Late Ramblings on Time

It has been three years of Beyond Art! My first post was published January 20, 2016. How far I’ve come since then…

And now: six months! Since my last post I have spent six months of time… On what? Finishing school; traveling. I’ve spent the time on seeing too much art to name (and writing about some of it other places). I’ve been to maybe 18 museums in that time…

After all that time away, I’m think about inertia. I’m not sure I’ve ever quite understood it like I do now, as I stare at the cursor flashing on my screen, leading letters along into words and sentences – into seconds becoming minutes. Into a post after a six month hiatus.

Over that time, I’ve been looking into this void. Maybe it’s something like the spin cycle on the washing machine, or watching fan blades spin, or the moment one’s eyes adjust the split-second when a room goes from light to dark. I know in that space, this strange cliff-side, there is so much potential – so much it looms like the monster under the bed: harmless, but intimidating nonetheless. It’s one big clock – big hand, little hand, second hand. One big hypnosis device.

The time-void. The clock. The Clock… I am sitting on the floor in the dark room. Bodies shift around me in the gallery-cum-movie theatre. The people are the sands in the hourglass, marking the passage of time that, even without the bodies, would be inescapable in this room. On the huge screen at the Tate Modern Christian Marclay’s immense, 24 hour long video plays. The Clock. Pulled from movies and beyond, the expertly-combined clips match the exact time in the “real world” outside of the video. I go in to the room at something like 5:15 pm. As I watch, the artwork reminds me that this little gallery-bubble is not so outside the world as it might feel: one clock shows 5:22, various scenes take place, then I am looking at 5:34. Time frames the actions that flash before me – people going in and out of buildings, children waiting for their father to come home. So much has happened in these 20 minutes in which I have sat on the hard floor in the darkness. So much has happened in these six neglected months.

Across town, earlier that day (Marclay’s video reading 11:30), 15 forty-something year old women gathered around a Rauschenberg at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.  There, then, they follow the guide like hummingbirds to a feeder – sucking down his sweet nothingness. If they dare to lift their bright plumage, dare to speak, their voices are cut off by that man with the clipboard. Obviously that can’t be, he says, looking down his beak over theirs. Why do they stay here, wasting their ideas on this man who won’t listen? Why do they stay here, wasting their time with him, when it could just be the art?

Intermission at the January 17 performance of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Macbeth. Featuring a pocket-sized copy of the play, in front of a prop clock that ran the duration of the show, reading 01:10:43.

Intermission at the January 17 performance of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth. In the background is a clock that ran the duration of the show, here reading 01:10:43.

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time…” (Shakespeare – Macbeth 5.5)

Macbeth comes tomorrow – the day after the Tate. The Scottish Play is all about time: when is the right time; what to do when time moves to fast; how to recover it when it is lost; how to beat it… The list goes on, reaching out for those very tomorrows, as if they could provide the answers. Those questions look to break Marclay’s time-frame, to make the video repeat over and over. A reset button at midnight. A clock chiming – calling Cinderella home. A cry to “sleep no more,” making one day bleed into the next. It is the seemingly-endless cycle of our world hurling through space. And among that rush all we feel is a little morning light on our eyelashes. Maybe the sound of a hummingbird’s buzzing wings.

In my neglected six months I have had so many adventures. Notebooks full of them – hard copy notebooks. Pages that will tear and fade and rip their bindings. My screen pages, resistant to dust, show no sign of their neglect. Time, even here, passes differently.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve figured something out. My cursor, I think, flashes once per second when I’m not typing. My pen, when I pause, just waits, hovering like some fourth clock hand – some bigger time than seconds or minutes or hours.

Advertisements

Arthur Jafa: Message Received

 

 

November 25, 2017 I saw Arthur Jafa’s Love is the Message, the Message Is Death (2016) at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC. At the time I was struck, wordless, unable to formulate a coherent thought about the video. Three weeks later I returned to the Hirshhorn and sat in the gallery for a long while, watching the seven minute video over and over. The gallery was a black cube – dark, with a few benches set back from the wall-sized screen.

The video was second-to-last in the Hirshhorn’s “The Message: New Media Works” exhibition, and when I eventually stood up and walked out I wished it were last. I wished there were a decompress room, a fainting couch, a net on which to fall and be caught for a moment – Kanye’s lyrics still echoing in my head, the tear-streaked face of a little black boy practicing putting his arms up for the cops burned onto my eyes like the sun flare image interspliced in the video.

But there was no pause except for a breath before the video started again.

Just like real life.

That day, when I had sat stationary and let the video play on loop before me, I found that even though it was the same artwork, I noticed different parts. It was like some clips had been taken out and others added – a trick of my mind as I noticed different things and tried to absorb as much of the content as I could. Before my eyes flashed images of love and dancing and pain and comedy and power and destruction and kids and icons… Joy and violence alternated, my processing was truncated.  I was breathless. I had chills. Time warped within the video, becoming syncopated with the rhythms of the song. Time warped between the videos, as other sound from the artworks before and after – separated by thin walls – bled into the room, seeping in under doorways like gas. Multiple voices rang out, then silence. Pause. Movement. A change of viewers around me – the group of men who had been standing in the corner left, the person who had been sitting next to me was replaced with another, a guard from the exhibition eagerly ushered in visitors and hurriedly told them about what he thought of the artwork. Play.

