Notes de mon entretien avec Lindsay Seers le 2 février 2011 à Londres.
ML: Not separate fact and fiction; not wanting to know what’s real and what’s fiction. Am I interviewing the subject or the object?
LS: usually I don’t allow questions when I talk about my work.
ML: Your view of the image being inside and outside, the lack of separation (the lens would be one).
LS: This idea of trying to close the gap between inside subjectivity and external objectivity arose from desire which is innate photography to objectify, hold on to time, to reify what can’t actually be solidified, the eternal changing of the external world. It’s fragmentation holding back. Fundamental human desire to enter the eternal to progress from one point to another, the end is written, you will always reach it.
Objectify the world, reify it, getting into the library of the mind.
That Victorian idea (optograms, the retina image) , the mind as a storehouse of images, it relates to the longing for photographs, it promises much but delivers so little, memory is so difficult to keep hold of, slipping away
Collapsing the outside inside, The idea of becoming a camera (then, it’s related, a projector), it’s a pathetic idea, I can never keep it, but the sensation of making a photograph is very particular, because I know it’s falling in me, the same that it does to the eye. This cavity is used for speaking, for something sensual, for nourishment, it changes the peculiarity of the fact that the image that falls into it.
ML: The mouth as instrument of speaking: is photography as a language?
My sensation from doing it, it had more to do with being gagged, dumbstruck, the silence; the image replaces the oral, it’s also very uncomfortable, nauseating experience, drooling, gagging, disgusting process. At the same time it’s essential, it’s a ritualistic performative event. I have to have the big black sack, the paper sit in my mouth for some time, I need enough light, I have to brave the external world to do this strange thing. And I found that lying down is very effective way to get a good picture. Melancholic desire, trying to make an image, dark and doom
ML: Desire to record everything, to photograph everything, to have a library of all images of the world. I think of Borges, the infinite library with all the books, the map at scale 1. Was it part of your references?
Certainly, I like him a lot, I am very interested, by the creativity, imagination of that work, rather than a more pragmatic, structuralist reading of his work. But I was more influenced by Barthes, and then by some feminist theories like Luce Irigaray. I read a book by her, it was in my student days; all the arguments around objectification of the female body, and the gays being always male gays, this sort of idea. It enjoyed the discourse, but it was extreme. I think that inherently photography objectifies things, specifically the female thing to isolate it, a crime against feminity, the power structure like pornography. I wanted to break that, changing the politics of the photograph I am no longer the object I am the subject
Also I used my body as a vase, I had flowers in my vagina, I was upside down. It was serving and criticizing pornography at the same time. I wanted to change rules. Barthes’ ideas about death, a kind of closure on photography. Its ability to transform, to project. A kind of very negative theory, no playfulness, no joy.
ML: Involvement of your body, the black bag, strong image. Reddish color of the photos, because of the blood. Saliva, traces of the body. It’s never seen in photos, photography should be clean. Was it a transgression?
It was always problematic for me, I was coming from a fine arts background, not trained in photography. The truth, it was easier for me to do it that way, more true. If it is too perfect, it does not reflect reality, the body, movements, the framing of the teeth. It needs to show the way it is made. Always problematic; I have made pairs, records with a camera of the act of doing it, plus mouth photos next to it, objective and subjective. In that case, I want the camera photos to be technically well made, scientific, but the ones from me I want really have the marks
ML: Did you really make photos with your boyfriend, mouth to mouth?
Both kneeling, we had the sacks, we kissed. You can do it with just your lips, but I used a cart, it would be too vague an image otherwise, I want you to see the image. It’s a cannibalistic thing; back of the throat; you frame your lips like for a kiss. I have a video of us doing it, as well as the photos.
ML: Lots of trial and error, I assume, light, exposure.
Yes, even to get the thing you are photographing on the paper. That’s the joy of it, the surprise that it worked, the magical element. It always amazes me, you never know what’s going to come out. It can be beautiful. To feel that analog photograph pairing on the paper, it amazes me.
Yes I am still doing it, in Tasmania, I just made some mouth photographs, developing them in a cupboard there.
The theatricality of it is very important. Who is this person showing her photographs? This is why I became a vampire.
The process transforms me, and I transform the process. In Tasmania, I also made a black mask with a big Victorian bonnet, keeping the lights out when working, photographing structures, mission buildings. I wouldn’t do it again.
I am interested by the Free Masons: they perform theatrical rituals, they are acting. What’s the line between an act and a truth? Act of Photography is very performative as soon as you bring an object the camera to an event, it changes everything in that event; it’s a different level of consciousness. Are you a Free Mason?
