The overlooked, the questions that are inexplicable by science, the paranormal or what is marginalized by culture are some of the themes which Susan Hiller has been exploring since the 70’s. A ‘Paraconceptual’ artist (a term which denotes the contamination of the conceptual by the paranormal or the opposite) thus Susan Hiller transports her initial background in anthropology to her art practice, always focused on what is human, its conscience.
Susan Hiller, Aspects of the Self 1972 – 1985 is now on view at MOT International in Brussels. The exhibition presents a group of works (as mentioned in the title, from the 70’s and the 80’s) which include 10 Months, Monument or Bad Dreams. We might say Susan Hiller delves into what might seem “strange” themes but on the contrary, they are familiar, just as folklore that is blended into our culture. From automatic writing, visible over photo booth photographs, to a dream diary (Bad Dreams) hidden behind a velvet curtain.
10 Months, is a sequence of black and white composite photographs of the artist’s own pregnancy, through 10 lunar months (a reference to folklore) and by entries of the artist’s journal with records of body and mental changes occurring during this period. The belly photographs, are landscape, moon-like images. The lunar months, the lunar phases and the growth of a belly, are all sequenced in a descending installation, to which the black and white coldness, contrasts with the artist’s thoughts while questioning the role of being a woman and an artist.
On display is also one of the artist’s most renowned works, the installation Monument, which is composed by 41 photographs of plaques from a memorial in Postman’s Park in London. These plaques are placed in such a way as to create a cross and it refers to the individuals who died as heroes for saving the lives of others. The installation is also composed of a bench and a soundtrack, audible through headphones. The spectator is invited to sit on the bench and listen to the audio with the voice of the artist which becomes part of the work:
“You are sitting as I’ve imagined you with your back to The Monument. The Monument is behind you. The Monument is in your past. Do the dead speak through us? This is my voice, unrolling in your present, my past. I’m speaking to you from my here-after, the here-after.”
(part of the audio-track from Monument by Susan Hiller)
Susan Hiller questions the human conscience, what exists beyond its visibility and the limits of perception. The artist translates into images and sound what would only be part of our imagination, or of the cultural folklore. By touching the field of what is both individual and hidden in a collective culture Hiller approaches an affective communication with the spectator.
‘Aspects of the Self 1972 – 1985’ can be visited and experienced until the 26th of March 2016.
by Catarina Vaz