Author: Rosalie Doubal
Press Date: 15 November 2009
Book Review: Lindsay Seers: Human Camera (Article Press), 15 November 2009. Reviewed by: Rosalie Doubal.
Occupying an intriguing position within the realms of art writing, the success of this book lies in its ability to indirectly simulate the very ethos of the films to which it relates, whilst keeping descriptions and analyses of the works to a minimum. Commissioned for a series of exhibitions in Europe between 2005 and 2006, the five films comprise a progressive biography of the artist, Lindsay Seers. Through anecdotes of family and the input of professionals the series constructs a creative memoir; The World of Jule Eisenbud (Remission), Intermission and Extramission chronicle the collapse of the young artist’s unusual eidetic recall — the perfection of memory so detailed that one looses a sense of past and present; her transformation into a camera; her time spent amongst ventriloquists; and her eventual shift into becoming a projector. With Under the Influence of Magicians and The Truth Was Always There, Seers turns from predominantly biographical concerns to trace the connections between her family and Lincolnshire’s role in the history of medieval philosophy and alchemy.
In these films, authorial voice, and with it, authority, is negated at every turn, and there is little to help clarify fact from fiction. Human Camera mimics this element of Seers’ practice and throughout the text objective understandings of its subject are purposefully frustrated. This intelligent edition proffers no further certainty, only an additional view of the personal history presented in Seers’ films. Consequently, the texts, relieved of interpretational responsibilities, become industrious and inventive elements of Seers’ practice.
Just as Seers’ films weave personal narratives with concepts of science, philosophy and photographic theory, so too does Human Camera juxtapose short seemingly autobiographical texts by the artist, with contributions from writers in such fields as philosophical aesthetics, psychology and the study of paranormal phenomena.
The texts that lay reference to Seers’ practice can be characterised by a resistance to art theory. Even in David Burrows’ ‘Fleshy Analogue Machine’, the most direct analysis of the artist’s work, the writer ventures into the philosophical territories of Deleuze in his descriptions of Seers’ art, and only skims across the more obvious associations of her work with Lacan and Krauss. Burrows’ creative, probing and productive theorising proffers a stimulating analysis that suggests that Seers is re-imagining photography as an act that actually creates experiences, rather than documents them. He sees her photography and film works as being involved in affective indexical processes that are transformative as opposed to documenting; a conceit reflected in Burrows own writing style.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Human Camera is the clarity of voice achieved by Seers. Sandwiched between texts by the likes of science writer Phillip Ball, neurologist Chris Frith and philosophical aesthete M Anthony Penwill, the artist’s simple narratives chime in harmony with the strong folios of images included in the book and offer a welcome point of continuity in an otherwise disparate collection of texts. This is not to say that the other contributions are dense or oblique, only that from within the muddle of ontological touchstones, fictive encounters and dramatic memoirs, it is the words and images of the artist that provides an illustrious point of stillness. It is this effect that sets this text apart. As a medium, accompanying publications are most often used to interpretational ends. With Human Camera however, the creative and transformative impulse that is initiated by the artist is furthered by the writers; not contained. Most interestingly, the feelings of confusion that this causes, parallels the very sense of perplexity affected by Seers’ melancholy and boundary-stretching films.
Rosalie Doubal is a writer based in Edinburgh.