The real, by definition, always returns. A half-generation ago, Gillian Wearing created a work with the title “Confess all on video…” It features a series of respondents to adverts Wearing placed who use the opportunity to confess their psychological fault-lines to us, on camera. Lloyd’s recent works, especially ‘A Defence Against the Rreal’, recall such uses of the confessional mode of address she and others pioneered in video art. In his use of installation, video and found objects, Lloyd’s works also recall a specific participant in Wearing’s work, who states, “I just don’t know how to categorise it, I’ve tried and I’ve tried…” We too, struggle will categorising Lloyd’s works: over the last 12 months the artist has created a series of temporary spaces, such as ‘Praxis Public House’, incorporating multiple media. The common denominator, though, might be said that in each case, private thoughts are revealed or given public airing. The spaces include a pub, a psychoanalyst’s study, and an artist’s studio. ‘Appropriating’ such functions, does not result in the gallery turning into a ‘forum’ for reflection and rational discussion, as in Liam Gillick’s pavillions, nor simply a window onto staged revelations. We might say that Lloyd’s work is actually as close to Paul Noble’s as it is to Wearing’s (or to others who court our discomfort through a kind of ‘vicarious voyeurism” as Adrian Searle has called it.) The sense of voyeurism, watching Lloyd act out diverse roles, is palpable – but is not the purpose of the work. Noble once described his epic series of drawings about Nobson Newtown as “self-portraiture via town planning”. Lloyd’s works are, similarly, self-portraiture via building works. Lloyd’s works are autobiography continued through installation and photographic imaging, through events and encounters planned and unplanned. They approach the status of a gesamtkunstwerk, though the settings created are intentionally rudimentary, or fragmentary, doing just enough to create the idea of a type of space rather than becoming akin to a film-set. Utilising multiple media, each piece creates what might be described as a meta-story, about the artist, and about us. Each work is as informed by psychoanalysis as by popular culture. Accordingly, each should be read as a story not only of who Lloyd is, but about who it is possible to be, and who you are too. Unlike with the generation of artists that preceded him, his works are not concerned with models of participation or collaboration – but with what might be described as simply ‘the means of production’ – the means of producing meaning, that is, rather than material goods or commodities.
In Lloyd’s work, we should best think of each installation as a stage for other selves – or possible selves – to be instantiated. They are stages in which fictions of the self – or rather of many selves – can acquire the status of undeniable truths. They provide an image of a familiar setting – a setting in which imagination itself – consciousness, if you will – can be put to the test. In the work here, the conceit of a detective shadowing an artist clearly echoes the traditional psychoanalytic figures of the Freudian id and the superego. This metaphorical image is simple enough: a policeman-type figure keeps a beady eye on a rebel, or potential lord of misrule. As Zizek and many others have observed, the law enforcer and the law breaker need each other to stay in business. If one retires, the other is put out of work. And on a second level, the characters offer us a pair of models of imaginative investigation by which artworks, as much as selves, come into being. For one character, the systematic, logical pursuit of the truth is the objective, with evidence accumulated and arguments accrued. For the other, a spider diagram of chaotic connections, across which truth can be chased gives rise to imaginative leaps, and improbable outcomes.
The model is, however, not so simple, nor literal, as these observations suggest. For one, these are not ‘split’ parts of a self, but offer a new model of thought. The installation of two near-identical individuals separated by thin walls suggests that our ruling idea of the self might better be re-envisaged in terms of the traditional ‘duck-rabbit’ perceptual problem. Rather than imagining ourselves as simply ‘divided’, Lloyd suggests that, just as in the puzzle, we can only alternate between figures contained within us. We register one of our selves at any one time, and at that moment cannot perceive the other. The duck/rabbit trick is a kind of magic, and one that works every time, however often it is repeated. We should remember that whilst we can in time learn to control which we see, the first image we register has already been determined for us. Exactly how that happened – how our imaginations came to be structured – is the underlying subject of Lloyd’s ongoing investigation.
– Alistair Robinson