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