Author: Rebecca Geldard

Publication: ArtReview magazine, Issue 31

Press Date: April 2009

Lindsay Seers has been steadily building a narrative vocabulary over the past decade based, one is always led to assume, on her very colourful life. The London artist is one of several contemporary figures using video performance to resituate the historical subject within the current technological landscape. Seers’s eccentric stories and poetic Crimestoppers theatricalisation of past events bring to mind the tableaux vivants of Gail Pickering or the prop-based sequences of Saskia Olde Wolbers. Marine Hugonnier, specifically, appears to share Seers’s interest in the transmutative possibilities of time-based media and desire to both inhabit and unravel its means of capturing reality.

It Has to Be This Way (all works 2009) is a cult-shaped behemoth of a project, an architectural shadow world of angles and historical references that conceals a dark story. Here the stage set, film, book, archival materials and ‘making of’ documentary become a multidimensional facility for Seers’s research: into her missing stepsister’s past and the influence of technology on memory. While batting between its interdependent components can leave one wistful for the comparative simplicity of others of her recent video installations – Extramission 6 (Black Maria), through which she describes the childhood traumas that drove her to become a human camera, for example – Seers’s unnerving manipulation of the docufiction/docudrama genres is every bit as compelling.

While Seers never lets one nestle in the surety of narrative truth, like bottom-feeders hoovering up reality TV, certain ‘facts’ help the experience along. ‘Parkes’ is an art historian and alchemy aficionado who lost her memory following a bike accident in Stockholm in 1999 and then disappeared six years later in Rome, having assumed the persona of rumoured alchemical adept Queen Christina of Sweden – the subject of her PhD studies. A blue Globe Theatre (Rome)-shaped construction supports two films: one video projection supposedly narrated by ‘S’, an unstable Swedish actor-boyfriend of Parkes’s, whose monologue has been constructed from archival material (which he may or may not have written) by M. Anthony Penwill and features in a takeaway novella in the gallery reading room. The other is a docu-style TV short consisting mainly of video interviews conducted by Parkes with academic experts on Queen Christina.

It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of the spectacle and the press release, and run around trying to pin the referential tail on the contextual donkey, but not, as Seers does here, create a weblike state of inconclusiveness. Picking at any part of her process will lead you to some contradictory, but ultimately connected, territory. The only threat to the perfect invalidity of this folk story is Penwill’s documentary video, in which he interviews art professionals inside the half-built gallery installation about Seers’s practice. And although it’s interesting and, at points, as wonderfully vaporous as any of the other elements here, the experiential shift between this and the gallery space is like being woken up and shouted at. Still, it’s every bit worth putting the desire for logic aside and giving up resistance to being minced through this cleverly customised version of the media machine.