Susan Hiller’s work has long intrigued me, particularly The J. Street Project, in which the artist sought out and photographed all street signs that incorporated the word Jude (Jew) in Germany, finding a total of 303. The work has been described as an ‘expedition into the heartland of loss’ (http://www.susanhiller.org/Info/artworks/artworks-JStreetVideo.html).

In the introduction to The J. Street Project, Hiller states that ‘All my work deals with ghosts.’

This rings especially true on visiting Hiller’s current exhibition Channels.

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An audio-sculptural installation, Channels is comprised of TV screens, very many screens, stacked on top of each other, displaying mostly monochrome blue or brown colours, occasionally interrupted by static or flickering lines.

I sat at the other end of the large white space, initially observing the silent though changing screens. Voices then enter the space, many voices, all speaking at the same time, and in different languages, so that it is almost impossible to decipher the words.

The ‘disembodied voices’ are those of people from all over the world as they recount their ‘near-death’ experiences (NDEs).

The whole effect is very powerful, not in the sense that it made me consider NDEs in any depth (I have no idea what I feel about them, but whatever anyone experiences must be ‘true’, for them, in some way).

What I really value in Hiller’s work, and particularly in Channels, is how she attempts to address issues that we do not understand and therefore often choose to ignore or to dismiss. What I also respect, is how she, like the best documentarists, remains in the background so to speak, allowing her art to facilitate the expression of words and experiences of those who may not otherwise be heard.

CQ

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