Materials: Series of mouth photographs mounted in box frames.
Galerie Raum Mit Licht, Vienna, Austria
Catalogue Essay: The Fatal Kiss Of The Shutter. Author: John Hilliard.
If Henry Cornelius's 1955 film I Am A Camera (based on Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories) does not literalise the title's proposition in its on-screen action, then Dziga Vertov, speaking of his seminal 1929 avant-garde production The Man With The Movie Camera, comes closer: 'I am the camera eye…..I am the machine which shows you the world as I see it'. Better still, in Death Watch (Bertrand Tavernier, 1979), a TV journalist (Harvey Keitel) has a video camera implanted in one unblinking eye, constantly transmitting a live image (of a slowly dying Romy Schneider) back to the station. He is a camera. So too is Ela, protagonist of Euridice's erotic novel f32 (Virago Press, 1993), whose disembodied then reunited vagina develops a lens and operates as a still camera. The camera body is their body, the aperture one of their apertures. In the three films, that orifice is the eye; in the novel, it is the vagina; and in the photographic work of Lindsay Seers, it is the mouth.
The body as vessel, as instrument, as receiver and transmitter, reflexively paralleled with the recording and projecting mechanics of film, photography and video, is a consistent feature of Seers' work. Many of her still images are characterised by two themes: the artist herself as both viewing subject/recording instrument and viewed object, and the comparability between photography and vampirism.
To make a picture, the artist first disappears into a lightproof bag, places a pre-cut piece of (usually) colour-negative paper at the back of her mouth, then positions a black gum-shield (with a pin-hole) in the front, using either her lips or a hand as a 'shutter' to cover the opening before and after the exposure. In the Auto-Cannibal series (1997/9), she wears vampire teeth, holds up a hand-mirror to reflect her face and the environment behind her, and takes a photograph. In these pictures, not only do we see the reflected, staring, fanged and caricatured head, distended by the pin-hole's wide-angle effect, but our view is through a jagged frame of the photographer/vampire's teeth. Moreover, that frame produces a shape remarkably reminiscent of a winged bat, and the whole image is blood-red in colour. It is, in fact, literally blood-red – the penetration of light through the photographer's cheeks, coloured by the network of capillaries, leeching onto the paper. Made similarly, Fallen (2001) more simply frames a tilted vista of trees, presumably as registered from the mouth of the 'fallen' vampire. Seemingly less 'complete', certainly less comical, these understated images are nevertheless stronger, the wintry, colour-drained trees a disturbing contrast to the crimson-mouthed surround.
In another series, Black Bag (2001), each individual work comprises a pair of photographs. One shot, black-and-white, glossy, objectively evidential in style, shows the artist as victim – lying at the bottom of a flight of stairs; propped against an upturned boat on a beach; sprawled on derelict ground by a wrecked and abandoned car; or on the floor of a hotel room, supine beneath the propeller-like blades of a ceiling fan. The other, the view from the artist's mouth, matt, coloured, is highly subjective and saturated in a lurid redness. With this second shot the tables are turned. It is as though the hapless victim is in fact a lure, a brooding predator, surveying and registering the desolate locales through a distorting and contaminating filter, waiting for its prey.
The vampiric reading of photography centres on a particular perception: that the fatal kiss of the shutter steals an unrepeatable moment of existence, yet in so doing invests its subject with eternal life. The photographer is both predator and saviour, and when the photographing subject is also the captured object, then the vampire sucks its own blood in a self-perpetuating cycle of dead and undead, of mortification and reanimation.
Metaphorically, Lindsay Seers indeed adopts the guise of the vampire in performing as a photographer, but literally, she is a camera. She tilts her body, calibrates her speed, waits for her moment, opens her lips – and snaps.
John Hilliard, 2002