Lindsay Seers' film based installation at Matt’s Gallery, entitled It has to be this way, is a work of epic proportions; it took years to create and involves two films by the artist as well as a film and accompanying novella by artist M. Anthony Penwill. The exhibit is engulfing in its construction; upon entering the show you find yourself in a darkened and encapsulating dome-shaped theater surrounded by massive molecule-like sculptures. The electric blue lighting of the spherical screens gives the sensation of being underwater, or at least swimming through some sub-realm of reality. Ultimately this show is a portrait of a woman, a dense and intimate study of a character named Christine who lost her memory in a motorcycle accident and has been missing for eight years. Her mysterious story unfolds as the viewer travels from room to room. The first film is a semi-surreal narrative told through the eyes of Christine’s lover. The second is a compilation of scholarly interviews on the subject of Queen Christina of Sweden; at the start of this film the artist reveals through subtitles that Christine is her stepsister. The final film by Penwill revolved around various people connected with the work discussing the issues raised by it; the nature of photography, the subjectivity of memory, and the idea of art as a “re-presentation” of an actual event are among the topics addressed.
Seers' project is overwhelming in many respects, and it seems difficult to distill an ultimate sentiment to take away from the whole. What I found most striking was a sense of movement within the piece that seemed to operate in two directions simultaneously. The stylistic movement from narrative to documentary depersonalized Christine, yet the more I watched the more I learned about her and the more personal her story became. The first film is intimate. We are literally inside her lover’s enlarged cranium gazing through his eyes, listening to his thoughts. The realization of Seers' connection to Christine in the second film further pulling me empathetically towards the story, yet this effect was a sharp contrast with the impersonal nature of its documentary style. Penwill’s film and book explain the story even further, yet now Christine is a mere utility. Her story has become art and this art is an exemplar of philosophical thoughts. When Christine is at her most tangible she becomes again an illusion. It is a haunting transition. Is that they way it has to be? Is this the inevitable outcome of examining a highly personal and tragic experience through art? This and many other questions lingered with me after leaving this commendable and absorbing exhibit. Now I shall contemplate why everything was blue.
(*Images, from top to bottom: Lindsay Seers, It has to be this way, January 14 - March 15, 2009; Matt's Gallery, invitation image. Lindsay Seers, It has to be this way, 2009, video still, courtesy of the artist and Matt's Gallery, London. Lindsay Seers, It has to be this way, 2009, video still, courtesy of the artist and Matt's Gallery, London.)