Materials: wooden structure, parts of a hut, window frames, reclaimed door, tree trunk, metal chimney, deer skins, 20 minute HD projection, 5.1 surround sound.
Sami Center for Contemporary Art/Sámi Dáiddaguovddáš (SDG) Jeagilvármádii 54, NO-9730 Karasjok, Norway
Monocular, shown originally in Something in the way at the Lofoten International Art Festival, Norway, is a prefabricated wooden structure, the interior of which is rendered as if it is the exterior surface, giving the impression that the building has been turned inside out but this inversion has some idiosyncratic details, such as: a tree with a rustic box affixed to it, seemingly resembling a birdhouse; an old door; wooden stilts. It was constructed in Tromso, in northern Norway, as a flat-pack assemblage and transported to Lofoten in the spirit of its historical precedents. Inside the structure, the back wall is filled with two synchronised HD projections which cover the whole wall including the gable. The projection emerges from the 'birdhouse', which is in fact a replica of a food store traditionally used by the Sami.
The narrator of the projected film is a Norwegian/English man. Seers met this protagonist by chance when travelling in Norway researching prefabricated structures. The unnamed man whose cropped face we see twice in the film has a rare condition called genetic mosaicism, caused by the fusion of two fertilized eggs at a very early stage of gestation in the womb. A sign of this condition is heterochromia – the possessing of eyes of two different colours – one of which is derived from the absorbed 'twin'. We see his eyes in the photographs both before and after he has the brown eye removed, leaving him with a single blue eye (monocular).
In the film he recounts how as a boy he was sent to boarding school, in keeping with a Norwegian policy of normalization, often called the 'Norwegianization', of different cultural heritages. Like other children of Sami descent he was forbidden to speak the Sami language. This denial of the power of speech, or wrestling with language, is pervasive in the artist’s work (she herself did not speak until almost eight years old).
We learn that the narrator’s father was a reindeer herder who had been displaced during the German occupation of WWII after the Nazis had pursued a scorched earth policy in the north of Norway to discourage invasion by the Soviet Union. During post-war resettlement of the north, the Sami people were given prefabricated homes constructed to traditional mainstream Norwegian design. This installation in Lofoten draws reference to this history of alienation and isolation.
The narrative unfolds as if already written through endless coincidences and chance associations. The mesh of different modes of image and sound recording, of inter-related historical narratives and embodiment which characterise this artist’s work, envelops the spectator as he or she sits on the reindeer skins in the inverted hut. The hut is both theatrical and real: partly constructed from a hut found by the shore of the north Atlantic, and carefully pieced back together in a patchwork of archaeology, but in its reconstruction fundamentally different from its original form.
The opening sound track of the 20 minute HD video pulses in the rhythm of Morse code. A skilled Morse decoder could unearth a text by the Neo-Platonist Plotinus embedded in the cutting of the images/sound – but no matter, this secret doesn’t need to be decyphered because the sense of an encoded world beyond what is seen pervades the work at every level. The imagery, shot often whilst moving, has a veritas as the artist seeks out her narrative: it often has the feeling of documentary footage.
What we hear in the surround sound track is the medium of film/sound talking to us as if it has become a man – it speaks of its haunted longing to represent. Like our protagonist’s unseen brother residing in his DNA, the implication is that this haunting is written into the medium at the level of its material structure. This embodied, encoded character emanates from the digital form like a genie from a bottle. Computer generated images of particles and genes emerge as we break through the skin of appearances to the structure of matter.