TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT Summer 2009

TOP TEN

Lindsay Seers

British artist Lindsay Seers works in a variety of media, including performance, photography, and large-scale video installation. Her recent solo exhibition, “It has to be this way,” opened in January at Matt’s Gallery, London, and her video Extramission 6 (Black Maria), 2009, was included in the fourth Tate Triennial at Tate Britain, London, this past spring.

  1. LA PASSION DE JEANNE D’ARC (THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, 1928)

    Its dialogue drawn from the original trial documents, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s film is primarily composed of close-ups. The expressive face of Jeanne (played by Maria Falconetti) is like a flame that flickers and then radiates with an insane intensity. The actors’ silent exchanges are punctuated with intertitles that, significantly, come after the emotive experiences. Jeanne was condemned as a heretic—in part due to a technical point in biblical law concerning women wearing men’s clothes—and was allegedly burned at the stake three times. Dreyer’s negative of the film was destroyed by fire, and a second, reconstructed negative is thought to have been burned as well; an original print in excellent condition was discovered in 1981, by happenstance, in a closet of a Norwegian mental institution.

    Carl Theodor Dreyer, La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc), 1928, still from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 110 minutes. Jeanne d’Arc (Maria Falconetti). Carl Theodor Dreyer, La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc), 1928, still from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 110 minutes. Jeanne d’Arc (Maria Falconetti).
  2. LEGEND, STOFT OCH VERKLIGHET (LEGEND, DUST AND REALITY)

    In this 1965 television documentary, we see men in white coats chiseling open the sepulchre of the seventeenth-century Queen Christina of Sweden in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. When the tomb was opened, the Swedish experts, interested in resolving questions about her eccentric behavior and habit of dressing as a man, mused over her pelvic bones for any signs of intersexuality. For personal reasons (a missing sister who had been fascinated by the monarch), I went to Sweden last year in pursuit of Queen Christina; this recording, loaned to me by the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, was the closest I felt I got to her.

    Legend, stoft och verklighet (Legend, Dust and Reality), 1965, still from a TV documentary on Swedish television. Legend, stoft och verklighet (Legend, Dust and Reality), 1965, still from a TV documentary on Swedish television.
  3. TED LEYSON, GARBO, 1990

    The torture of being hunted by the lens. This photograph was taken by Garbo’s stalker Ted Leyson, whom the actress battled for ten years. It was the last documented picture of her, taken as she left her apartment to be admitted to the hospital shortly before her death. Her fragility and the photographer’s obsession create a painful fidelity to the moment. This image touches me far beyond the Platonic face of the young Garbo.

  4. ANNIE LENNOX’S PERFORMANCE AT THE 1984 GRAMMY AWARDS

    Women and their odd reasons for dressing as men had already been on my mind when I saw Annie Lennox on television singing “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Wearing a dark suit and sporting Elvis-style sideburns, she sang in a lowered register, and at first I thought I was watching some kind of drag-king karaoke. Lennox is not exactly as provocative as Peaches, but the playful mockery and bizarre androgyny in this twenty-five-year-old performance are hilarious.


    Annie Lennox performing Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics, 1982) live at 1984 Grammy Awards.

  5. CAREFUL (1992)

    Guy Maddin’s relationship with parody and pastiche is thrilling. He takes his inspirations and wildly reinvents them far beyond their original forms. This film, shot in a studio with a papier-mâché set, is about incest in an isolated mountain community. The silent genre is translated here into a condition in which the town’s very fabric relies on silence, not only because of the pervasive incestuous acts being committed but also due to the constant threat of avalanches. His highly stylized oeuvre leaves me laughing inside, with a hint of hysteria and repulsion.

     Guy Maddin, Careful, 1992, stills from a color film in 16 mm transferred to 35 mm, 100 minutes. Guy Maddin, Careful, 1992, stills from a color film in 16 mm transferred to 35 mm, 100 minutes.
  6. GREGOR SCHNEIDER, DIE FAMILIE SCHNEIDER, 2004

    To experience this work, viewers had to make an appointment at an office, where they were paired with someone else and then given keys to two neighboring houses. Each person would enter one of the houses to explore for ten minutes, exit, and then switch houses for ten more minutes. This staging, a series of tableaux vivants, was more oppressive than I can describe. A woman monotonously washed dishes at a kitchen sink; a man wanked in a bathroom; a figure covered in a plastic bag hid behind a bed. The actors were twinned (literally) in the other identical house: When I entered the second home and understood the doubling, I couldn’t go through all of it again. Schneider triumphed in a difficult task—creating something that was so artificial yet so affective.

  7. VLADIMIR NABOKOV, PALE FIRE (PUTNAM, 1962)

    This novel consists of a 999-line poem by a late, fictional American poet named John Shade, followed by a lengthy commentary from Shade’s friend Charles Kinbote. His “annotation” is never a straightforward analysis of the poem—it is a vehicle from which an unsettling narrative unfolds. The crazed first-person musings of Shade’s self-appointed scholar epitomize Nabokov’s brilliance at destabilizing our trust in personal testimony, allowing us to enter a metanarrative that reveals the delusions of his characters.

  8. JAMES COLEMAN, I N I T I A L S, 1993–94

    Composed of slide projections and synchronized audio, this work seems to me an open-ended question in that it retains the energy of asking and is never defined by an answer. It is a complex installation that calls attention to its own construction, but it somehow transcends this reflexivity as it oscillates between absorption and distance. If Gregor Schneider sucks you into his unbearable yet possible world, and Guy Maddin creates the implausible within an artificial, hermetic microcosm, Coleman’s work finds a balance between these two realms.

    James Coleman, I N I T I A L S, 1993–94, projected slides with synchronized audio narration, 21-minute loop. James Coleman, I N I T I A L S, 1993–94, projected slides with synchronized audio narration, 21-minute loop.
  9. ELIZABETH PRICE, USER GROUP DISCO, 2009

    Price’s video installation, seen this past spring at Spike Island in Bristol, UK, documents the contents of a “Hall of Sculptures”—a fictional repository of mundane twentieth-century debris whose objects are displayed against a stark black void. Backed by a sound track riffing on A-ha’s “Take on Me,” the video presents intermittent political, poetic, and philosophical statements superimposed over domestic items such as cups, bowls, and ashtrays twirling on turntables, shedding their ordinariness for ethereality in the hyperreal gloss of HD.

  10. DAVE BURROWS, KIT POULSON, AND ALEX BAKER, SKRYING PERFORMANCE: INVESTIGATION OF TRUTHS NATURAL AND SUPERNATURAL, AT ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS, LONDON, 2008

    Skrying was one of thirty nights of live events curated by Jen Wu and Anthony Gross for their series Event Horizon. Taking cues from the writings of sixteenth-century astronomer, mathematician, and occultist John Dee, three participants sought to reinterpret Dee’s “dignification” process for contacting supercelestial beings. This included using modern equivalents, such as air freshener. At one point, Poulson, whose face was covered with black ink, fell into such a trancelike state while playing a small guitar that even fellow performer Burrows looked worried.

     Skrying Performance: Investigation of Truths Natural and Supernatural, 2008. Performance view, Royal Academy of Arts, London, December 21, 2008. Kit Poulson and Dave Burrows. Photo: Atlanta Rascher. Skrying Performance: Investigation of Truths Natural and Supernatural, 2008. Performance view, Royal Academy of Arts, London, December 21, 2008. Kit Poulson and Dave Burrows. Photo: Atlanta Rascher.