This new year for various reasons I have been re-visiting works that fell under the name/theme of Extramission dating back to 2005. Clearing off my old computer I found this old text by MA Penwill.
A child utters her first words at the age of eight. Her parents are overjoyed: years of anxiety regarding their daughter's muteness are swept away as the child finally joins the circle of communication. For the child the transformation is calamitous: the onset of language shatters her immersion in the rich manifold of undifferentiated Being. Her entry into the propositional universe introduces the possibility of linear description, and hence Time. She is suddenly able to reflect on the past and to speculate on the future. Now, she is aware of a difference between herself in-here and the world out-there.
The mute child is Lindsay Seers, an undiagnosed autistic with 'eidetic memory', which manifests in the classic manner – from an early age Seers has a remarkable ability to draw in exquisite detail from memory visual images or scenes she has glimpsed, however briefly. There are hundreds of these childhood drawings which survive, overloaded with detail.
According to Seers, she broke with silence after she was taken to a professional photographer to have a portrait made. Her first glimpse of the photograph of herself forced her, for the first time, to posit herself as an object in the world. Until then she lived in a world without language characterized by intense eidetic recollections of her sensory experiences: the silent child dwelt in a perpetual reoccurring present. But the viewing of the photograph seems to have thrown her across a perceptual and psychological boundary – for the first time she experienced the sensation of being looked-at.
Seers remembers feeling the sudden beginning of introspection; an inner voice welling up in her mind, the babble distracting her senses and making the world recede. When she searched her memory to recall what she had just seen, instead of the expected eidetic replay she found only description – not the visual 'here-it-is', but a verbal 'it was like this'. In pure shock and distress, Seers needed to fill the void opening up about her. She spoke.
Cast out of paradise, Seers craved an immediate return and hence her first articulated request was to be given a camera. She got her wish. Her identification with the device became total as she sought to 'become a camera' by taking photographs by exposing film held inside her own mouth.
Isolated as an individual and an artist, the imagery of the mature Seers shows the increasing influence of melancholy and alienation. A fascination with cannibalism, vampires, bloody crimes, etc., is evident in her exhibited work as metaphors for photography's insatiable appetite to devour reality. Eventually, a traumatic break with photography in the wake of a plagiarism incident led Seers, improbably, into the world of ventriloquism. Seers has not commented on whether it was the aspects of theatricality and vaudevillian excess which attracted her interest. However, with hindsight we see her exploration of the thrown voice as a necessary waypoint in her journey towards ‘extramission’, of becoming a human projector. Finally, the world in-there — Seers’ inner vision – is reproduced out-there, mediated only by the projection apparatus.