Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time : The New Frontier || Open Thread

I've noted several times here that I believe "life" is everything (this is my core belief that informs my entire worldview and makes politics relatively silly and religions [and I include in that category "art"] relatively irrelevant). But if life is truly everything, then time is a very close second.

People say it's "money," but catch them at the right moment (on their death bed, on their way back to war, on their way back home from holiday), and they'll admit that what they really want "more" of is time. More time in the studio. More time to close a deal. More time before their children grow up. Even just more time to sleep in.

A few years back, sitting around a pool in a fancy South Beach hotel during ABMB, I listened intently as a group of very smart art historians and writers noted how "time" was the obvious new frontier for artists to tackle. The "fourth" dimension that they would need to lead the way to make sense of for the rest of us. It isn't (and never has been) enough for science to explain phenomena to us. We rely on artists to go past the explanation and really make sense of them.

And so, since then, I have been keeping an eye out for how artists are expressing the fourth dimension (and that explains in part, I suspect, why we show as much video art as we do). I have not been disappointed. In fact, I am delighted to see the depth and sheer sublimity with which artists (including ours) are now beginning to show us about what time "means." I'll focus on two artists (neither of whom we work with) to hopefully explain why I'm so excited about this area of exploration.

First, there is what is sure to be the exhibition of the year in Chelsea: Christian Marclay's "The Clock," up at Paula Cooper Gallery until this Saturday. People came back from England last year raving about this film, and no one is being even remotely shy about calling a it "masterpiece." As the New York Times explains, it's drawing the kind of crowds rarely seen for even major motion pictures:
And as the exhibition approaches its final weekend (it closes on Saturday), the crowds have continued to build. By the gallery’s rough count, more than 780 people passed through on Tuesday alone — some spending only a few minutes, some spending hours — and almost 7,000 people have watched the piece since gallery workers began to keep track on Feb. 4.
I keep thinking I'll find the, er, time to get over there, but tales of hour-long lines just to get in and our currently hectic schedule probably mean I'll wait until some local museum buys it and installs it (hint, hint) so that I'll get a chance after our current chaos ends.

But I've heard enough first-hand accounts to know that Marclay has pulled off what doubting Thomas's around here for a while have claimed contemporary art (and in particular conceptual art) cannot do: engaged the wider public in a highly enthusiastic way...

Mary Ellen Whelehan, a former bank officer, was returning on Wednesday morning for a second viewing, in her motorized wheelchair, and said that she could recall seeing only one or two Chelsea exhibitions before. “It takes me two buses to get here,” she said, waiting in line inside the gallery. “So if I’m coming back it has to be good.”
Accounts of people spending 3-4 hours watching this clearly addictive work tell me that contemporary art is most definitely still capable of igniting passion and sparking the imagination of the contemporary public.

We did make it down in person to see Ellie Ga's solo exhibition "This Was Later On" at the LES's Bureau gallery. It ends this Sunday, so get there quickly. Ga is another artist dealing with time in a way that has surprised and delighted me. Her take on it can be somewhat darker than what I'm reading about "The Clock," though.

Having spent months trapped on a boat drifting through an ice pack in the constant night of an Arctic winter, so far north that she and her 9 shipmates were not technically in any given time zone, Ga began to connect the dots on things time-related that only that degree of placelessness and timelessness could make apparent. I won't say too much more on that, in case you get to see the show (go on Sunday so you can participate in the readings).

I will note, though, that we made it to Ga's hour-long performance at The Kitchen last night and I was entirely engrossed. There was plenty of brooding food for thought in her piece about the harsh conditions they endured in the Arctic, but also some optimistic observations, particularly when she explained how (with little else to do or occupy her thoughts with) she one day realized that almost all the clocks or watches in the old magazines they had on board the ship were photographed with the same graphic pattern on their faces (either 10:10 or ten to two [see for yourself]). When she returned to Oslo after their ship was freed from the ice, Ga asked a watch seller about this practice and he said it was indeed very common, so that the clock or watch had a "happy face" rather than a "sad face."

As Bureau's owner Gabrielle Giattino explained, any other setting on a photo of a clock will forever look wrong to you, once you know this trick of the trade. And she's right. Every clockface I see now without that 10:10 graphic setting looks broken (and even sad) somehow. So odd. Ga has changed how I view something so simple. That, in and of itself, is marvelous.

Consider this an open thread on the exploration of time in artwork.

Labels: open thread, time


Blogger Saskia said...

If life is everything, what is life? I'd love to hear more in depth about this-- I'm kind of SLOW about some things, I'm having trouble digesting that first paragraph.

