Lindsay Seers: Nowhere Less Now
Review by Tim Walsh
Lindsay Seers’ commission for Artangel begins as you cross the threshold of the 1863 corrugated iron church The Tin Tabernacle. One of the last surviving chapels of its kind in England, ownership of the building shifted seventy years ago to the Willesden & St Marylebone branch of the Sea Cadets. The interior is decked out with lifebuoys, an anti-aircraft gun sitting in the place of the altar, and other naval memorabilia. Previous Artangel works, like Ryan Gander’s ‘Locked Room Scenario’, took advantage of the pliability of a new space - an empty warehouse on the outskirts of Angel. Here in Kilburn, Seers has built her vast, complex two-channel projection and installation ‘Nowhere Less Now’ into a space that successfully grounds and contextualises the work’s premise (Seers herself refers to it as a ‘narrative structure’1). The work settles itself into the history of the site, hiding its seams within the vestiges of the previous occupants of the church. The whole thing exudes a convincing gravitas. For a work that weaves fact and fiction together so tightly, the blurred identity of its locale and relationship with Seers’ ambiguous work encourages a satisfying uncertainty.
Visitors wait for the work to begin within the Wardroom - a mixture of ship’s mess, rotary club hall and youth group kitchen. Upon entering the nave of the church, an unexpected scene reveals itself. Within the hull of an upturned ship, two ocular-shaped screens are suspended from the wooden keel. Viewers sit on deep steps that wrap around the bulk of the AA gun. Starting with the discovery of a photograph of her great, great uncle George Edwards, the thirty five minute video and accompanying narration documents Seers’ research trip to the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, in search of clues to her distant relative’s life. Described by the narrator as ‘the navel of the world’, Seers’ Zanzibar exists in a state of slippage - it has a tenuous hold on time. Messages from the future tell us of photography’s complete obsolescence, everything is recorded so much that the excess of production trivialises reality. Seers retraces Edwards’ steps across the African archipelago, visiting the bloated trunk of an ancient Boabab tree. Futuristic visions, Masonic conspiracy and naval navigation mix to create a heady combination of influences. A computer rendered figure of Georgina, George Edwards’ supposed wife, stands within a studio, flashing heterochromatic eyes and donning dark blue robes, emblazoned with the distinctive yellow Freemasons’ Square and Compasses.2
‘Nowhere Less Now’ testifies to Artangel’s ongoing insistence to support artists that create brave and pervasive experiences. Ultimately, the scope of Seers’ work is impressive, but also emblematic of an artist working confidently within photography’s expanded field.
1 Lindsay Seers, artist talk at Camden Arts Centre, 2 October 2012
2 The Masons’ symbol bears some resemblance to the shape of a sextant, a celestial navigational instrument used to plot the position of ships from the 18th century - one of which incidentally hangs on the Wardroom wall