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It has to be this way ¹˙⁵ 2010/2015 | 2015

It has to be this way ¹˙⁵ 2010/2015

Materials: Cardboard and wooden structure, 22 minute DVD projection with 5.1 surround sound onto two masked MDF circular screens on mobile TV arms, monitor with headphones embedded in structure wall, free novel to take away.

Text: Why it has to be this way. Author: David Burrows.

Transcription of a talk on It has to be this way¹˙⁵ by David Burrows for Aspex Gallery, 11th November 2010

[Extract] "It seemed that Lindsay Seers' work traces a line between narratives of loss, isolation and disappearance and the narratives and processes of connection and multiplicity (and a consciousness of connectivity and matter - life as a vital force). I thought I sensed a tension here between narratives of finitude and disappearance and those of connectivity and multiplicity which hinged on forgetting, or on losing one's self.

But then recently, when rereading my notes, a thought occurred to me: perhaps what I view as instances of trauma in Lindsay Seers' narratives might not be so. Or at least, a more dynamic relationship between disappearance and loss and connectivity and multiplicity might be drawn. When dead images come alive, when the finite is overwhelmed by the infinite, a frightening transformation can occur - frightening for the creature of habit that is - which involves a violence of a kind through overcoming a fixed relation to an image. How else would a time traveler experience the present as an effect of the past - they forget everything they know and remember everything they do not know?

There is an event in It has to be this way which triggered this thought. Lindsay's mother finds her step-sister Christine in hospital suffering from amnesia. She shows Christine a series of photographs to see if her memory will return. We are told that Christine arranges the photographs like Tarot Cards. Now Tarot cards in skilled hands reveal or predict the past or the future, and may even shape the future (through suggestion perhaps, but even so the cards have their influence). At least we might agree that Tarot Cards might be said to open up potential interpretations of the past and future, if not the potential of the past and the future. To treat photographs as tarot cards is to free them from their function as records of events and things that have since passed and disappeared. And this episode might be an indication of how Lindsay Seers, who lives, as I think, almost entirely in the imaginary, might think of the potential of the photographic image. This is why the lens produces consciousness for her.

This almost mystical aspect of Seers work is somewhat surprising and complex. How to explain it and its relation to her practice? It is best explored through the artist's identification with John Dee and his works. For in answer to my final questions concerning the photograph she replied: 'I like Dee's hieroglyphic monad'

John Dee was an alchemist from the time of the Tudors who spoke with angels. Seers makes reference to, and includes an image of Dee's hieroglyphic monad in It has to be this way. What is a hieroglyphic monad? In 1564, in a mystical state, Dee produced hieroglyphic symbols intended as representations of the reality of the monad, a singular entity from which all material things are said to derive.

Lindsay asked me (though I suspect she already knew the answer): ‘Can a photograph be like a hieroglyphic symbol?’

For Lindsay Seers, the photographic or film document would be just this then, a special symbol or sign. An indexical sign no doubt but one that registers a cosmos from which all material things emerge. This explains, I think, why Lindsay Seers rejects the image as a fragment of the past that is always viewed from the vantage point of the present, as habit demands. She rejects this structuring of time as insufferable and deadly and embraces all images as living things connected to all other images (to all other things). For Lindsay, it has to be this way!"

[Read the full text by clicking the link below]

David Burrows – Why it has to be this way.pdf

Extract from: review of It has to be this way1.5 Matt's Gallery (2009). Author: Chris Fite-Wassilak, Art Monthly.

It has to be this way balanced its several modes of presentation effectively, but in progressively decreasing amounts of ostensible objectivity. At the entrance to the gallery was a library-like foyer, where a short documentary was screened of talking heads discussing elements of the work (handily broken down into chapters: ‘Memory’, ‘Theatre’, and ‘Memory Theatre’), and copies were provided of a publication containing letters and notes on which the show was based, both by M. Anthony Penwill.

Acting as a sort of fact-gathering, pep-talk den that attempted to begin digesting the work before it had been ingested in the first place, it also gave us the background story: Christine, a scholar on the 17th century Queen Christina of Sweden (a figure who, due to masculine aspects of her character, has become a transgender icon), was involved in an accident that incurred severe memory loss. Papers that apparently came into the artist's possession after her disappearance also revealed Christine’s disintegrating relationship with a man identified only as ‘S’.

The gallery space was dominated by a royal blue stage structure – a simplified replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – punctuated by two intrusive, crystalline star sculptures of the same colour. Hiding behind one of these was a short video, which through a series of layered, overlapping monologues wove together a portrait of both Seers’ step-sister and the Swedish queen. Interviews with historians of the monarch were intercut with the views of film critic Rachel Moore, who claims to have met Christine, creating the impression of a single, fused character whose most definable trait seemed to be a resolute indeterminacy.

The whole room rumbled with bass tremors emanating from the stage, which turned out to be the halting, staggered thoughts of S. Entering the theatre, we are inside his head, a dual projection of two circles looking out as he goes over the time from the accident to Christine’s disappearance. Through the callous apathy of his narration, what emerges is a set of relationships to imagery, particularly photography. Seers’ mother, looking after Christine in hospital, provides her with a box of old photos in an attempt to jog her memory and awaken her dormant personality. Christine, unable to recognize anyone in the images, instead arranges them as a set of tarot cards, turning their indexical record into a generative set of possibilities of the present. S takes her use of the photos as surrogates of her thought processes, going so far at one point as to take an image of the actress Harriet Bosse in shackles as a suggestion of masochism. Implicit in all this is Seers’ own methodology, involving us in the breadcrumb trail of hints and insights the images might provide. Despite this intense proximity, however, S’s own motivations or personality don’t become any clearer. The protagonists remain conspicuously absent from any of the imagery; the only shots supposedly of Christine, she faces away from the camera.

Seers has previously mixed autobiography and history to suggest an alternative family tree of the image, as in Extramission (2005), using a combination of the testimonials from familial stand-ins and the opinions of apparent experts in a television documentary style. It has to be this way goes further, literally stepping inside the talking head, taking the video’s projection as a simultaneous act of hers and our own projection of character onto these misplaced protagonists. The maze of archaic references to Neoplatonism and Swedenborg, hiding at their core a raw, personal trauma, is strongly reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s Valis (1981), its obsessive cosmology disclosing a defensive escapism. Here, through potent allegory that may or may not be true, we are presented with the question of how images are interpreted and used in the present tense, the question of what we can know from an image. For Seers, it remains impossible to answer, a space where fact and fiction are co-dependent, and which inevitably has to remain an open wound.