Susan Hiller at Tate

As the Tate Britain opens a major survey of Susan Hiller’s work, we speak to the curator Ann Gallager

Susan Hiller  Homage to Marcel Duchamp, 2008  25 d
Susan Hiller Homage to Marcel Duchamp, 2008 25 digital photographs © Susan Hiller

Susan Hiller was one of the first artists to use the Internet as source material for her work. Throughout her career, which has spun almost four decades, she has embraced new technology and created works in a vast variety of mediums. Now, the Tate Britain will exhibit the largest presentation of her work to date, showing her pioneering mixed-media installations and video projections.

Dazed Digital: Why did the Tate decide to hold a major survey of Susan Hiller’s work?
Ann Gallager: We felt it was an incredibly critical point in her career to assess forty years of work. She is a prominent international artist whose work has been seen throughout the world, but in London there has never been a large survey of her work. The Tate Britain examines key figures in British art and she fits the bill perfectly.

DD: Considering her work had rarely been exhibited in London, did you find it difficult selecting the works?
Ann Gallager: It was very difficult to select from forty years of work. You can’t show everything, but you want to give the audience a sense of the rate of her work but also not bombard them with too much. To survey a career when each work has its own integrity is always a challenge. I was very lucky to work very closely with the artist. The way she goes about making her work is quite like a curator, so she was very good at that selection process.

It is predominantly in chronological order but what is so wonderful about her work is although its incredibly wide ranging, each work looks very different from the next, but it is also extremely consistent. There are ways of walking through the exhibition, where you can see the wonderful connections between her earlier and later works.

DD: How involved was she with the exhibition?
Ann Gallager: I think when you are working on a solo show; you would expect the artist to be very closely involved. I had worked with Susan in the past and we have known each other for a long time. We have had conversations about her work in the past, so it was natural to work very closely together on this exhibition.

DD: A few of the works within the show are homage pieces. Can you talk to us about these works?
Ann Gallager: They are probably her most recent works within the show. They are all works that she makes in homage to key 20th century artists who have been a prominent force for her. In many of them you can see traces of her earlier work, things that were made in the 70s and have been refigured. At every stage in her career she has been completely at one with the technology available. She was one of the first artists to use the Internet as a source for her work. She is not fazed by any new technology. In terms of video works, she created early large-scale video installations before it was normal to have four other screens. 

DD: Throughout her career she has worked in a variety of different mediums, do you see that as being central to her work?
Ann Gallager: Whatever work she wants to make is completely dependant on what material she makes it in. She makes large-scale installations, works with video, sound, paper and found images. Its as though what ever exists in the world for her to make use of, she does. Her signature is not the use of a particular technology or medium.

Susan Hiller runs from the 1st February until 15th May 2011 at the Tate Britain, London.

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