Best known for his post-minimalist sound pieces and ‘red projects’, Carl Michael von Hausswolff’s work is concerned with essences.

Exhibiting internationally since the 1970s, his experimental compositions are compiled from found sounds captured on a hand-held recorder and are balanced by hypnotic sonorous drones made from magnetic noise, in which the tiniest low-frequency sounds are magnified. His ‘red projects’ are light installations that define and alter space by disengaging it from its context. In Red Pool (1999) he shone blood-red lights onto a swimming pool in Bangkok.

In Red Night( 1999) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 11,000 watts of deep red light flooded the Our Lady of Guadaloupe cemetery. In Red Empty (2003) in Zagreb, von Hausswolff flooded the interior of the dilapidated ARKO liqueur factory, turning it into a beacon of red light. In each case, the extreme flood of dense red metamorphoses overlooked sites into clearly defined, if temporary, objects.

What lies beneath? The Swedish artist Carl posed this question in a video projection and sound installation that charted the journey of a sub-aqua diver from one side of the River Mersey to the other.

People have been crossing the River Mersey for nearly eight hundred years and the history of the river is inextricably linked to that of the city of Liverpool. A gateway to the world, the river’s buoyant economy has been based on the importation and exportation of computer parts, sugar, cotton and coffee – and the trafficking of human life through a lucrative slave trade. A natural border from the estuary on the Irish Sea to the airport at the southern end of the city, thirteen miles of the Mersey define Liverpool’s western perimeter. Crossing the river is significant. Subterranean toll tunnels allow cars and trains to journey from point to point and the famous Mersey Ferry makes regular journeys across the surface of the water. Yet you cannot simply walk across a bridge; every crossing entails a financial exchange. A point of departure and of return, the river, with its tidal flow, is part of the physical, economic and psychological life-cycle and identity of the city.

Shot at night by a local diver who has an intimate knowledge of the river, its tides, treasures, wreckages, pollution and deep black silt, which makes visibility beneath the surface impossible, Hausswolff’s Mersey piece for International 04 was only partly filtered red. The work delved into the very material of the river as a means of grappling with the Mersey’s incalculable presence. In this 40-minute looped video, the sound element of the work became a metaphor for the eternal return. Von Hausswolff explained that the sound ‘is very abstract and non-narrative – it’s a flow, a sweep, a state of mind crossing. . . it sounds like a thousand storms, a thousand waves’.

Red Mersey, 2004
Looped video
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2004

The piece Red Mersey was produced by and for the Liverpool Biennial 2004 and is dedicated to all sailors around the world



The Embassy of Sweden,
IASPIS (International Artists’ Studio Programme in Sweden)