Suspect Devices initially appears to represent something of a rogue turn in Susan Collins’ otherwise up-to-the-minute practice. While Collins’ work, over a twenty-year career, has pressed ahead at the leading edge of technological and artistic innovation, this collection of small-scale set-piece installations cultivates a surprisingly mournful, retro feel, in its focus on some of the everyday paraphernalia that people casually jettison as personal circumstances change, or as technology moves on. Filing cabinets, surplus to requirements in the paperless office of the future, stand around in lugubrious proximity to various items of unclaimed luggage – their dead-letter status reinforcing the doleful, faintly moribund mood. This air of inertia is fitfully transformed by a number of interactive triggers, which cause a mechanical camera-cum-torchlight projector to patrol the space, and the abandoned suitcases to open, revealing miniature videos concealed inside. Disorientating, droll and disarmingly endearing, Suspect Devices echoes some of Collins’ very early public-site interventions and also anticipates the integration of webcam/surveillance technology that has become such a feature of the artist’s later work.
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne: 19 September – 30 November 1997
Lux Gallery, London: 4 September – 3 October 1998
Co-commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and Tyne and Wear Museums. Funded by the Arts Council of England.