Behind a slightly run-down high-street, weathered and dented, is a too little known London landmark: a Victorian corrugated-iron chapel (one of the last surviving in England) known simply as The Tin Tabernacle. Housed within this modest but spectacular building is Lindsay Seers’ most recent installation, Nowhere Less Now.
On entry, the viewer is presented with two items – a pair of wireless headphones and a book published especially for the show. The book, before knowing the contents of Seers’ film is quite curious. The seemingly autobiographical narrative within it focuses on a mysterious character named George Edwards and skips between times, fragments of memories and different first-person protagonists. Momentarily, where the book adopts a confusing and blunt style, it seems to dip into being written from the perspective of someone from the future remembering mortal life: ‘When I was human, there was always grime’ he writes. ‘You get up and try to start the day, but a layer of dust covers everything.’
The screening room, constructed in the shape of an upturned, naval boat, is entered after a short wait in the chapel’s tiny but charming ward-room. Behind the black-curtained doorway, two spherical screens (one concave above one convex) are revealed facing the tiered roof of a deck-house-like structure, upon which the audience is seated. There is a sense of being in a future conceived in the late-60s – a set, perhaps, from The Prisoner – surrounded by varying shades of block grey and faced with two, looming, white orbs.
The lights in the space dim to darkness and the spheres are illuminated upon which projected black and white shapes bend and distort. A fluctuating frequency, interspersed with electroacoustic flutters, enters on the headphones and then, a voice. A soothing female voice: ‘he said he came from a time when photography no longer existed,’ she says. Like the book, the film focuses on a character named George Edwards. It is deliberately enigmatic and muddled from the start, yet only to the point where it is still compelling and easy to follow. Questions naturally emerge whilst watching. ‘What time is this person from?’ ‘Who is George?’ ‘Did this all really happen?’
A monologue stretches throughout the film from the start onwards in a manner common to other works by Seers; the viewer is spoken to directly, slowly and in hushed tones and gaps are left between sentences as if it is a conversation with one side missing. Another theme of Seers’ work also emerges as a character is introduced who has, as do other characters in the artist’s previous films, eyes of different colours.
The idea that these eyes represent something alien – a twin consumed pre-birth – creates the basis of the film’s focus: strangers with the same name merging across countries and times, three George Edwards becoming one through a set of coincidences, discoveries and memories: ‘a stranger always within.’ The identity of this figure continuously takes on different forms, as Seers’ very own great, great uncle (a seaman born on the same day, 100 years ago, as the artist), a Tanzanian liberated slave from the same time (also a seaman), and, lastly, a man from the future who secretly gazes over photographs in a building like The Tin Tabernacle. Family histories, times and places become increasingly tangled as the film develops in its exploration of history, sea-faring and, eventually, masonry. The medium of the work fluctuates too between documentary-style film, photography, performance and computer animation, heightening further any sense of disorientation.
Unexpectedly, Seers’ own identity becomes confused also as it begins to spill into and fuse with that of artist and occultist Moina Mathers (Mina Bergson). Dressed in masonic dress, the artist’s explorations lead her to perform a gruesome sacrificial act at two ponds aptly named ‘the twins’ in Tanzania. The film ends unresolved.
From the seed of one name, George Edwards, Nowhere Less Now has constructed a strange reality set simultaneously in the past and future. This reality disappears as the lights gradually turn back on in the screening room. However, unexpectedly, it is dragged out into the present when the viewer exits the screening room into the ship-like interior of the Tin Tabernacle. It takes only a moment to realize the building is a Sea Cadets base where a small chapel memorializes the names of those lost at sea and where the small rooms have acted as sets in Seers’ film. It is easy to loose track of where you are here – it feels incredibly far from London. The rumble of the tubes passing below momentarily becomes the swelling of waves as one disappears into Seers’ story. But the question of ‘who is George?’ still remains unanswered even after exploring this space. Upon researching once at home, a motto taken up by Mathers/Bergson for The Hermatic Order of The Golden Dawn eerily appears to speak for the unidentified character, reading ‘Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum,’ – ‘I leave no traces behind.’
Text: Claire Hazelton
Nowhere Less Now, Lindsay Seers, 8 September until 21 October, The Tin Tabernacle, 12-16 Cambridge Avenue, Kilburn, London, NW6 5BA.