Seers' is the first artist to use this technique of using the mouth cavity directly as a camera, her work on this began in 1995 when she was working at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London and more substantial experiments were made possible by the Artist's Work Programme at The Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1997. Beginning in black and white the works became colour toward the end of the residency in Dublin. She has produced hundreds of images in this way. The narratives and content of these works have found themselves into her filmic works such the Extramission series (Exramission 6 is in the Tate collection and Extramission 2 is in Rugby Art Gallery and Museum collection). Extramission has its own site www.extramissions.com
The question of embodiement and technologies realtionship to it remains central to her work.
Excerpt from Richard Grayson's text for SMART Papers: Lindsay Seers: Swallowing Black Maria 2007
Technologies are uncanny. Arthur C. Clarke famously proposed in his `Three Laws of Prediction´ (Profiles of the Future, 1961), that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and with photography the magical loading has been felt from the first. Not only was the photographic process used from its early days to document séances and psychical manifestations (and so to prove them 'real' as the medium quickly claimed an indexical authority) but the very nature of the process seemed to place the viewer in new relationships to ideas of where consciousness could penetrate. After seeing the first exhibition of the Lumière Brothers´ films in Paris, a writer for the Newspaper La Poste, wrote on December 30th 1895, "…photography no longer records stillness. It perpetuates the image of movement. The beauty of the invention resides in the novelty and ingenuity of the apparatus. When these gadgets are in the hands of the public, when anyone can photograph the ones who are dear to them, not just in their motionless form, but with movement, action, familiar gestures and the words out of their mouths, then death will no longer be absolute, final."
We can feel technology re-imagining and re-modelling the world in Kipling's tale of the doctor, in the police photographer peeling open the corpses eyes. Lindsay Seers´ introjection of photographic media and the photograph's flux of mirroring and exchange, of mimesis and reflection, makes this the matter of her work, how the image can make meaning and the inanimate shape the animate.
To meld with a machine is a dream of modernism and the modern age. We see it in Arnold Schwarzenegger's half-ripped half-metal face in the `Terminator` movies, and in Dziga Vertov's 'Man With a Movie Camera', where the camera represents a new objectivity and reality that displaces and replaces that of the human being. Vertov wrote: “In the face of the machine we are ashamed of man’s inability to control himself, but what are we to do if we find the unerring ways of electricity more exciting than the disorderly haste of active people.” Seers' project rejects the futuristic modernist drive of these images, the teleology implicit in the meeting of human flesh and technology, and chooses instead to absorb the function of the camera into her lips and mouth rather than its matter. It becomes embodied and human. When she does use prosthesis to achieve her ends, the technologies are relatively simple, home-made – the ventriloquist dolls she constructs or the helmet used when she wishes to project images. The theoretical underpinning of these technologies is not entirely located in the cybernetic world but in theatre and alchemy. The strange mechanics of making an image through taking it into the mouth distantly recalls practical puzzlements of religious thinkers in the Middle Ages seeking a non-metaphorical understanding of how the Virgin Mary might be impregnated without her hymen being broken came up with images of light passing through a window pane or doves whispering sound into the ear.
Ideas of the Human are always returned to, and the equations of the technological and the individual are constantly blurred and shifted: the technology takes on a frailty. We know the importance of the photograph in Seers´ own development and they are also the means of making her visible to others. However, they do not maintain an indexical distance but become muddied, humanized: Eisenbud has hundreds of photographs of Seers that were taken by a Frank Weston…” at worst you could call him a stalker, at best a researcher”. The distance that scientific and technological methodology presupposes becomes inhabited and colonized by human psycho-pathology.
Importantly, we learn that Seers´ attempt to become a camera fails and is abandoned. In another mirroring she gives up the project when she discovers that an artist in Dublin is also taking photographs with her mouth. As the photograph of herself robbed Seers of her eidetic recording function, the discovery of a functional double means that she can no longer take images into herself. She has to find other means of relation. And to solve her predicament she turns to ventriloquism. However, the dolls (her doubles and projections) that she surrounds herself with rarely speak – only in the film 'Intermission' do we hear sound coming out of a dummy's mouth, and even then, this seems autonomous, without an operator. Instead they conceal a camera's mechanism in their wooden jaws, and are an agent sent into the world to do what Seers´ own mouth used to do. And still the realm of photographic image cannot be left behind. Indeed such is the penetration of its narratives that it turns out that 'Bill', one of Seers´ dummies, is in fact 'Stookie Bill', the doll used by John Logie Baird in his early television demonstrations.