Conceived specially for an arresting 19th century corrugated iron chapel in Kilburn, known as The Tin Tabernacle, Nowhere Less Now is British artist Lindsay Seers’ ambitious new installation. From the unlikely connections between the chapel, the birth of her great great uncle, George Edwards, the birth of Mina Bergson, artist and sister of French philosopher Henri Bergson, and her own birth exactly 100 years later to the day, Seers has created a journey across time. Entangling global histories with intimate stories, the work explores image-making mediums, sea-faring and migration.
One event leads to another in a world where coincidence takes on the character of necessity. The unfurling narratives project forward as well as backwards, from the present to a future when dates have become irrelevant and photography redundant. Combining photography, performance, video and animation, Nowhere Less Now is symptomatic of Seers’ relentless search for truths that remain elusive as they slip through the lens. Aesthetica spoke to Lindsay about the her installation.
A: Firstly, can you tell us about Nowhere Less Now?
LS: I start with a question – where does the past exist? But the starting point is from a notion of the philosopher Henri Bergson’s intuition as practice, to make art ontological. For me it’s how the lens affects consciousness, in the act of making and its later form as a work of art. Bergson claimed photography shows the limitations of the mind; a mind reflecting back its state, its desire for containment and preservation of the past. I wanted to find a way of making a work that is like being, the multi-layered fragmentary quality in which the mind and body are responding to moments that are dense with narrative, associations, feelings, thoughts and cross-references. I use a method that is performative. I travel to locations, meet people and follow chains of events as one thing leads to another. For the final art work, all the fragments find their form in relation to the place they will be seen. Then the matrix of the installation and the audience and the work comes into play.
A: What are the central concerns within this exhibition?
LS: Nowhere Less Now is an attempt to make a film that is ontological – that addresses being at the level of making and the level of viewing. The concerns are founded on what the lens does; both in the act of making, in its affect on an event in the process of recording, and in its impact when made into the form of an artwork.
A: What influences have played a role in developing these concerns?
LS: My work started with me being a camera; using my mouth as a camera, as a desire to address a Cartesian idea of inside and outside and how it pervades the world. That is the true state of selfhood, to try to find where the boundary is between oneself and the world. Actually there isn’t one but the impression that there is, is extremely strong. The lens gives a sensation, a quality that has some of the longing, desire, fear and anxiety to do with being and a spectral quality of life. Reflecting a decentred idea of selfhood that has many moods is central to my work; abstract, virtual, documentary, constructed and deconstructed. It is a fiction we require; to believe ourselves and the world to be consistent.
A: You have included photography, performance, video and animation in this exhibition. What inspired you to incorporate such diverse media?
LS: Genre is not autonomous in my work. My work must move across genre to show that the film is a vessel that can accommodate anything. So I don’t treat these categories; performance, installation, photography etc as autonomous. They are treated as one thing; everything is made with the other in mind somewhere in the equation. So the means of recording across media from very different types of cameras, moving and still, is defined by a notion of doubling and movement. The theatricality of the installation is about the theatricality of recording and viewing. The performance is very much about the theatre mundi idea of everything as performance. The work is steeped in Neoplatonism, but this is deconstructed through the influence of Bergson.
A: What motivated you to choose the 19th Century chapel in Kilburn as the project space for this exhibition?
LS: The Tin Tabernacle found me, but I’d already found another in Africa before this. The work has an odd life of its own where things are entangled, so when something emerges such as the church, looking back it was already present and about to arise to come into consciousness. Its relationship to the photograph of my great great uncle George on the ship has many narrative associations that unfold in the film.
A: What’s next for you?
LS: The next thing for me is to make a part two, which is driven by a photo taken on the deck of another ship working out of Zanzibar in George’s time called HMS Penguin. This involves travel in Australia and perhaps Mauritius. This also relates to another Tabernacle shipped from Bristol to Australia. A lot of time in archives is ahead …
Nowhere Less Now, Lindsay Seers, The Tin Tibernacle, 12-16 Cambridge Avenue, Kilburn, London, NW6 5BA. www.artangel.org.uk