“It’s Like Surfing”: Ellen Fullman Plays the Long String Instrument at Artists Space

The artist explains the genesis and purpose of her unique sonic creation, during rare live performances as part of Frieze Week New York

in Frieze New York , Interviews , Videos | 15 MAY 24
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“Like floating, or flying, or surfing” is how Ellen Fullman describes playing the Long String Instrument, in this video that captures rare performances at Tribeca’s Artists Space during Frieze New York 2024

Fullman has been developing the work—which she calls an “installation”—since 1980. The Long String Instrument stretches wires across whole rooms, effectively turning each space in which it is installed into a resonator with its own unique aural qualities and quirks. Fullman plays the instrument with her hands, moving among the strings, feeling her way, navigating each one-off composition.

Fullman says she “grew up excited by music,” and in the video she explains her influences—from the sounds of Memphis, where she was born in the heyday of rock ’n’ roll and R&B, to the music of the avant-garde—as well as the sonic complexities of her creation, which are indebted to non-Western musical forms and the irregular harmonics found in nature. 

“This has been my music school,” says Fullman of her work. “I am the right person to play this instrument.”

Watch the full video for more adventures in sound.

Further Information

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Frieze New York is supported by global lead partner Deutsche Bank, continuing over two decades of a shared commitment to artistic excellence.

Audio engineering courtesy Bob Bellerue

Behind-the-scenes photography courtesy Jay Sanders of Artists Space

Additional stills photography courtesy Ian Bates, originally commissioned for Frieze Week New York 2024