Artists turn Glasgow’s Govanhill Baths into an instrument

Listen to the sounds of an empty Edwardian pool

An empty pool at Glasgow’s last surviving Edwardian bathhouse becomes a giant musical instrument in a new video of work by art duo CØV.

Florence To and Alex Menzies – who conceive site-specific installations exploring light, sound and space – created the piece at last year’s Sonica show inside Govanhill Baths. Here, we show the freshly cut ‘ETANAN’ film for the first time.

‘The acoustics in the swimming pool can be quite challenging with the strong resonance,’ said To. ‘We wanted to create something that was initiated first from the space rather than to create an idea, then reconstruct it in the space.’

CØV set up aluminium pipes in the pool that amplified the atmospheric sounds created by the surrounding architecture. The pair also made a new instrument out of three bar chimes, which were plucked from antique clocks, and played it using long bow strokes as if it were a violin.

A bronze metal sheet placed in the space produced a more sustained tone when struck by soft gong beaters.

Govanhill Baths Etanan 6

‘Every material and layout decision was to utilise the unique architectural acoustics and to attempt to make it an instrument in itself, using fewer digital systems and with minimum control of the acoustics,’ added To.

‘As the project is based on the psychological properties of sound and the transcending effects it can produce, the strong resonance of the pool was perfect for the performance.’

Govanhill Baths Etanan 2

Govanhill Baths, originally designed by architect AB Macdonald, closed in 2001 after 95 years of use but reopened as a community centre in 2013. A local trust has been working to fully restore the space ever since, hoping to reopen the pools for public use. It was awarded a £1.2 million grant last year but still needs to raise £200,000 to see through its revival.

CØV’s pool recording echoes a 1979 improvised sound composition by Bill Viola, recorded in a disused swimming pool in Buffalo, New York. Last year, over in London’s Brewer Street Car Park, Viola’s ‘The Talking Drum’ was aired for the first time ever.



Share Tweet