Lindsay Seers, installation view of Entangled² at Turner Contemporary, 2012
Seeing Lindsay Seers’s work is never straightforward. Her work is essentially video but it’s never as simple as watching something on a monitor or projected onto the gallery wall. Entangled² is no exception. Unlike previous works I’ve seen, Seers hasn’t built a space within a space to contain the work here. Instead it’s shown in an existing part of the gallery building but one the publicity material refers to as a ‘secret location within Turner Contemporary’. There are screenings every half hour; those wanting to see the work are met in the foyer and led out through the car park to the space. While this is something that could easily irritate me, I’ve found all the work I’ve seen by Seers so far really intriguing so I quite enjoyed loitering in the foyer and wondering who else was on a Seers-seeing mission. And, a real plus, it mean that the whole audience was in placed and headphoned-up before the piece started which meant no distracting comings and goings during the film. So far so good, but what about the work?
Arriving the space, the focus of attention is what turns out to be the projection screen. But rather than a single flat screen, this takes the form of a pair of large white orbs; these appear to be suspended inflatable spheres and as the work begins the image projected onto them makes them giant beachballs – we’re at the seaside after all – but even in their beachball-ness, there’s a hint of eye about them but eyes with white pupils. Those two ideas, hinted at as the opening image, form the basis of the work to an extent. In Entangled², Seers explores some of the stranger aspects of seaside culture but. characteristically, the starting point for the work is from Seers’s family history. Her great, great uncle had a condition called heterochromia which meant that his eyes were different colours something that can result from twins becoming one in the womb; the resulting person carrying elements of their subsumed twin’s DNA. This idea lies behind the paired imagery throughout, with a subtle colour shift between the two screens.
A further strange coincidence directs Seers’s thoughts here. The same great, great uncle was born in the same village and time as Vesta Tilley who became a music hall entertainer who, in a key tradition of music hall impersonated various male characters in her act and performed at music hall venues in Margate. The work then becomes a rich but confusing mixture of images and narratives based around the idea of one person being born with aspects of their lost twin’s DNA, the twin personae of entertainers who impersonate the opposite sex and the mixture of past and present as images of contemporary cross-dressing entertainers are interspersed with those of Vesta Tilley and Hetty King.
I find myself mesmerised and confused in almost equal measure. The confusion here is positive though; it’s down to the fascinating complexity of the piece. Nothing is easy in Seers’s work. As the different strands of narrative blend and intertwine – I suppose the clue was always there in the title – it becomes hard to know where the boundary between fact and fiction lies. The nature of the setting – a loading bay of some sort but for these purposes the raised platform effectively becomes a stage, placing us in a seaside theatre albeit one lacking the grandeur of the music halls – and the way film behaves when projected onto a three dimensional surface make this an intriguing experience. This is the sort of work that warrants undivided attention; given a little more time I would happily have gone back for a repeat viewing.