nowhere less now

The nave of a church and the navy are not only etymological siblings but spatial ones too, in Lindsay Seers’ latest film installation, nowhere less now, commissioned by Artangel. We emerge from the tube at Kilburn Park, and looking across the leaf-strewn street, immediately identify The Tin Tabernacle, a corrugated iron chapel dating from 1863. For nearly 70 years, The Tin Tabernacle has housed the Sea Cadets, and inside, its naval aspect is dominant. The vestry is labelled Wardroom, its sepia walls covered in photographs of ships’ crews. The Cadets have transformed its interior into a replica battleship, its nave the deck, a naval gun in place of its font.
However, for those familiar with Seers’ practice, not all is as it seems. Little do we know, as we sit in the Wardroom waiting to be ushered inside/ onboard, that some of the photographs around us are her additions and relate to the content of the film we are about to see. Moreover, we have a sense of being capsized when we enter the nave because although the floor might represent a deck, rising up around us are the insides of an upturned boat. Somehow we are at once on and under a great weight of grey-blue metal, and ready to be set adrift in Seers’ peculiarly reticulated story.

She weaves the narrative of a relative in the merchant navy, a pair of twins, a great aunt and member of the Masons, and the medical condition of heterochromia in which one’s eyes are two different colours. The story itself however, is less striking than the installation, and suffers from a glut of voice-over declarations that tell us how to respond: “this coincidence is uncanny”. Whereas W. G. Sebald and latterly, Tacita Dean, have given us narratives leaden with coincident and the uncanny, Seers forces us to make connections and recognise significance.
To return to the installation, Seers’ success lies in her imaginative construction of narrative elements in the material fabric around us. Not only are the naval and travel aspects of her film made manifest by the Tabernacle’s hull and décor, the recurring theme of heterochromia and twins – a pair different yet the same – is translated into the twin projection method employed. Two projectors placed above the stepped audience area beam across to two spherical screens, one raised above the other. One sphere is convex, the other concave, and both appear to float in the surrounding gloom. Throughout the film the screens show different images, sometimes coinciding or providing variations of the other, other times following their own tangents.
Once the film is over and we remove the headphones and duvets given us for its duration, the lights come up and we see the legs of the spherical screens, realising that now they resemble less a pair of eyes than a pair of satellite dishes. Indeed, one strand of the narrative concerns an extra-terrestrial character who speaks to us from the future, and these dishes cup the idea that we have seen something that has come from a place further away than a boat will take us. Be it heterotopic or heterochronic, Seers’ film and The Tabernacle are awash with a feeling of alterity.