HBL Exhibitions: Susan Hiller at Tate Britain

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Monument by Susan Hiller (1980-1) at Tate Britain. Photo: Tate Photography/Sam Drake

Visiting Susan Hiller's current solo exhibition at Tate Britain, WGSN-homebuildlife were struck by how much the prevailing themes in her work have in common with our A/W 12/13 macrotrend Radical Neutrality. Hiller investigates memory, language and imagination largely through assemblage and installation work, and many of her pieces fit with ideas central to Radical Neutrality, such as absence, faux uniformity and quiet protest.

Monument (1980-81) is a huge set piece which uses memorial plaques from a Victorian monument to civilian heroes, enlarged and then arranged to correspond to each year of Hiller's life. The bench in front of the plaques forces the occupier to face away from them, and provides a pair of headphones which involve the listener in a soundtrack by the artist. It's a moving experience to read about the heroics involved in this wall of lost lives, followed by Hiller's voice transcending from her past to your own present.

Witness by Susan Hiller (2000) at Tate Britain. Photo: Tate Photography/Sam Drake

Witness (2000) is an audio-sculpture which we found profoundly affecting. Visitors wander amongst a quiet cacophony of voices, all telling the story of their extraterrestrial experience in their own tongue. As you bend or stretch to access a headset, previously unheard voices become louder, to the point where you are surrounded by the articulated experiences - which then gradually die away again.

Tate Britain's caption describes an interesting aspect of the piece: "An inexplicable vision that might in previous centuries have been described as a religious experience is articulated here in the language of science-fiction. Whether imagined real or hallucinatory, the testimonies demonstrate an essential need for belief in the possibility of a further dimension, in something beyond the rational."

The exhibition will run until 15 May 2011 at Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG.