Reviews Performance Published 27 September 2012

Nowhere Less Now

The Tin Tabernacle ⋄ 8th September - 21st October 2012

Memory, time and place.

Joanne Matthews

The Tin Tabernacle is a church turned Sea Cadet base, built in the 1860s. I’m standing outside this strange structure, with weeds at my feet, the sun in my eyes, and a small boat to my left; Kilburn High Road is only a few seconds away. The perimeter of grass forms a clear line, a point of access between this holy corrugated time-capsule and Cambridge Avenue, NW6.

As I’m held in a anteroom, headphones over my ears, there’s a strong sense of expectation being built up, as if something miraculous may be about to happen. I am led into the “Wardroom”, a storehouse of functional objects and a smell of must. Large group photos of sea cadets hang on the wall, these maritime men kept alive through collections and flashes of a camera bulb.

In the next room two large spherical objects loom over the space; they look like Rover – the floating white ball from sixties TV programme, The Prisoner – mysteriously strong objects possessing an ability to disrupt whoever encountered them. I sit on a wooden structure, the room grows dark, the white balls flicker, growing intensely whiter as an image appears. I hear a collection of monotone, intimate voices narrating; I focus on a soft female voice and wonder who she is.

The projections layer stories where worlds collide with tales of Seers’ seafaring paternal family and her ancestral research process, which takes her to West Africa. The central figure is Seer’s great uncle, George Edwards, whose story spans a range of times both fictional and biographical, historical and futuristic. The video mixes old photographs, futuristic animation and performance. Content and form inform each other as the narrative achieves verisimilitude cutting between past and future. The effect of this is the blurring of truth and fiction which creates an ambiguous perception, like memory itself.

Seers interrogates the ways in which we connect with history, exploring, in turn, how it connects with us. She questions the collection of still images in our fast moving world. For instance, the voice of George Edwards looks to us from an imagined future where everything is constant, no photographic documents at hand. In tandem, the female voice narrates with a hopeful tone… I can imagine a place like this… A woman, who appears to be Lindsay Seers, dresses in Georgina’s (her great uncle’s wife) clothes, wandering the Tin Tabernacle as a ghostlike presence, complemented by animations that reinforce the sense of a lost spirit. In donning these garments, Seers is remembering her history in a tangible way, recreating the dead with unsettling effect. Or is it the dead connecting with her? As the narrator says…the dead connect themselves to the living…Dressing in these clothes, Seers is trying inhabit the memory of her ancestors.

As the future George Edwards links his character with those inhabiting different eras simultaneously, there’s a sense of displacement in this sad voice attempting to connect with his ancestry. He says, In the future nothing is synchronised…and there is no weight to existence…This character and Seers’ presence and movement create a world that poses gentle questions- how do we carry and embody our historical memory, or exist without physical artefacts?

A Zanzibar sailor visits a corrugated church together with Seers, a structure similar to the Tin Tabernacle; split apart by the ocean, connected by their historical functions. These two spaces have a collective memory of the people who inhabit them. Can we feel the memory of spaces? A similar reference is made to the sea..The sea carries memory in a way that cannot be accessed in a normal sense…the sea is an ongoing entity, moving in and out of countries and time zones,displacing time. This beautiful image presents memory as an invisible polymorphic entity floating around.

In Nowhere Less Now, Seers’ family linage occupies a territory both real and fictional, the layers of history coming together like a modernist novel. There’s no order to the chapters, they float like anonymous entities,  capturing the ways in which we engage with the experience of memory whilst attempting to inhabit the present.

Wandering around the Tin Tabernacle, I encounter a beautiful replica of the large church in West Africa referenced in the film. One church inside the other- a new layering of memories, a model carrying remnants of those who made it and those who now look upon it.

Using unsettling and complex imagery Nowhere Less Now explores how memory is connected through spaces, history and reenactment, making its fragmentation visible. The voice narrates an unanswered question…We have this need to constantly recreate the past, but where are we going? It’s like to end of the world…

I am given a book as I leave; it’s another record, another memory that exists within its pages. Thrust back out in to the Kilburn High Road, I leave the building feeling like I have been lost in a sci-fi film. Nowhere Less Now is beautiful and compelling and has wedged itself right inside my mind.

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Nowhere Less Now Show Info


Produced by Artangel

Directed by Lindsay Seers

Link http://www.artangel.org.uk/projects/2012/nowhere_less_now

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