Pioneering is a word often used in conversations about the work of Susan Hiller, who sadly died in January of this year before her planned fifth exhibition with Matt’s could be realised. The influential American artist, who moved to London in the 1970s, was one of the first to exhibit at the gallery in 1980. ‘Ghost/TV’ is testament to her 45-year relationship with the organisation and its director Robin Klassnik, not to mention the vast reach of her multidisciplinary practice and innate curiousness for materials and the otherworldly.
‘Running on Empty’ (2017), with its supernatural visuals and the muffled sounds of Hiller and Klassnik in conversation, appears made for this space and this moment. The film, like an abstracted, Kafkaesque episode of ‘Most Haunted’, is a 2017 recording of the pair investigating odd messages communicated on the screen of a cathode ray TV that had previously been programmed with information about near-death experiences. The set was one of 103 destined for use in a 2013 audio-sculptural installation at Matt’s, ‘Channels’, and had been sat in storage ever since.
As one or other of the collaborators bash the box to get it working, a timer appears to count eerily down from 5 minutes, while the telly’s memory sputters an impertinent set of textual instructions: channel 1 appears programmed to BBC1, 3 to ITV, yet numbers 7-9 read ‘Fuck’, ‘Video’, and ‘You’, respectively. Towards the end of the video, the (non)question ‘Who wants to live forever’ fades in and out of view. Speaking to us from the past, and from within the meta layers of an art practice, this work is as definitively ephemeral as any possible ghosts in the machine. It’s a total privilege to witness such rarely evidenced information about the vital in-between processes of making works and staging exhibitions, and the spectral power of visual art archives.
Suzanne Triester: ‘From SURVIVOR (F) to The Escapist BHST (Black Hole Spacetime)’, Annely Juda until Nov 2
A friend and collaborator of the late Susan Hiller, Suzanne Triester is equally maverick in sensibility as an artist who uses new tech and is hell bent on finding things out. Her visualisation of data is stunning to behold for the express purpose of pulling us in to a vast base of incredibly detailed and thoroughly investigated research. Triester has just executed a virtual take-over of the Serpentine’s website to coincide with this solo presentation at Annely Juda, which frames the future of humanity in a factional universe littered with black holes and psychedelic vistas from the “post-futuristic sublime”. This beguiling, bonkers and brilliantly tongue-in-cheek wonderland of paintings, drawings, sound and screen works exists as two bodies of research. In ‘SURVIVOR (F)’ Triester appears to toy with the limits/potential of human use of tech and scientific knowledge, while ‘The Escapist BHST’ is defined as “a non-specific interplanetary entity”, possibly home to many poetic journeys around the known and unknown parts of the knowledgesphere. Thanks to a portal “located somewhere inside a painting of an imaginary museum in outer space”, we are able to flit at will between both.
David Cotterrell: ‘Truth.Lie.Lie’, Danielle Arnaud until Oct 12
Cotterrell is known for his publicly sited works focused on the local aspects of particular territories, in ways that reveal much about modern citizenship and different forms of governance. He has an uncanny ability to zero-in on the issues of the day before they have become fully formed in the wider consciousness, accessing places and knowledge systems with the dogged commitment of an explorer and mindset of a socially motivated engineer with high production values. Cotterrell has used the London tube network CCTV system, flown drones over contested sites when words like ‘surveillance’ and ‘landlocking’ were not yet part of the everyday vernacular and, as an official war artist in Afghanistan, was permitted the use of recording technology. With ‘Truth.Lie.Lie’, given the current political landscape of fake news and the gross misuse of public data, he is once again on topic. Working with Sri Lankan playwright, Ruwanthie de Chickera, Cotterrell has extended the project focus far beyond Brexit to cover a variety of time-based investigations into: violence and memory in post-genocide Rwanda; anomalies present in the press coverage of the second Gulf War; the subjective nature of translation using Sri Lankan Sinhalese narratives and; identity as explored through the official documentation of both Israeli and Palestinian individuals.
Graham Ellard/Stephen Johnstone: ‘Fossil’, The Weston Studio, Royal Academy Schools, until Nov 6
It’s always an extraordinary experience, walking through the RA Schools, its corridors stacked and bedecked with all kinds of antique human-shaped and decorative stone work. This part of the building smells like you hope the past might – of oil paint, books and with top notes of church vestry – reassuringly analogue. These details are the focus of Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone’s 16mm film ‘Fossil’, currently showing in the Schools’ Weston Studio. Created from three-years of footage, it follows the difficult and often ungainly process of uncovering and removing particular architectural casts, friezes, capitals and columns. They had previously been used as teaching aides by the architectural school, then covered up by temporary walls in the 1950s when it closed. Image stills show exquisitely carved chunks of matter rinsed in the colours of the dark room. Given the scholarly interests of both artists, I’m imagining the film as something of a visual essay on excavation; of the building and its history and that of the many means and modes of recording revered objects through a lens.
Lisa Brice: Stephen Friedman Gallery, until Nov 9
Last year’s Art Now exhibition at Tate Modern firmly pushed South African, London-based painter Lisa Brice into the spotlight, and for all the right reasons. The easy virtuosity of her skills and couldn’t-give-two-fucks languidity of her female subjects, wearing the references of a very male art history like disposable fashion, made for an engaging combination. Naturally the muses in her latest works, on paper and canvas at Stephen Friedman, take no prisoners. Propped semi-nude in doorways and the lushly described interiors of houses, of possibly ill-repute, they chuff on cigarettes like curiously contemporary flappers. Though they appear to be as much makers as on the make, drawn with seductive lines into moments of self-expression, with mirrors, palettes and crime-scene pools of paint. It’s as if the female subject has jumped out of pose and through time to take back possession of her body and her gifts. Brice puts paint through every recording process its capable of, yet the rooms remain charged with a palpable sense of mystery.