Interview with
Susan Hiller

Where were you born and when?
Born in USA in 1942.
Which art school did you attend, if any?
I did not attend art school but took a postgraduate degree in anthropology while also attending classes in film, drawing and art history. Spent a lot of time travelling, looking at paintings particularly. And probably it's worth mentioning that my major interest in anthropology was in so-called 'ethnographic' art.... So I'm basically 'self-taught', whatever that means.
What would you say is the underlying philosophy behind your work?
My philosophy? I'm not sure how to sum up an abstraction... But on a practical level, my work centers around my investigation of the overlooked significance of ordinary cultural artefacts such as postcards, domestic wallpapers, television fantasies, childrens' games, ghost stories, and memorial plaques to forgotten heroes, which I use as basic materials in works that range from video installations to paintings. I've been working like this since the early '70's when it was considered impossible to have this kind of practice. . Often I directly employ processes related to the subconscious mind, including dreaming, states of reverie, automatic writing and improvised vocalisations. Death, desire and language are major themes in my work, which evokes the uncanny, suppressed aspects of our collective cultural production...
Can you describe the exhibition/s that you had at Matt's Gallery?
To make up for the lack of brevity above, I will say that both my exhibitions at Matts Gallery have been well-described by other people, particularly in the catalogue published by Matts on my work in 1990.

"Work in Progress" Matt's Gallery 1980

How did you come to exhibit at Matt's?
I'd known Robin Klassnick for a number of years, I think before he started the Gallery. There was an important set of developments in this country in the early 70's which we were both part of.
How would you describe the experience of working with Robin Klassnik and his gallery?
I have always said that working at Matt's is a unique situation. Robin is creative, meticulous, involved, sensitive, patient, and outspoken-- He is willing to argue with the artist about the validity of ideas that may finally take form as work in the gallery and he is also willing to allow time for the work to develop.. He trusts the artist and he also trusts his own judgement; the result is a working partership that enables work of considerable ambition and innovation to emerge.

"An Entertainment" Matt's Gallery 1991

What other places do you show your work?
I show wherever I feel the situation is appropriate for what I do-- this ranges between, say, the Tate Gallery and small non-commercial spaces run with integrity and creativity. I also respect some commercial galleries for their contribution to our communal enlightenment. Basically, I dislike showing anywhere that's intensely bureaucratic or where the curators don't have much knowledge of art (including practical, hands-on knowledge).
What do you think about the artistic community in the East End of London?
Don't know. My sense of community extends further afield, although for years I had a studio in Clerkenwell. Are you sure the current hype around the idea of a tight East End "community" isnt just a new twist on provincialism???
I had a studio in Clerkenwell in the 80's. It was a SPACE studio, and that's why I was there. I loved the area and explored eastwards. But the atmosphere in the building wasn't all that great-- the artists who were actually exhibiting were in the minority. Usually I was too busy to go to the pub because I had several jobs, a family, etc. and needed/wanted to work when I went to the studio. Unfortunately, this made people cross.
But I will add that whether or not one lives or works in the East End seems fairly unimportant to me, since we have a public transport system, telephones, email etc and the ability to communicate with friends and colleagues wherever they are. .. Although nowadays I'm probably in the East End several times a week for exhibitions, meals,drinks or whatever, there are also interesting things happening south of the river and in North London. Being a "London-based" artist is a definition that suits me and a lot of other artists, but being a "West London artist" or an "East London artist" seems a misleading idea, probably the creation of journalists..
Why do you think so many artists collected in the East End from 1972 onwards?
Cheap rent
Where is your next exhibition?
I am going to show my video installation WILD TALENTS in a warehouse in Clerkenwell in June 98. Shortly after, I'm participating in a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I also have a couple of solo shows coming up soon, in far-flung places.


Matt's Gallery

Matt's Exhibitions 1972-91

Matt's Exhibitions 1991-98

Other Educated Persons

Map of Tower Hamlets