Henri Bergson’s ideas on consciousness and memory, although he was against the idea of photography. He is my philosopher
ML: The story of discovering Ann Hamilton’s photographs in Dublin. For her it was just a technique, while for you it was your life? You thought that someone can do the same without the same corporeal involvement? Was it the shock that made you stop (or reduce) mouth photography?
She stabbed me. It was so similar, she even had also very short hair. It was exhibited in the place where I had worked. Seen by chance, a friend had the key of the rooms and said I’ll show you, I was not warned. I felt betrayed. She stole my work, that was my immediate reaction, she could have seen my work. Uniqueness of artwork is a complete fiction and it was probably just a coincidence.
ML: Did you stop or reduce also because of the feeling of the impossibility to record everything? The desire to record the world, that’s what drove you. A writer in book said the photographs are all self-portraits in fact. At some point, did you feel that it is an impossible task to record the world?
The idea is also in Vilém Flusser and Bergson. If you try to photograph a city from any single angle, you will have millions of images , but you won’t be able to do it, to understand that city. Flusser: endless project to photograph the world. The only answer is to break with that idea, to bring a new consciousness
ML: Vilém Flusser says also that all photos are already in the apparatus, are conditioned by it.
Yes it’s a lovely idea. The free photographers are those who break the system. I love that. Crazy ideas but important for me. The magical and the technological. Bergson is more important for me, but Flusser is important.
ML: Baudrillard, Vaccari also wrote about that.
I read Baudrillard, the idea of losing essential relationship to the world, because of simulation. One needs to get a glimpse, what Bergson calls intuition, slightly outside the possibilities of the mind, you just get a glimpse. Deleuze also, he is problematic for me; I am more bergsonian. But when he says that film can change consciousness and give us a glimpse of the nature time which we can’t see if you are in it, I agree.
ML: Can you tell me a bit how it has developed into your current work?
For me, it has to do with method. Bergson says intuitive practice. My practice, my method, how to change things. It’s essential. You must have an intuition of how it’s made to experience it well.
I don’t know what I am doing, but I am doing it, and then changing it, it’s my type of creativity
[she talks about her piece with her step sister] wearing a colonial costume. In a sense I am always a camera. In costume, trying to absorb the present. I had a camera in my hat, secret way of filming. White woman in West Africa, in this costume, it is very loaded. I put myself in a humiliating position. So I perform the role of recorder.
Building relations between various historical narratives (my mother, my sister, History)
Working on methods.
I also do live performances. Think of all my work as performative, that’s the process. Performance in relation to the video work, all autobiographical.
- projecting from my head, very sculptural, talking how I ended up there, my history, becoming a camera, futility and melancholy of it. Finally telling the truth…, making it more real
- similar, but no instruments, no projector, just walking around, telling stories
I am talking about myself, unlike the film.
I often wear wigs.
ML: Possessed and dispossessed, negative reality, positive photograph.
Also Candy Cannibals, also negative colors. To answer that round, pass through the looking glass into the language of photography.
Other works, me in landscape with aliens, puppets: alienation, becoming strange through the medium.
This strangeness of the negative, rather than questioning photography itself, has the virtue to show us the world. A negative takes you in this bizarre round, you see its falseness and at the same time, it is the most true image, it is an inverted picture into the world.
It’s a difference in kind, not in degree (Bergson), not the flip side like darkness and lightness. Idea of the negative state, you look dead, like an alien. Inherent qualities of the photography. It tells the truth, it makes you look dead. I am trying to play this game, I am going to be that for you already, you cannot enforce that on me because I am already it
ML: Any artists germane to your work?
Sophie Calle (my work differs, architectural installations; her work is a book, and idea, you don’t experience it in a space)
Jeff Wall: line between theatricality and truth.
I am much more influenced by literature than by work of other artists.
ML: Do you teach?
Yes, at Goldsmith and in Vienna [explains her teaching]. I focus on method, on practice, on the way they are making work, the process rather than criticizing their work.
ML: What about Ted Serios?
The only one who has never been disproven. I like his photographs a lot, very enigmatic. Unlikely character, drunk bellhop in a Chicago hotel. This phenomenon of photography, the psychic world, I enjoy that.
ML: Agnes Healy, spirit photos in Louvre with Indian Chiefs. Chéroux exhibit on spirit photos. What is “My Life as a camera”?
It was an article in a magazine, my first attempt at writing stories.
Perhaps you should meet Philip Ball, who wrote in my book, he will talk at the V&A Shadow Catchers symposium, he has done something with that show.
I would have thought they come more from structuralism, focused on process.