Limerick City Gallery, Ireland

Materials: Camera obscura in fabric and cast iron, paper trees, fan; negative photographs (cross-processed cibachromes), VHS projection and VHS monitor work, two headed dummy with electronics.

Excerpt from: gallery booklet. Author: Lindsay Seers.

"The whole difficulty of the problem that occupies us comes from the fact that we imagine perception to be a kind of photographic view of things, taken from a fixed point by that special apparatus which is called an organ of perception – a photograph which would then be developed in the brain matter by some unknown chemical and physical process of elaboration. But is it not obvious that the photograph, if photograph there be, is already taken, already developed in the very heart of things and at all parts of space." Henri Bergson

It is hard to know where the pictures that seem to stay inside of us exist, or why they surface. Suddenly, these images emerge from the darkness, unexpected and intense; a lost moment unearthed and written into another context, double-exposed on the present. These seemingly random revelations imply that the brain is like a storehouse, packed with a trillion images; collected as if a strobe-light has flashed over the whole of our lives. The frozen, staccato blips, amputated from the flow of time, establish the patterns of our associations, the shape of our thoughts, the path of our movements, what we become. Yet often, we can not, as if it were a library, draw on this collection
by choice.

Within our collection of perceptions, however, the present is of a completely different nature. This point now, the present, is the only moment that is both perceived and felt. The skin is the interface for this affect, the body the threshold of this transformation. ‘Now’, is the space where the body is charged with the sensuality of its occupation of the world from within and without, simultaneously. Here we stand, as if at the centre of a kaleidoscope, in which the relation of all things reforms itself within our perception in a constantly mutating pattern—each of us separately and individually at the centre of this pattern, the moments collating and congealing as we forge forwards. Hence photography can be more like our past than it ever can our present; in that it is a representation, a pictorial representation, emptied out of the web of sensual information that binds our bodies and the present inextricably together.

Our perception is never halted and separated as it is within the artifice of the photograph (an act of visual ventriloquism). Photography has the guise of becoming memory itself, solidifying the intangible imagery inside of us and spitting it out, where we can scrutinise it in a way that we never can when it sits inside of us. The dumb force of its imagery overwrites the sensuality of our memory image, replacing it. Our relationship to the world is of a completely different kind to that of our relation to the images from a camera. For example, I may remember in a broad sense the house from my childhood, yet if I try and turn my mind to the pattern of the carpet I cannot scrutinise that memory in that way, like I can the flat minutiae of a photograph. I know that house in a total sense; it is a physical memory, I know my relation to it in space. I am fused with it. There is no separation between me and it. This is the photograph that Bergson speaks of as being written in the heart of things.

It seems impossible to think about photography without thinking about perception. In thinking about perception it seems impossible to move away from the body as the limit of this. The work in this exhibition addresses these thoughts. At its core is a series of photographs using the mouth as a camera. They are made by putting colour photographic paper inside the mouth and exposing it. This is like a kiss; like an act of ventriloquism; or like an act of vampirism. The ‘mouth camera’ works sometimes stand alongside images from other cameras, that are evidently not human. These have another, more  objective language; whereas the images formed inside the head are blood red with the light passing through the skin of the cheeks, framed by  teeth and blurred with body movement; from the remote black box of the camera to the warm sensuality of the mouth cavity.

This means of  making photographs cancels the usual separation of the act of photographing from the photographer. It joins the body and the act of seeing  into the image. The strange ritual of making the work, which requires the artist to cover herself in a black sack to insert and remove the  photographic paper from her mouth, is, in itself, an extraordinary act that defines being in a place in a completely other way to the rapid shot of the camera. From this work all the rest has evolved, the vampire, the ventriloquist, the possessed, all refer in some senses to the  problematic relationship between subject and object, the fusion and confusion of them.

