Susan Hiller’s words of wisdom

Posted on Monday, 21st February, 2011

Susan Hilller
Here are some wonderful wise words I read in an interview with Susan Hiller in The Observer.  She studied Anthropology before moving into art and I think her comments struck a particular chord with me as before I decided to go to art school, I had a place to study Social Anthropology at Manchester Uni.  I’ve no doubt I would’ve loved it and it’s been interesting for me to see certain anthropological concerns emerge in my work which leads me to think that whatever career choices or life decisions we make, there are interests or questions that we develop early on that help to form us and push us to find a way of expressing them through whatever channel we choose.  That thought feels quite life-affirming actually!

She articulates so nicely her thoughts and feelings with regard to some contemporary art and what it proclaims to do and say.  I always hope that I’m not just adding more ‘stuff’ to the world but instead contributing in some small way towards a creative dialogue that works to reflect cultural values in the way that she says at the end of the article…

Anyway, here’s my favourite snippet, you can read the full article online here.

It frustrates her that such importance is still attached to her background in anthropology – “lots of artists did other things first! [Anselm] Kiefer was a lawyer, and [Antony] Gormley also started out as an anthropologist” – but I think that its influence is very clear, and regard it as a wholly good thing (one piece, The Last Silent Movie, is explicitly anthropological, consisting of the sound of extinct and dying languages); most conceptual art is so lacking in intellectual content, it’s embarrassing. She considers the point for moment, and finds she cannot disagree.

“There is a lot of neo-dada around, and a whole tendency to talk about art that doesn’t mean anything, as though this were a good thing. I personally find it rather frightening, because it reflects something in society as a whole.” She sighs. She seems slightly exasperated – not with me, I hope, but the world outside. “Artists have a function. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here. We’re part of a conversation. It’s our job to represent and mirror back the values of the culture in a way that people haven’t seen before.”

By Rachel Cooke
The Observer, Sunday 30 January 2011

Topic: Words of Others

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