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While in residence in 2008, Su-Mei Tse spent many hours in the galleries and archives doing research. During these visits Tse looked through Isabella Stewart Gardner’s music programs from concerts Gardner held at Green Hill, her Beacon Hill residence, and later at her museum. Tse reviewed music manuscripts and scores by composers such as Gabriel Fauré, Wilhelm Gericke, Charles Gounod, Clayton Johns, Theodore Leschetizky, Charles Martin Loeffler, and Ignas Moscheles. She also looked through two of Gardner’s guest books as well as Gardner’s travel scrapbooks from Asia. As Tse completed her first three weeks at the Gardner she and 1999 AIR Lee Mingwei had a conversation in the Tapestry Room. These two artists and friends talked about their work, their residencies at the Gardner, and the thinking that shaped their forthcoming exhibition in Taipei.
In 2009 Su-Mei Tse returned to the Gardner to install a new work that merged sound, sculpture, and a video projection. Her project, Floating Memories, reflected on the passing of time, distant memory, absence, longing, and directly referenced the empty frames in the Dutch Room, which remain as an ever-present reminder of the theft of 13 artworks in 1990. Tse spoke about her work with curator Pieranna Cavalchini and invited Belgian songwriter and musician Niko Hafkenscheid to perform at a Gardner After Hours (today known as Third Thursdays) while her work was on view. Other programs included a gallery talk by 2006 Arist-in-Residence and video artist Cliff Evans, and conversation between Cavalchini and Enrico Lunghi, Director of the Mudam Museum in Luxembourg. Tse created an artist book in conjunction with the exhibition entitled Su-Mei Tse: Notes that was published by Charta Edizioni, Milan.
Tse’s work (created in collaboration with Jean-Lou Majeru) Sound for Insomniacs, 2007, was also featured in the Gardner’s exhibition, Listen Hear: The Art of Sound. Tse installed large photograps of five stray cats from her neighborhood. However, for Tse, the photographs were not enough to capture each cat’s unique personality. Along with the intimate close-ups the artist crafted two stools containing a recording of each cat purring. Visitors were invited to put on a pair of headphones and flip through the soothing purrs while contemplating each portrait.
Su-Mei Tse (b. 1973 Luxembourg) works in a wide range of media that includes photography, sculpture, video, and installation practice. One finds a deep appreciation for craft and gesture in her work. Tse grew up in a musical and culturally diverse family and is comfortable moving between different cultures, occasionally testing them against common clichés. Trained as a classical cellist, she creates work that often explores visual and auditory perception.
Tse’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including solo shows at Galerie Serge Le Borgne, France; Art Tower Mito, Japan (2009); Seattle Art Museum, Seattle (2008); PS1, New York (2006); the Casino, Forum d’Art Contemporain, Luxembourg (2006); the Renaissance Society, Chicago (2005); Museet for Samtidskunst, Roskilde, Denmark (2005); and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (2004). In 2007, Tse collaborated with artist Lee Mingwei on a two-part exhibition, Duologue, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taiwan. Her work has also been shown at the 2006 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennal, Japan, the 26th São Paulo Biennial, and the 2003 Venice Biennale, where she was awarded the Leone d’Oro for her three-part installation, Air Conditioned. In addition, Tse received the Prize for Contemporary Art by the Foundation Prince Pierre de Monaco in 2009, an Artist Residency and Project at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia in 2008, and the Edward Steichen Award, Luxembourg in 2005.
Su-Mei Tse trained as a classical cellist at the Luxembourg Conservatory where she won the Cello First Prize in 1991. She continued her studies at the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris as well as studied textiles and printing at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués where she received a diploma. In 2000, Tse graduated with a degree in Plastic Arts from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Su-Mei Tse was born in Luxembourg and currently lives and works in Berlin and Luxembourg.