Susan Hiller

Dedicated to the Unknown Artists 1972 - 76

(Detail) 305 postcards, charts, maps, one book, one dossier, mounted on 14 panels. Panels: each 66 x 104 cm (inches 26 1/2 x 41 1/2)

... Dedicated to the Unknown Artists arises from the artist's amassing of several hundred vintage and contemporary "rough sea" postcards: visually seductive views purporting to show gigantic waves bombarding British beaches, piers, and esplanades. The piece marshals these in grid formation, systematically logging details of the cards' locations, captions, and message content ("We had a storm today, just like this one," and so on), and evidencing generations of British natives themselves colluding in the anthropological myth of the "British love affair with lousy weather" (a love affair founded in deep ignorance of the weather's ferocity elsewhere; here, the writer is remembering that Hiller is Florida-born). Refocusing ephemera as significant testimony, the images could be psychoanalyzed as a "collective anxiety-dream about national insularity." However, in noting that, what dream is the writer of this piece really invoking, a popular fantasy about ruling the waves or her own critical fantasy about the explanatory power of psychoanalysis? For the piece itself, which both employs and undermines anthropological fieldwork techniques, is intrinsically reflexive. Its postcard images reiterate the ideologically saturated motif of the Sublime--reason's battle with cosmic chaos. In parallel, the work's King Canute-like "empirical" sorting system threatens to be swamped by the morass of material it strives to tame and contain.

Rachel Withers, Artforum, 2004

Addenda to 'Dedicated to the Unknown Artists' 1976-


After the first exhibition of Dedicated to the Unknown Artists in 1976, additional postcards came to light which were used in making several series of small Addenda, begun that same year. Each of these small works focuses on a particular feature analysed in the larger work. Each is individually dated and titled. They are extensions of the larger work or amplified footnotes, and exist autonomously.