Susan Hiller is an influential pioneer of Multimedia Installation Art recognized for her early adoption of video as an artistic medium and for her ability to transform conventional gallery spaces into haunting, immersive environments. Hiller combines the archival tendencies of Conceptual Art with an emphasis on psychologically charged subjects, from war memorials to paranormal phenomena.
By Dimitris Lempesis
Photo: Lisson Gallery Archive
Susan Hiller’s solo exhibition includes a selection of work from over 40 years of her career focusing on themes to which she has often returned, encapsulated in the title “Paraconceptual” which sites her work “Just sideways of Conceptualism and neighboring the paranormal”. Hiller has committed her practice to examining the cultural undercurrrents of society and its belief systems. Using a method she describes as “A kind of archaeological investigation, uncovering something to make a different kind of sense of it”, Hiller probes the unseen, unheard, unspoken and unexplained, and in the process has explored subjects such as lost languages, telepathy, dreams and automatic writing. The exhibition includes the multi-channel video installation “Psi Girls” (1999), two rare and rarely seen paintings from the ‘80s, new aura photo-portraits, a recent installation of holy water medicine cabinets from her ongoing “Homage to Joseph Beuys” series and “Homage to Gertrude Stein: Lucidity and Intuition” (2011), a sculptural work on automatic writing. In “Psi Girls”, clips from 5 movies show adolescent girls performing telekinetic feats. Over 5 large screens the girls exercise their fierce and concentrated gaze to move objects by thought alone. Each part is tinted a different color and is at first silent, then joined halfway through by the pulsating, seductive rhythm of a gospel choir. Since 2008, Hiller has made a number of works in homage to other artists including: Gertrude Stein, Joseph Beuys, Yves Klein, Marcel Broodthaers and Marcel Duchamp. In “Portrait of Dr. R. Dumouchel” (1910), Duchamp illustrated the ancient belief in auras by showing a field of mystical colors emanating from the sitter’s body. In Hiller’s aura series, she presents a collection of reworked internet-sourced portraits of people who have been scanned for their auras by photographic means. Hiller has purposefully worked with ordinary people from a variety of cultures describing their images as “Metaphors of the self in the digital age” in a new installation of 50 aura portraits titled “After Duchamp” (2016-17). The desk and book sculpture “Homage to Gertrude Stein: Lucidity & Intuition” (2011) functions as both a monument to the author and as a selective library on the topic of automatic writing. The exhibition also includes “First Aid: Homage to Joseph Beuys” (1969–2017), a display of first-aid cabinets containing miniature phials filled with water taken from holy wells and streams, which references both Beuys’s ability to endow ordinary materials with sacred values and the potential healing power of art.
Info: Lisson Gallery, 504 West 24th Street, New York, Duration: 28/4-10/6/17, Days & Hours: Tue-Sat 10:00-18:00, www.lissongallery.com