Lisson Gallery is proud to
present the work of Susan Hiller for the first time at its main gallery space in
New York. The exhibition includes a selection of work from over four decades 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
in New York will include the multi-channel video installation Psi Girls (1999), two rare and
rarely seen paintings from the 1980s, new aura photo-portraits, a recent
installation of holy water medicine cabinets from her ongoing Homage to Joseph Beuys series and a
sculptural work on automatic writing, Homage
to Gertrude Stein: Lucidity and Intuition (2011).
Psi Girls, clips from five movies
show adolescent girls performing telekinetic feats. Over five 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.
The effect is unsettling; the soundtrack draws us into a dream-like daze, a
suspension of disbelief, only to suddenly shock us into distanced scrutiny by
the loud ‘white noise’ of a blank television screen. Then the sequence repeats
itself, each scene now on a different part of the wall and in a different fluorescent
explores the fluid interrelation between the rational and the irrational. Her
work is often dialectical, placing contradictions within a creative synthesis,
preferring to focus our attention on the liminal areas in between the deadlock
of incompatible meanings. In Psi Girls
she does not simply appropriate movie clips as ready-mades, but edits, collages
and compares them to tell their own story and comment on how altered states and
magical phenomena hold such a strong fascination in our culture.
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. A little-known painting by Duchamp titled Portrait of Dr. R. Dumouchel (1910) inspired Hiller’s aura works.
In his painting, Duchamp illustrated the ancient belief in auras by showing a
field of mystical colors emanating from the sitter’s body. In Hiller’s series,
she presents a collection of reworked internet-sourced portraits of people who
have been scanned for their auras by photographic means. These electromagnetic projections
produce clouds of colored light, illustrating the individual’s personal energy
field. While we might typically associate auras with historical representations
of saints, Hiller has purposefully worked with ordinary people from a variety
of cultures—describing their images as “metaphors of the self in the digital
age.” Hiller has made a new installation of fifty aura portraits, After Duchamp (2016–17).
in language and its layers of subliminal meaning, Hiller has experimented with automatic
writing since the early 1970s. This free-associational technique was adopted
by Dadaists and Surrealists, among others, to create writings or art with
involuntary actions and processes not under the rigors and discipline of the
conscious mind. Get William (1975/81),
one of Hiller’s earliest experiments in automatic writing explores this alternative mode of transmitting ideas
and images, blurring the boundary between consciousness and the unconscious.
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. Despite her early experiments with automatic writing, she
spent the rest of her life denying her interest, viewing her work as deliberate
and vigilant annotation. Hiller’s work excavates this ignored and suppressed aspect
of Stein’s legacy, and contextualizes it in this exhibition with an illuminated
collection of automatic writings and drawings From India to the Planet Mars (1999–ongoing), produced by a wide
range of people.
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.