Tate Britain

Materials: Cardboard and wooden structure finished with clouts, metal chimney, screen, 13 minute video projection with sound from 3 channels.

Tate Collection

Essay: Travelling beyond reason. Author: Ole Hagen

As she stands in the doorway with her suitcase, for a brief moment I’m unsure of whether the artist I’ve come to know so intimately is just arriving or just leaving this time. When she says good­bye, I recall her current travel route, but it occurs to me that ‘that which travels’ in her is not subject to the linear pur­pose and schedule that she nevertheless carries in her hand-luggage. She has re­quested from me that in her temporary absence I explain to those who ask why she is constantly travelling. How can I address her travels without addressing that which really travels in her when she travels?

On the surface it seems that the logis­tics of her plane journeys and appoint­ments are like a modernist grid, where one set of crossing lines necessarily jus­tifies the next, in line with a retrospec­tive narrative. According to this logic, one thing has led to the other in a linear narrative that has taken Lindsay Seers from England to Holland, to Paraguay, Mauritius and, more recently, Italy and Sweden. Her tracing of the history, ontology and epistemology of photog­raphy has followed the principles of a first person empiricism in overlaying the historical with the autobiographi­cal (for example through her ‘becoming a camera’). But if we look a bit closer, the logos of the causal chain, (‘Going to Holland led me to go to Mauritius’, etc.) is not the real instigator of the travels of Lindsay Seers. ‘That which travels’ is outside the artist; not as an overarching principle of investigative reason, but as nomos, understood as immanent neces­sity. The ‘nomadic’ element of her work then is what drives her to travel, not the retrospective logic of the narratives themselves, which has linked photogra­phy to ventriloquism, cinematic projec­tion, alchemy and theatre, all through so many personal stories. If the mod­ernist travelled towards a utopian fu­ture and the postmodernist borrowed from the travel kits of various pasts, the artist Lindsay Seers’ travels are dictat­ed by a virtual, already existent future. How can this be?

Being in a foreign country can have a pe­culiar effect on anybody’s assessment of the particular and the generic. Generic objects like houses, cups, chairs, or liv­ing beings, like farm animals, still ex­ist abroad, but are slightly or radically different from the particular versions of them that we are familiar with from home. Only temporarily do we perceive this as strange before we resort to the thought that a particular object is but a foreign example of the generic Platonic Idea of ‘cup’ or ‘house’, etc. But through the lenses of Lindsay Seers, this mo­mentary strangeness supports a much more radical doubt in the indexical sta­tus of the object. The thing as particular Thing and as an evidence in a staging of events is put in doubt because the in­dexical mark as a premise for cognition is put in doubt, as is the notion of stable generic ideas.

This refusal to believe in the common sense idea of the index is particularly evident in Lindsay’s work as a projec­tor. According to the conventional theory of perception, light moves in through the retina of the eye, trigger­ing electrical changes in the optical nerves, which then stimulate the brain to produce an internal image, while nothing moves out. It follows that if this process is always the same, it must be so through the authority of the thing emitting light, what we could call the ‘indexical source’. Paradoxically, at the same time as there is this unquestioned trust in the existence of the ‘thing it­self’ (realism), it is also presumed that the image of the thing only exists in our brains (idealism). Alongside this model, the status of the camera is to be an ap­paratus mimicking the mechanics of perception. But when Lindsay Seers becomes a projector, a different model of perception replaces this insular one-way system. Vision becomes a two way process, an inward movement of light but also an outward movement of pro­jected images. The world is no longer confined to our heads, but is where we perceive it to be, all around us as the mind literally reaches out beyond the brain through projection. There is a fur­ther radical aspect to this vision. In the model of perception presented by the artist, there is no storehouse of indexi­cal marks in the mind or fixed indexi­cal emitters in the world either. Every image appearing in the world is then genuinely a new configuration of total­ity; different neural pathways, different projections of memory coming together for each particular configuration of an object and therefore also for each con­figuration of past events.

Through becoming a projector, and presenting a new model of perception, the status of photography in the art­ist’s world is also open to alteration. Photography no longer stands for a mechanistic process, but for a depth of time, where an unquantifiable whole produces both index and cognition simultaneously. The notion of a store­house of indexical marks is replaced by an idea of fiction. If we imagine that all the fictions we can invent already exist ready for download as part of a virtual future, a non-manifest aspect of the real here and now, then they are no less real than ‘factual’ documentaries. According to this vision, the immediate past is constantly reconfigured from a virtual future. It is in this sense that Lindsay Seers’ travels are ‘dictated by an already existent future’, in a proc­ess where there are no fixed indexical marks for cognition or photography.

But Lindsay Seers’ work is not a spot­less vision of pure ‘duration’. The hu­man drive for cohesive narratives is still subject to a desire to ‘stabilise the present’ or ‘break with the past’. So although in the work there is a ‘no­madic’ drive towards a univocal vision of temporal flow without fixed indexi­cal references, there is also the strug­gle to comprehend individuation and separation. Therefore there is not just the nomos of what drives her to travel, but also the logos of retrospection and narrative structure, whether linear or web-like. But the many identities that present themselves in the video nar­ratives, through Seers’ own person or through other associations, are always framed against the backdrop of theatrum mundi. In contrast to the micro-political freezing of identities in the oppositional language of ‘criti­cal theory’, here identities are always performed. It is interpersonal staging that determines their stability. If we consider the longing for immediacy of perception and the projection of crea­tive futures onto the photographic mo­ment, the link between alchemy and photography, found in recent work by the artist, should not be understood as an analogy between the index and a transcendent Platonic reality. Because the world of the artist lacks indexical security and is merely the immediate projection of virtual futures, it is clear that the occupation with alchemy represents a quest for a vision where the sign and its referent are one and the same manifestation. The alchemical symbol in this context, does not represent a Platonic world, but embodies the immediate talismanic power of the world as it is created at every moment. In the hunt for this vi­sion, an excess of stories of people and places are produced and given coher­ence. In the narratives, the character of the artist struggles to disentangle personal emotional incentives from the experience of new visions of temporal­ity and immediacy, because travelling beyond reason is to travel in the depth of time, where narrative logic and pat­terns are constantly removed from the idea of the indexical evidence in order to reveal the immanent and immediate manifestation of a fictional future cre­ated in every present moment.

To this close friend of the artist, the woman in the doorway embodies an army of possible versions of Lindsay Seers, constantly coming and going. The cameras in her suitcase make up a travelling alchemist’s kit. They are tools of unique reconfigurations as well as talismans of perception. As for any adept dabbling with the virtual future, each time the kit is put to work, ghosts and messages appear. These spectral personas ensure that the world goes on and that the narrative of the world’s creation as a unique new character al­ways has plenty of interesting transi­tory sidekicks in people, objects, places and moments. But in the web of the art­ist, even the most accidental encounter eventually becomes another signpost in the route map towards the true source of photography.

Gallery infromation sheet:

Extramission – illustrated PDF (filesize 3MB)

The Guardian_The best art shows to see this week (27/02/2009).pdf


The Independent_New-sensation-the-next-generation-of-young-british-artists-1547206.html