Su-Mei Tse Les Balayeurs du désert (The Desert Sweepers )

Tse uses a forest as a musical staff. The trees are leafless but clusters of mistletoe cling to their branches.

Su-Mei Tse, Mistelpartition (Mistlescore), 2006. Video projection, 6 minutes, 49 seconds. Video still, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2007.

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Su-Mei Tse
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The daughter of a violinist and a pianist, Su-Mei Tse is not only an artist but she is also a classically trained cellist.

Her works often incorporate rhythmic or musical elements, or actual musical performances. She seems to be able to hear and even see music where most would see only everyday events and activities. Her works transcend language and are universally comprehensible.

In Su-Mei Tse’s Les Balayeurs du désert (The Desert Sweepers) (2003), identical men wearing green uniforms and Day-Glo™ work vests sweep sand in an infinite desert. Although the men gain little or no ground in their Herculean task of moving the desert sands with green plastic brooms, they seem unperturbed, looking up occasionally before calmly returning to their work. The sound of their sweeping is methodical, even soothing. The futility of their task does not deter them from carrying on. While the men are obviously computer-manipulated, the sweeping sounds are real. Tse recorded the sound of Parisian road sweepers’ brooms brushing the asphalt streets of the city, something she remembered from her student days in Paris.

In Mistelpartition (Mistlescore) (2006), Tse uses a forest outlined against the sky as a musical staff. The trees are leafless but ghostly clusters of mistletoe cling to their branches. Tse transforms the white bunches of mistletoe into the notes of Shostakovich’s “Cello Concert No.1 in E Flat Major.” The viewer is able to “see” the music through Tse’s eyes by following the notes as the score progresses — like the bouncing ball in old movies — as sound, nature, and art combine in beautiful harmony. 

In August-September 2007, Su-Mei Tse conducted an artist’s residency at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. On Thursday, September 13, 2007, at 6:30pm, Tse will participate in a public talk, “Conversation Between Two Artists,” with Mingwei Lee, a former artist-in-residence at the Gardner Museum. For more information visit the Gardner Museum website. 

About the Artist

Su-Mei Tse’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions around the world, including locations such as The Renaissance Society, Chicago, Illinois; Museet for Samtidskunst, Roskilde, Denmark; Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris, France; Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan; and the 50th Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy, where she was awarded the Leone d’Oro for the Best National Participation in 2003. In 2005, Tse was the first recipient of the Edward Steichen Award and received a grant for a six-month artist’s residency in New York City. She was also an artist in residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. A major exhibition of her work was presented at Casino Luxembourg Forum Art Contemporain, in Luxembourg. She currently lives and works in Luxembourg.


This presentation of the Media Test Wall is generously supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Council for the Arts at MIT.