British artist Lindsay Seers endows her work with a touch of magic. Her video installations transport the viewer to a cacophonous wonderland inhabited by shamans, fortune-tellers, transgender ventriloquists, and people with strange medical conditions, where multiple narrative voices and film projections dissolve all sense of anchorage. In her 2012 work Nowhere Less Now, a historical photograph of Seers’s seafaring great-great-uncle George triggers an odyssey across generations and geographies, featuring blood sacrifice, Zanzibari slave trade, and Victorian secret societies, interwoven with themes of identity, memory, and veracity.
“It’s as if a whole universe could unfold from a photograph,” says Seers in her North London studio. “It was this idea of the mythology of a photograph.”
The artist photographs, films, and self-critiques her multilayered works, which are packed with philosophy, art theory, theology, and science. “The work is so dense, it tells you about itself, and I try to leave no gaps to be filled in by another—by an author, by a critic, by a reviewer,” says Seers, who trained in fine art at the Slade and at Goldsmiths College in London.
Prior to creating her elaborate installations, Seers transformed herself into a “human camera.” Placing photographic paper in her mouth, she exposed it using her lips as an aperture to produce oddly compelling images. Her installations retain that sense of performance, set in locations such as an inverted battleship in a former church, a Norwegian boat hut, and a peep show–style booth.
That collusion in Seers’s poetic universe is vital to appreciating her work. Her vision of the world, influenced by the French philosopher and mystic Henri Bergson, is one of interconnectivity, blurred reality and fantasy, and shifting concepts of self, time, and consciousness.
“I’m staging the pieces as full of artifice but I want you to feel the truth behind the artifice, and so the idea that the voices and the stories are really people’s stories,” she says. “Something of the flux between what is metaphor, what is created, and what is actual is where I think the pivotal points of the work lie.”
Elizabeth Fullerton is a freelance writer based in London. She is working on a history of BritArt to be published by Thames & Hudson.
A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 64 under the title “The Fantastical World of Lindsay Seers.”