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Monocular 2011/14 | 2011

Monocular 2011/14

Materials: Wooden structure, parts of a boat hut, window frames, reclaimed door, moss, tree trunk, metal chimney, deer skins, two synchronised 13 minute HD projections, 5.1 surround sound, drawing.

Monocular has taken a number of forms which have shifted to recognise developments in the narratve and differing geographical implications of the exhibition venue. These differing versions can be seen in Exhibitions http://www.lindsayseers.info/exhibition_node/363

The work was first shown in 2011 after which there have been a five versions each differing both in the structure and the film. The first version is a prefabricated wooden structure, the interior of which is rendered as if it is the exterior surface, giving the impression that the building has been turned inside out. But this inversion has some idiosyncratic details, such as a tree with a rustic box affixed to it, seemingly resembling a birdhouse; an old door; wooden stilts. It was constructed in Tromso, in northern Norway, as a flat-pack assemblage and transported to Lofoten in the spirit of its historical precedents. Inside the structure, the back wall is filled with two synchronised HD projections which cover the whole wall including the gable. The projection emerges from the 'birdhouse', which is in fact a replica of a food store traditionally used by the Sami.

The narrator of the projected film is Norwegian/English. Seers met this protagonist by chance when travelling in Norway researching prefabricated structures. The unnamed man, whose cropped face we see twice in the film, has a rare condition called genetic mosaicism, caused by the fusion of two fertilized eggs at a very early stage of gestation in the womb. One of the signs of his condition is heterochromia – possessing eyes of two different colours – one of which is derived from the absorbed 'twin'. We see his eyes in the photographs both before and after he has the brown eye removed, leaving him with a single blue eye (monocular).

He recounts how as a boy he was sent to boarding school, in keeping with a Norwegian policy of normalization, often called 'Norwegianization'. Like other children of Sami descent he was forbidden to speak the Sami language. This denial of the power of speech, or wrestling with language, is pervasive in the artist’s work (she herself did not speak until almost eight years old).

We learn that the narrator’s father was a reindeer herder who had been displaced during the German occupation of WWII after the Nazis had pursued a scorched earth policy in the north of Norway to discourage invasion by the Soviet Union. During post-war resettlement of the north, the Sami people were given prefabricated homes constructed to traditional mainstream Norwegian design. This installation in Lofoten draws reference to this history of alienation and isolation.

The narrative unfolds as if already written through endless coincidences and chance associations. The mesh of different modes of image and sound recording, of inter-related historical narratives and embodiment which characterise this artist’s work, envelops the spectator as he or she sits on the reindeer skins in the inverted hut. The hut is both theatrical and real: partly constructed from a hut found by the shore of the north Atlantic, and carefully pieced back together in a patchwork of archaeology, but in its reconstruction fundamentally different from its original form. Ideas of origins and authenticity are played out through both the film and the structure.

The opening sound track of the 13 minute HD video pulses in the rhythm of Morse code. A skilled Morse decoder could unearth a text by the Neoplatonist Plotinus embedded in the cutting of the images/sound – but no matter, this secret doesn’t need to be decyphered because the sense of an encoded world beyond what is seen pervades the work. The imagery, often shot with a moving camera, has a veritas as the artist literally seeks out her narrative.

What we hear in the surround sound track is the medium of film/sound talking to us as if it has become a man – it speaks of its haunted longing to represent. Like our protagonist’s unseen brother residing in his DNA, the implication is that this haunting is written into the medium even at the level of its structure. This embodied, encoded character emanates from the digital form like a genie from a bottle. Computer generated images of particles and genes emerge as we break through the skin of appearances to the structure of matter itself.

 

Reviews:

Author: Kjetil Røed

Aftenposten  10 September 2011.pdf (Norwegian language, translation below)

Video essay
By far the best work of the exhibition is Lindsay Seers' video installation Cyclops [Monocular]. The starting point of the work, is the story of a person who is about to lose sight in one eye, but serves as a reflection on repressed or forgotten aspects of one's life, and how these can still have an impact on someone who seems to have moved away from the past. Thoughts about lost opportunities and past perspectives end up re-emerging as the protagonist's self-reflection in the present awakens what was originally left behind. In other words, the work introduces an ambiguity; based both on actively remembering and utilizing what ordinarily remains in the unconscious.

The work is told through a voice-over and alternates between several layers of imagery - from documentary to stylized symbols. Seers' work is fully on par with the best of film essays – Chris Marker's Sans Soleil, for example, or Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinema – and it's exquisitely directed images in relation to the space the work is presented in.

 

Author: Line Ulekleiv

Seers_Monocular_Lofoten Fortettet festival.pdf (Norwegian language, translation below)

In Tønnefabrikken we also find Lindsay Seers' video installation Monocular, a brilliant work [of art]. In a dimly lit hall we enter a small house. Inside the body of the house we're told a story loosely connected to a medical condition called 'heterochromia' manifesting by a person having different coloured eyes. Fact and fiction, science and myth cannot easily be distinguished here, and the fragmented biographical [narrative] – about a person experiencing the discomfort of carrying remains of their own twin in their body – also 'sweeps by' is the nature of Lofoten and Sami identity. The mosaic-like editing of this film is seductive to the core. The film conjures up metaphorical considerations around sight and depictions per se. In this respect it connects with Seers' earlier attempts at actually becoming a camera though use of her own body, where the mouth acts as a camera body and the lips as aperture and shutter.

 

Source: Kuntskritik
Author:
Jon-Ove Steinhaug

Det Summer i Kabelvag
Something in the way. Lofoten International Art Festival 2011

Kunstkritikk – Det_summer_i_kabelvag.pdf (Norwegian language, translation below)

In Tønnefabrikken (The Barrel Factory) we also find a video installation by the English [artist] Lindsay Seers who tells a story where the difference between fact and fiction, biography and invention becomes ambiguous. The many narrative threads are spun around the medical phenomenon 'heterochromia' (which is a condition where the subject has two different coloured eyes) and connects a series of alleged «chance encounters». The film is about many things; about likeness and difference, about seeing with one eye, about a person who continues life carrying parts of his unborn twin brother in this form of a differently coloured eye, about a man Seers meets in England who has a Sami father, the cod wars of the 60s and 70s and so on. It is shown in a house-like construction reminiscent of a lavvo, with reindeer skins and all. The many elements form a seductive story we never fully grasp. For me these installations in Tønnefabrikken become the most interesting part of the exhibition, amongst other things in the way they created touch points and connections between themselves.