 25 metres across.

Each hour of the day will be represented by the 12 tones of the chromatic music scale.

At 1pm or 1am, just one voice will sing out the note. At 2pm it will be two voices and so on, until at noon and midnight all 12 voices will sound together.

Birmingham Conservatoire will help to find volunteers who will have their voices recorded in a studio.

It means hundreds of Brummies will be able to hear themselves - but not until 2022.

It will take that long to build the square where the sculpture will sit, in Eastside City Park outside Curzon Street Station to which the high speed rail link HS2 will bring passengers to Birmingham.

Station Clock by Susan Philipsz
Station Clock by Susan Philipsz

And the money for the artwork also needs to be raised from donations, along with an £80,000 Arts Council grant.

The Birmingham Big Art Project said it wanted a sculpture that was "high quality, innovative, permanent and low in maintenance for Birmingham that will gain international recognition and put the city on the world's cultural map".

The panel also want it to be imaginative, interesting and thought-provoking, photogenic and interactive.

It is yet to be decided what exactly there will be for people to photograph of Station Clock and if there will be seating inside or around the clock.

It's more likely that people will want to record the sounds.

The winning artist was announced at a ceremony at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery where models of the five shortlisted artists' work will be on display until June.

Susan was born in Glasgow 51 years ago and now lives in Berlin and won the Turner Prize in 2010 for a sound installation that features her singing three versions of a Scottish lament.

Station Clock will be her first permanent installation in the UK.

She said: "I'm really happy to be selected as the winning artist and can't wait to get started on it. I wish we could unveil it sooner.

"We want to involve as many people as possible from across the board, recording children, the elderly and people who don't have very good voices. It will be a real diversity of voices.

"It will sound every hour including through the night, though it will be quieter then."

Susan's grandfather, who died when she was very young, is buried in the city and she has never seen his grave but now plans to visit it.

Gavin Wade, chief executive of commissioner Eastside Projects, said: "We have chosen the artwork that challenges our ideas of what art is, where it is, when it is, how it has been made and how to imagine art in the future."

Glyn Pitchford, chairman of the Birmingham Big Art Project, added: "It is my strong view that Station Clock will fulfil our ambition of putting Birmingham and this region on the world's cultural stage and will become a brand new landmark which people will want to visit and experience."

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