I love what Bruno Latour says about time:
…I know full well that, just like the time of the avant-gardes or that of the Great Frontier, the time of manifestos has long passed. Actually, it is the time of time that has passed; this strange idea of a vast army moving forward, preceded by the most daring innovators and thinkers, followed by a mass of slower and heavier crowds, while the rearguard of the most archaic, the most primitive, the most reactionary people trail behind… During this recently defunct time of time, manifestos were like so many war cries intended to speed up the movement, ridicule the Philistines, castigate the reactionaries. This huge war-like narrative was predicated on the idea that the flow of time had one –and only one—inevitable and irreversible direction. The war waged by the avant-gardes would be won, no matter how many defeats they suffered. What this series of manifestos pointed to was the inevitable march of progress. So much so that these manifestos could be used like so many sign posts to decide who was more “progressive” and who was more “reactionary.”
Today, the avant-gardes have all but disappeared, the front line is as impossible to draw as the precise boundaries of terrorist networks, and the well arrayed labels “archaic,” “reactionary,” “progressive” seem to hover haphazardly like a cloud of mosquitoes. If there is one thing that has vanished, it is the idea of a flow of time moving inevitably and irreversibly forward that can be predicated by clear sighted thinkers. The spirit of the age, if there is such a Zeitgeist, is rather that everything that had been taken for granted in the modernist grand narrative of Progress is fully reversible and that it is impossible to trust in the clear-sightedness of anyone…

2/17/2011 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'd love to hear more in depth about this

It's actually much simpler than I made it sound, I realize.

I don't believe in any after-life. So, life is it.

Everything you are or can be will happen (such that you'll ever know about it) within the years between your birth and death. Because "life" is all there is, there's no point to my mind in living for the after-life (which makes most of what religion is about irrelevant). Religions are useful for providing moral guidance (only because they've done the hard work to codify behaviors that I believe one should adhere to for earth-bound moral reasons), and for providing comfort through ceremony and gestures during times of distress or joy during times of celebration.

But they are completely pointless when applied as a means of controlling behavior to secure a good position in the next life. This life is all there is.

Which makes time all the more important, in my opinion.

2/17/2011 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Jason Gringler said...

Good post, thanks.

2/17/2011 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger markcreegan said...

I have a friend who recently passed, a poet, who for years marked down everything he did or that happened to him on calendars. So each day is filled out with information. Now that he is gone these calendars are a monument to a life lived and a document to how time was spent.

2/17/2011 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever connected the dots between Video Art and The Great Bands from the 1960s/1970s? I went to a lot of shows back then. They always had a huge video screen with movies, geometry, colors going on.Plus the light show they had real lasers back then that were outlawed over time.

Pink Floyd was the ultimate.

2/17/2011 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Charles Kessler said...

Chinese landscape paintings and scrolls have dealt with time for hundreds of years. The art experience changes as a different portion of a scroll is rolled out or as you imagine walking along a path in the mountains. What I love the best about this work is how one experience influences the next one -- like music.

Some contemporary painting works in a similar way: Tom Nozkowski, early Joan Snyder, Charles Garabedian (who has a great retrospective now at the Santa Barbara Museum).

2/17/2011 01:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark Rothko paintings are 4th dimension paintings ,they are Gods to me.

2/17/2011 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Whoa! Giving away the Catholic store there ED. Good for you! Perhaps my earlier assumptions of your faith (as you posted on earlier threads) was shortsighted.

I admire some of the things faith can lead to creating: Gothic Cathedrals, Beautiful Mosques, Pyramids; however I have doubts that any Pharaoh rode a sky-boat through an aimed corridor to the North Star.

We have this life. A network of galaxies and neurons coalescing into a consciousness that is a part of and separate from all that there is.

2/17/2011 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger ellen yustas k. gottlieb said...

Time is linear. There's art piece that is 30,000 years old. I wrote a lot about the concept of time in art. There are ways of changing perception of time in non-linerar visual form, in a way entrapping the onlooker into a sort of trance when time either don't count or change the way it pass. You look at the work as if you're victim of anakonda that makes coils to mezmerize its victim. You're mezmerized by the art piece to the degree of obsession. Few artists among young living could produce this effect of hypnotizing you, by secluding linerarity of time into a circle which indeed gives idea opposite in what dearest Edward bilieves, that this is it. Life ends at the phisical level. Art doesn't! So let us be decieved by few great artist who CAN! thanks Edward, interesting topic.
yours sincerely

2/17/2011 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Terri said...