Lindsay Seers


Gallery notes: Gallery One
‘You said that without moving your lips’
Lindsay Seers

The red photographs in this gallery were made by turning the mouth into a camera (a technique developed by Lindsay initially in 1995). This process involves the artist covering herself in a black sack, putting a small piece of photographic paper (covered in plastic) in her mouth; removing the sack, and then opening her lips to take a photograph. On returning to the dark sack, she spits the paper/image out and stores it in a light-proof box for later development in a makeshift darkroom. The images are exposed directly onto colour paper. They are red because of the light passing through the translucent skin of the face, making them literally blood-coloured. The black and white photographs, mounted alongside the red mouth photos in the Black Bag series, picture the artist in the act of taking the photograph in her mouth. These works show an inside and an outside point of view of the scene. They touch on a Victorian idea that the image seen at the point of death is etched on the retina – implying that photographs are written permanently inside of us.

In works such as Fallen the distinction between looking out of a body and into it, become blurred, as the trees in the image begin to look like nerve endings, or the image of a retina.


Gallery notes: Gallery Two
‘You said that without moving your lips’
Lindsay Seers

Continuing with the mouth camera ideas, this set of images was made during a residency in South America (funded by Triangle Arts Trust and the Arts Council of England). These works are concerned with ideas about memory. Photography can be an aid to stop us forgetting; in this case, a place that is known briefly, probably never to be seen again. Yet photographs are very different from the images that are embedded in us, directly from our experiences, and often overwrite the subtlety of our image memory. In these works the artist tries to keep a memory of the place, as much through the act of photographing as the results.  Philosopher Henri Bergson claims that we retain memory through our bodies and most significantly through action. In these works the artist ingests images of the insignificant minutiae of a place that she knows will fade fast. The white crosses in the black and white photographs indicate the points at which the mouth photographs were taken.

The works deal with different layers of inside and outside space; they picture the relationship between the artist and a house in Paraguay; both her and its interior and exterior.


Gallery notes: Gallery Three
‘You said that without moving your lips’
Lindsay Seers

In the way that other works in the show draw on ideas about early photography and television this work uses early film as a subject matter and process For the Dead Travel Fast involves a camera obscura/carriage, which looks out onto a constructed landscape of black and white paper trees. These vary in size, and are repetitions of the same tree image, suspended from the gallery ceiling. The title of the work refers to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and to Murnau’s early silent black and white film, Nosferatu, in which the film maker uses a negative image of a forest to create a haunting atmosphere. (In vampirism the blood is sucked from a subject and she/he becomes undead, i.e. seemingly present but absent. This is a metaphor for the translation of an object into an image, whereby a thing caught in the flow of time is like a spectre when passed through the lens – it is suddenly without substance, in the world but no longer of it. In other works by the artist there is an underlying reference to vampirism; in using her mouth as the camera, her blood red photographs are like an ingestion/devouring of her subject).
In this work the viewer is given two very different versions of a scene, depending whether they are inside or outside the carriage. The image, on a ground glass screen inside the black carriage, is inverted and faint, transformed by its translation via the lens. The projected image is evidently quite different from the scene which we can also see in reality; contrasting what is real with what is constructed. Like all the works in the exhibition there is a blurring between boundaries, between inside and outside, between what is real and what is not.


Gallery notes: Gallery Four
‘You said that without moving your lips’
Lindsay Seers

This video work investigates three different memories of a house, all of which have a distinct character and are different in kind: the first type of memory is a picture memory based on what has been seen, it is about trying to retain memory images of the detail of the interior of a house (prone to fading fast); the second memory is of a dream/fantasy about a ventriloquist’s dummy that has become associated with the house, as it manifested itself there. This memory seems as lucid as the other memories of the place. The third is the memory of an action (a memory of an action is quite distinct from the memory of an object, as it is a memory felt from within the body, rather than solely as visual stimulus from without). The action remembered is of becoming a camera in an attempt to better record the memory of the house and the relationship of the body/subject to that particular time and place. (Henri Bergson suggests that we will retain a memory of an action far more lucidly than we will objects, particularly as memory fails – hence nouns/proper names become more and more difficult to retain than actions. It seems then that the act of photographing could take precedence over the results).