Matt’s Gallery presents Ghost / TV an exhibition of objects and video by Susan Hiller that continues her investigations into the numinous, the ephemeral, and the personal.
At the time of her passing in January 2019, Hiller was due to start planning her fifth exhibition with Matt’s Gallery, following on from Work in Progress in 1980, An Entertainment in 1991, The Last Silent Movie in 2008, and Channels in 2013 – shows which introduced some of her most groundbreaking and iconic works. The exhibition had to be postponed, and Ghost / TV has been developed since then in close collaboration with Susan Hiller’s son, Gabriel Coxhead.
The display consists of two main elements, both of which relate to Hiller’s previous exhibitions at Matt’s Gallery. A video,Running on Empty (2017), stems from Hiller’s commission to create Channels, a monumental audio-sculptural installation that incorporates 102 cathode-ray tube television sets programmed to play reports of near-death experiences. While constructing Channels, Hiller and Matt’s Gallery Director Robin Klassnik discovered one particular television set that spontaneously and intermittently communicated a haunting, poignant message of its own. Their attempts to document that elusive message, to recreate and capture the phenomenon on camera, even as the television’s functioning proceeded to decay and degenerate in a violent medley of colour and pattern, forms the subject of Running on Empty – a work which thus becomes about artistic making itself, about processes of collaboration, moments of serendipity, and the pleasures of visual play.
The other element in the exhibition similarly raises questions about its own artistic status. A macabre hand puppet of a ghost or skeleton, most likely made by Hiller some time in the early 2000s, it relates to her pioneering video installation, An Entertainment, which used footage filmed at Punch and Judy shows. However, the puppet itself was not formally regarded as a fully-fledged artwork by Hiller, but was more a sort of experiment, and was kept on her desk at home as a kind of personal artefact, a negative talisman.
Ghost / TV is the 40th anniversary exhibition at Matt’s Gallery, which first opened in September 1979. It will be accompanied by a free publication, the 40th edition in the gallery’s ongoing series of ‘whitebooks’.
The Estate of Susan Hiller is represented by Lisson Gallery.
Matt’s Gallery, 92 Webster Road, Bermondsey, SE16 4DF from 25 September – 27 October. Times: Wed-Sun, 12-6pm. Admission: Free.