If you know physics, time is a by-product of space (gravity wells based on mass); and I find it pretty humorous that a bunch of art historians would sit around and wait for artists to interpret time for them, since most artists don’t understand it themselves –- it becomes opinion twice-removed. (I’m not saying it’s a bad subject, just that it’s a poor reason to be interested in said subject – it has lots of other merits on it’s own.)

Much popular fine art right now is based on curatorial skills rather than actual art-making –- you take other people’s actual artwork, and cut it to pieces to suit your message, and assemble it to be consumed (collage art). Marclay’s work is easily consumed because it is totally accessible –- his source material is popular film (in the case of “The Clock”), and compilation films are very popular with the viewing public.

Bombardment with information and media have made people very impatient and fat with ideas –- they want someone to pare down the menu. This is probably the greatest effect of time on people in this culture -- they want unlimited choice, they want it now, and they only want the best (entitlement in it’s finest expression).

Curatorial-art-as-fine-art is really amusing to me because it resists the notion of making art oneself, and instead insists that the higher reality is the organization of art produced by others –- it is just another in the long line of reactionary art where the “newest” art is one that negates the previous art. Some might argue that it is superior because it transcends the physical reality of making basic art objects, but I imagine it’s greatest fans are curators themselves (it recognizes their efforts as a method of art) – lol.

2/17/2011 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Saskia said...

I don't believe in any after-life. So, life is it.

Oh, OK. "life is everything" was taking me in an entirely different place than "life is it"....

S L O W,

like I said...

2/17/2011 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger J. Wesley Brown said...

A related post from yesterday:

2/17/2011 05:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

somebody said the past is no longer what it was...

Time is actually a ground in a lot of my recent work. (really surprised that meme was on your radar Ed) In an epoch of multi-verses and distributed objects how could it not.

Wanting to explore the idea of time but within a historical vein yet not as a still image nor a moving image, much of my work has slipped into what I call a breathing image style. A moment of time that expands sideways, if you will, to allow a reconsideration or insight from a different aspect. A duration of time - if it can be called that- where its hierarchy of meaning can shift yet its structure remain untouched. A derivarchy of meaning if you will. In a McLuhan epoch of continually encountering the same darn image in a multitude of forms,(distributed objects) my paintings have squeezed this re-encounter of the doppler-ganger into the same object - exposing the "derivarchy" of meanings our social paradigm will need to soon get a grasp on. Where the truth is not singular in the sense of isolated, but living in the sense breathing, where it has multi-facets that may make it appear "Schizoid" and fungible but where the meaning is still unique and but one. (much like people)

Now here's the fun part. To arrive at this experience of a third concept of time(still, moving, & breathing)I've used a painting technique that is grounded in our secondary vision system. Something almost exclusively ignored in the history of art. A genre I term Twisight , it opens so many questions and possibilities. From the basic how can art have ignored this for so long? to how the heck can this be hung in a public space without a major rethink of the museum experience (somewhat like when paintings were once too large of a scale at one time to fit into the existing buildings) And with a disdain for schisms, how to weave that all back into "art" within a historical sense.

Sorry, I rarely blab on so about what I do. It's just really fascinating to me, especially since its radicalism is grounded in a "normalcy" where the technique isn't the end all, but a threshold into greater insight into existing insights.

hear hear to time paradigms!

Now that I've befuddled y'all ; )

2/18/2011 07:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Terri said...

Edward wrote:
"I've noted several times here that I believe "life" is everything (this is my core belief that informs my entire worldview and makes politics relatively silly and religions [and I include in that category "art"] relatively irrelevant)."

How do you reconcile believing that art is relatively irrelevant with being a gallerist?

2/18/2011 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...


I do think that our knowledge increases over time. Wisdom, however may be a different thing entirely. The human being; our aims, desires, goals, etc. may be the same since we "walked" the Earth, (possibly before; probably when we were chemical reactions forming the first RNA or DNA; and possibly as the infinite big bang-ing of universes) and there may be something changeless in that. Another 40,000 years and we might be mostly cyborg or post-human thoughts entirely contained in robots living a possible eternity and just changing hardrives (or whatever they call the storage/mindbox device) and limbs, etc. as they wear out. And still looking up at the sky to see the stars, though maybe by then we'll have made contact with others in the universe (or possible multiverse) and share our view of the night sky with them. We learn. We pass our knowledge on to the next generation. Time is the metronome by which we mark our advance. To what end is up to wisdom to understand.
(my drunken thoughts that may be gibberish to those sober)

2/19/2011 01:56:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Ed, Thanks for the heads up on "The Clock" I would have missed it. As it was, I stood in line, in freezing weather, for three hours and I was able to see 4 hours of it. I regret not seeing more. It's a masterpiece.

2/20/2011 07:23:00 PM  

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