Susan Hiller is an artist whose work I find endlessly engaging and compelling. Her work centres around dichotomy of the unconscious and the conscious, the rational and irrational, as she deals with subject matter such as dreams, ‘Dream Mapping’, automatic writing, ‘Sisters of Menon‘, and paranormal activity, ‘Psi Girls’. She regards her work as ‘paraconceptual’, connected to both conceptualist tendencies in art and elements of the spiritual or paranormal, which is often perceived as a devalued basis from which to make work, exclusively regarded as a feminine topic, as it was not deemed worth the seriousness for the focus of patriarchal art. However, Hiller takes these ideas of the uncertain and unstable and cements them through her sometimes investigative practices.
For example, with ‘Dream Mapping’, Hiller bridged the boundary between performance and experiment as she had seven participants sleep within “fairy rings” (circles formed by mushrooms which are present throughout English folklore) for three nights. After each night, the participants would explore and discuss their dream experiences and would create ‘dream maps’ which were compiled to form the a larger map for the total dreams experienced each night, so that shared or non-shared elements of the dream experience could be connected and seen. These larger maps formed the work.
I am interested in the way that Hiller uses investigation to form the basis of her works. In my ongoing investigation into female hysteria, I find that there is no sense of definite language or totalising certainty about the subject matter, which distinctly connects me to Hiller’s work. I like how subtle narratives are played out in her works through the tale of the investigation. In my own work, I want to be inspired by my ability to research as an act in itself and allow it to greatly inform my practice.