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CULTURE
Susan Hiller
"Paraconceptual" art in Susan Hiller's new comprehensive book
by Karen Day
on 12 September 2011
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Both intimate and cosmic in scope, as described by critic Lucy Lippard, Susan Hiller's ruminative multimedia works are the result of a career change from anthropology to art forty years ago. The U.K.-based artist, thinking of her discipline as "value-free," experiments with sculpture, photography, painting and more, letting the subject dictate media to give her abstract theories form.

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A through-line in Hiller's works is what she calls "paraconceptual"—combining conceptual underpinnings with paranormal studies. But the resulting mysticism, unlike many of her contemporaries, isn't the point. Whether through hundreds of postcards or video installations, Hiller's appeal comes from her studious, almost scientific, approach.

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Often taking years to research a project, Hiller's interrelated obsessions include themes ranging from cultural erosion (how Nazi street names were replaced with "Jew Street") to looking at the suspension of disbelief through our reactions to supernatural phenomena. This broad conceptual scope was recently the subject of a survey at Tate Britain, which was accompanied by a comprehensive catalog, now available stateside.

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The book includes a thorough sampling of work, including the more intensive and thought-provoking pieces like "Homage to Joseph Beuys" and "Painting Blocks," which were completed over the course of decades. Others—"From the Freud Museum" and "Enquiries/Inquiries"—similarly are the upshot of several years of closely observing her subject. One of the earlier artists (and at 71, one of the oldest) to incorporate the Internet in her practice, her use of current technology, like her overall approach to materials, is not just a medium but part of the message.

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The exhaustive book explores the U.S.-born artist's contemporary work through previously published essays, interviews, papers, lectures and images. "Susan Hiller" sells online from Amazon and Tate. U.K. customers can also go to Amazon U.K..

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