Saturday, 5 February 2011
Celebrate Susan Hiller!
It was my pleasure last week to go to the opening at Tate Britain of Susan Hiller's show. This wonderful showcase of the talent of an artist whom inspired me over a decade ago with her work in the Material Culture show at the Hayward Gallery. For 2 years whilst at college in Australia I had used a book called The Myth Of Primitivism edited by Susan Hiller. At the time I had no idea that she was also an artist, so was thrilled when the connection was made at the Hayward exhibition when my favourite work in the show turned out to be by her. From The Freud Museum is a truly inspired body of work, whereby 50 custom made anthropological collecting boxes are filled with items both found, made, antiqued and assembled by the artist. The talk at the Hayward was where I finally had my chance to meet her and ask if I could conduct an interview about the work for my final dissertation for my BA. She agreed as long as my questions were good enough. Fair enough I thought and got to work.
The result of which earned me a distinction, so I guess it was ok. I focused my energy on only 3 of the boxes which were so laden with meaning I couldn't have possibly done the whole piece. Her work focused on the things in Freud's house (now The Freud Museum) that weren't catalogued. Freud obsessively catalogued anything and almost everything that came into the house, from cutlery to art and kept detailed records. In finding things, objects and curios that had not made it onto the list Hiller began her work to construct her major work, which is now part of the Tate's permanent collection.
This work is only a fraction of what is on show. Witness is an amazing installation, with hundreds of speakers hanging from the ceiling casting UFO-like shadows on the walls. Each speaker has been stripped back to its bare necessities to form the right shape for the shadow. I first saw this at The Chapel and the use of the chapel set the scene and atmosphere beautifully. The next best thing is the Tate installation. Experiences of UFO's from all around the world are played through the speakers. Walking through it is a dreamy experience.
Talking of dreamy experiences, Dream Screens is proof of how ahead of her time Hiller is. Go to the link and click on the screen at different points, it changes colour as the narration plays. Bearing in mind this was done in 1996! This is not in the show and is fully interactive. So if you don't make it to Tate Britain by May 15th (and there are few excuses for this) dip into Hiller's work from the comfort of your own computer.