The Tin Tabernacle, Kilburn, London
8 September–21 October 2012
by ANNE BLOOD
This building, marked by spiritualism and the sea, is now also the home of Artangel’s most recent commission by artist Lindsay Seers, Nowhere Less Now (2012) on view until 21st October (tickets for this new commission must be booked in advance). Upon arrival at the Tabernacle the visitor is given a headset and shown into a waiting room called the “Ward Room”, a tiny chamber filled with old photographs – including the young Queen and Duke of Edinburgh – and naval bric-a-brac. On the hour, a small group is led into the nave of the Tabernacle where a special viewing environment has been created: a wooden arc, that both mimics the shape of the church’s arched ceiling and resembles the body of a ship, holds a tiered platform where the visitors sit to view the two-channel film which is projected onto two spheres that seem to float one atop another in the centre of the room.
Born in Mauritius into a naval family, the point of historical and personal departure for Nowhere Less Now are three artefacts Seers inherited from her great-great uncle, George Edwards: a photograph of George in his naval uniform, another of his wife, Georgina, in Masonic regalia and her great-great aunt’s Masonic apron. These three items are the anchors of fact upon which the rest of the narrative of the film drifts away from and returns. As we learn more about uncle George (whose eyes were two different colours – one blue, one brown) Seers’s travels to Zanzibar where George was posted and later died. In the naval archives, Seers learns that her uncle was born on her birthday, exactly 100 years earlier, leading her to ponder the possibility of a parallel projection for the course of her own life and death. While in Zanzibar, Seers meets a young man who also came to the island in search of his great-grandfather, a liberated slave who served in the navy and after whom he is named - Edward George. And finally, after registering on Ancestry.com, Seers claims to have been contacted by a man who says he is from the future, also named George Edwards.
But the work is much more than a film, as many of its nuances are dependent on its installation. The work is site-specific, not only does Seers find a similar “tin tabernacle” in Zanzibar, but after the film finishes, the audience is allowed to wander through the rest of the church, where one notices that props from the film can be found stashed amongst the naval regalia. Even the colour scheme of the interior of the building – blue and brown – echoes back to the two different coloured eyes of uncle George, and perhaps so too do the floating orbs upon which the film is projected.
Trying to pick apart and clarify Seers narrative is in many ways inherently counter-productive. The stories that overlap and the connections that can be drawn across time are left for the viewer to draw together. In Seers’s work, she reminds us that a place triggers a memory. In many ways, the whole work itself is about the instability of memory; while it may be founded in fact, memories change over time, they may fade but also mutate. Time loses its linear progression in memory, and stories told by others about their past start to become interwoven with recollections we thought were all our own. Having gone in search for her great-great uncle, Seers inevitably drifts further away from him, but in the process creates an epic tale, steeped in science-fiction and superstition, which causes uncle George to live again in memory. The film, and the Tin Tabernacle, are well worth the pilgrimage.