Susan Hiller at Tate Britain Until 15 May

Having known little or nothing of Susan Hiller’s work (and travelling miles up from Folkestone) I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to find a show that was thought provoking and unique.

Hiller’s work excavates the overlooked and ignored aspects of our culture, finding meaning in the mundane and outlandish through collected images and objects, to reveal other meanings and contexts that take on a life of their own. Each work, the result of painstaking research and gathered data, rehashed and presented as something akin to a serious scientific study, invites the viewer to consider the oddities in life as something remarkable, even beautiful and definitely humorous.

Dedicated to the Unknown Artists 1972-6 gives unexpected focus to works of the forgotten artists who photographed, painted and hand-tinted seaside town postcards, at the same time reminding us of our obsession with weather. Hiller’s postcard collection features huge waves frozen in their full glory pounding British seaside coastal towns. When framed together, these otherwise discarded reminders of a not-so-hot holiday, have a dated, eerie beauty through their repetition and the use of sepia and muted colours of a by-gone era.

Walking into a darkened space empty except for what seems like hundreds of star like objects, are in fact speakers each suspended by wire from the ceiling. As their metallic surfaces shine out in the darkness and draw you in, there is a murmuring of distant conversation which rises and falls in intensity. You soon realise the speakers have their own individual voice each telling its own story, a witness’ encounter with UFO’s or alien being. Witness: 2000 has an almost religious feel, that of walking through a cathedral with the whispering of prayer echoing and rebounding, but here giving the usually discredited a sense of heightened belief and importance.

Magic Lantern 1987, a film projection and sound work, reminiscent of early trade test cards and colour eye tests, explores the body’s response to colour as a pure form. As I sat watching and listening through headphones as if a volunteer in some experiment. Scratchy sound recordings of an obscure Latvian scientist (who believed to have identified language in noises recorded in empty rooms) and Hillier’s own rhythmical chanting voice, added to the notion of my being part of a bizarre Pythonesque lab test.

Image reproduced from Tate Britain

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About Tony Foster

As a professional painter Tony Foster has established a reputation as a mural artist, portrait and figure painter. Working in a variety of styles and media he has a knack of bringing any brief to life, a trait honed back in his advertising days. After recently graduating with a Masters in Fine Art, his time is divided between his work as a practicing artist and teaching art and design at a Kent college. He also works on art projects with special needs students at the Canterbury Oast Trust. Recent commissions include murals and paintings for alpine ski chalets, character developments for an international branding consultant and interior canvasses for Stanley Spencer’s house in Cookham. For more details, check out
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