Post by Elisa Adami
I always knew that entering a fiction was to enter another dimension of the real.
What else is magic?
In Lindsay Seers’ works it’s always hard to tell the real from the fiction, the personal from the collective, the past from the present. All those planes that we strive to keep separate for clarity sake, appear mixed and entangled in the artist’s pieces. It is not by chance that Entangled² (Theatre II) is precisely the title of the last of the artist’s installations, currently on show at Matt’s Gallery (9 October – 1 December 2013). In this piece, Seers actually squares the tangle. Like in a game of mirrors, every part of the installation is doubled and reflected in a specular image. The work unfolds in pairs, both structurally and narratively. In front of a red curtain that obstinately stays closed, the comedy of doubles takes place. The film – or should I say the two films? – are projected onto two screens and are strictly meant to be seen by two viewers, sitting on two stools, peering through two portholes, from a second separate room. The all experience gains in intimacy and suggestive power from such rigorous limitations. The screens are inflated spheres that unmistakeably remind of human eyeballs: technical eyes that look back at the spectators. During the projection, the two floating globes restlessly change in form and connotation, shifting from actual eyeballs to beach balls, from disco balls to sailors cameos. At times the two cinematic flows merge and mingle in one single stream; the images transmigrate from one sphere to the other mimicking the combinations and fusions of the narrative characters.
From a narrative point of view, the skein is made up of at least three main threads. At a first level, Entangled² presents the story of Victorian music hall legends Hetty King and Vesta Tilly who became popular as male impersonators, dressing as dandies and sailors and singing love songs to the ladies. Both Tilly and King performed in Mile End at the Paragon Theatre, now the Genesis Cinema, not far from where Matt’s Gallery stands today. Yet, as a Russian doll contains its smaller duplicate, this ‘historical’ narrative encompasses its contemporary counterpart. In Seers’ film, the legendary drag kings of the past are performed by contemporary actors, whose personal stories are revealed along those of the old-days icons. The past is reflected and refracted in a modern-day phantasmagoria magisterially orchestrated by the artist. As the narrative unravels, we learn that one of the singers left a career in opera to perform as Tilley and King. She also tells us of her chance meeting with Seers and how she got involved (or would it be better to say ‘entangled’?) in the artist’s project.
The singer has one brown and one blue eye. This rare defect, called heterochromia, is probably the consequence of genetic mosaicism: the subsumption of the genetic material from an unborn twin in the womb. Again we are presented with a double, this time just a latent and potential one. The embryonic duplicate, this absorbed ‘twin’, manifests through the differently coloured eye; yet nobody can tell for sure which one belongs to the original. The spectator is left with the unsettling feeling that two different personas are simultaneously looking out through the same pair of eyes. Is the singer haunted by a germinal intruder? Or is it the other way round: her true self is trapped and imprisoned in the body of a stranger?
Seers is particularly fascinated by heterochromia. She has already explored this condition in previous works such as Monocular (2011) and in the first chapter of the trilogy Nowhere Less Now, exhibited in the Tin Tabernacle, Kilburn, in 2012. Her great-great uncle, the sailor Edward George, was affected by the same defect. Recalling her first meeting with the singer, Seers describes the mysterious almost magical connection she felt with her precisely because of those multi-coloured eyes. This random coincidence allows the artist to open a further thread in the narrative: she takes the opportunity to return, as she often does, to her family history. The artist’s autobiography is grafted onto what would seem a completely unrelated subject: the history of Victorian vaudeville. While images of past and modern drag kings dressed as sailors flow on the screen, Seers remembers the members of her family who were part of the British Navy: her great-great uncle, her father, her brother. The artist’s personal recollections are freely projected onto someone else’s pictures.
The change of narrative and the possible incongruities should not surprise the visitor. Seers’ work operates in a world where everything is interconnected in one way or another. In the novel she wrote in collaboration with Seers to accompany the installation Nowhere Less Now, Ole Hagen introduces an interesting character type which seems at the core of Seers’s practice: the connector. Hagen explains that:
There are nodes in the human network, people with a narrative significance beyond what they could possibly envision themselves, and beyond any conventional idea of historical figures representing recognized events. These people are more than themselves, more than people, somehow multiple.
The unnamed singer of Entangled² seems to be exactly such kind of connector. In the same way as each skein has its yard end, so she is the throbbing centre of the entanglement, or at least the focal point towards which all vectors converge, the place where all dychotomies dissolve. And this is possible precisely because she is more than herself; she is somehow double, or even better, multiple. The drag king is both male and female. While performing, she is at the same time herself, Tilley and King, and the various characters she gives a temporary life to on stage. Past and present blend within her and their opposition does not make sense any longer. The connector does not recognize this distinction, but navigates time according the not-chronological and not-linear pathways of coincidences and associations. Also the discrepancy between the Self and the Other seems to be definitely overcame. Seers seems to put forward the idea that ultimately we are part of a greater wholeness, of which meaningful coincidences and synchronicities are just the most striking manifestation.
Obiously only the artist can see a meaning in the singer’s multi-coloured eyes. She considers significant what for us would be just a curious, but ultimately neglectable genetic defect. Yet, if just for a second we are able to abandon our hard shell of scepticism, if just for a moment we surrender to the magic of a bewitching soundtrack and to the tight chain of coincidences and chance associations, perhaps we will be able to see as in a flicker the perfect coherence of the entanglement.
Please note: as only two people are admitted per screening, booking is essential. For more info visit Matt’s Gallery website.
If you want to know more about the artist, visit Lindsay Seers website.