Matt’s Gallery - White Cube - Michael Werner - Carlos/Ishikawa
‘Some lines shouldn’t be crossed’, ran the tagline for Joel Schumacher’s hammy 1990 thriller Flatliners. In the film, the vision of the afterlife momentarily encountered by the daredevil medical students is one of guilt, each haunted by past actions. The by-now familiar melodramatic scenes of near-death experiences (NDEs) – out of body perspectives, lights at the end of tunnels, encounters with long-gone kin – are all there. If Kiefer Sutherland being dead, even if just for 12 minutes, wasn’t enough for you though, you could find all the NDE tropes laid out in long form in Susan Hiller’s installation Channels, 2013, at Matt’s Gallery. A babble of voices streams from a wall of TVs and aged monitors, either blank, static or a solid blue screen, as if we have managed to stumble upon the same after-hours channel as the little girl in Poltergeist, 1982. Gradually an audible voice emerges from the noise, recounting their disembodiment, or feelings of universality and so forth. Despite the supposed insight of the confessional format, hearing a series of personal recountings in succession renders them generic, as though Hiller is not interested in the individual peculiarities of the stories themselves, underscored by their delivery with the flat over-enunciation of a voice actor. The barrier of screens reinforces this: it is a line we literally cannot cross. Hiller’s way of providing the collection of anecdotes acknowledges that whether they are true or not is not the issue but, rather, that we are well aware of these stories via any number of media sources, like Flatliners, The Twilight Zone or The X-Files.