Jafa has been in the news a lot recently, from exhibition reviews to articles about his work and background to interviews in sources like artnews and Frieze (that one was my favorite). Each time one of these popped up over the months following my experience at the Hirshhorn I would sit down and think about writing something about the object, about Jafa, about anything even tangentially related to this gorgeous artwork. Every time I felt like my computer was staring at me rather than the other way around. The memory of the object would play in my mind, still catching me off guard and unprepared to say something. I looked and looked for the video online or in museum collections, but it doesn’t currently exist in the public domain; for now only shooting around the gallery and museum circuit like some kind of anti-morphine: amplifying, challenging, making you feel everything harder. Yet somehow still comforting.

Now, listening to “Ultralight Beam” on repeat as I write, I’m still not really sure what I have to say. With this piece, I don’t know if I’ll ever be. This one might be more about the feeling – the goose bumps racing up arms and down legs; the flash of images threatening to drive you into overload as they flash in a dark room; Kanye’s rich voice unsettling you like seasickness or love; other bodies scattered in the gallery, faceless but full to the brim with humanity, engaged with seven minutes of knife-sharp clarity.

 

The Message: New Media Works is on view at the Hirshhorn in Washington DC through September 30, 2018

Arthur Jafa: Love is the Message, the Message Is Death runs June 27 – September 30, 2018 at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston

A review of the Jafa artwork (and more) on view at the MCA Denver through May 13.

Dreamlands

yalkut_1_635_1140

Jud Yalkut “Destruct Film” – 1967

Screen. Light and shadows dance and mix and chase. There is movement across and in between. The screen runs up against the darkness. Or maybe there is no screen, just a wall and a projected image. Out of a machine little particles fly, looking for something to knock up against and explode – illuminate.

Sound. Whir buzz crash. Cymbals. Crash. A low hum of a projector. A voice that is not human but is familiar.

Hallways connect light and sound. A voice bleeds into the click of the projector. One dark room becomes another – keep your bearings so you don’t get lost in this world. White becomes pink, neon, green. (Alex Da Corte and Jaysson Musson “Easternsports”) Each moment you are in front of, inside, in between. In between.

Between walls, between light particles, between sounds, between works of art, between understandings and thoughts. Just as fast in and out of one and another as the images come and go before your gaze. In between moments of wonder and engagement.

In between dreams and consciousness.

In low light, snippets of sound drift out of indistinguishable aboves. You can hold light, catch the projector beam in your hand, then cough in the smoke, move, release, and it is gone. (Anthony McCall “Line Describing a Cone”) Open your eyes from one darkness to the next and catch at the memory, try to grasp it as the last tendrils fade and the dream, only an imagined memory to begin with, is now another degree removed.

The confetti of it sticks in your brain – falling upon you at strange times. The confetti of film crunches under your feet – hold it up to the light of another film being projected. Your shadow interrupts that of another on the wall. 5 – 4 – 3 – crunch under feet – out of the gallery and into the next. (Jud Yalkut “Destruct Film”)

Images come and go like fireflies blinking in and out – magical and speedy. (Philippe Parreno “With a Rhythmic Instinction to be Able to Travel Beyond Existing Forces of Life”) It is enchanting to watch life that is not life like ours but somehow still gets it.

You are enveloped and it is a game. You watch or play or exist. (Hito Steyerl “Factory of the Sun”)  Somehow every part of it gets bundled up in the blue light, and play and commentary and reality are all confused.

Because it is real. And it is a reality beyond touch, but within feeling. A dreamland.

 

“Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art 1905-2016” is on view at the Whitney until February 5, 2017

Image: http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/Dreamlands?&artwork_id=17251&filter_id=73

Performing Dreams and Demons

“Dreams are manifestations of our deepest desires, anxieties, and fears. When we experience bad dreams, our natural instinct is to break free of them and struggle back to consciousness. But, if we give in and allow our dreams to take over, only then can we delve into our innermost thoughts and confront our demons.”

On January 19th, fourteen dancers bared their souls on stage. Shaping Sound dance company, a single unit composed of distinctively sculpted bodies, told a story in black, white, and red. The narrative seeped out of them and they were simultaneously performers and storytellers. Their bodies illustrated a love story.

Under the haze of the lights, the dance bled out from behind the curtain until I was steeped in the life that emitted from the story. I was invested in the joyous ruckus to the verge of tears, brought on by the seductive beauty. The performance was sexy and raw, flirtatious, but emotionally naked. I was close enough to hear the puffs of breath propelled from the dancers’ bodies. They left me breathless, too. They released not only air, but also emitted the feeling of the piece: the pain and tension of abuse and the hope at the opportunity for a new love. Exhale. Then they filled themselves up again, ready to keep going. Inhale. It created a process of osmosis between the audience and the performers: they released the story, and we absorbed it in exchange for a sense of awe that floated almost palpably in the air above us.

The show was violent, hopeful, desperate, and – above all – lovely. The dream state created by the dancers and the props was a perfect setting, and the passionate physical confrontation of demons made for a finale that was nothing less than inspiring.

Ultimately the show left me thinking about the quote from the program, and contemplating dreams and demons. I realized that if battling ghosts looks like that – tough and elegant – and feels that raw and hopeful, then maybe everyone could benefit  from trying it more often.

Learn more about Shaping Sound at their website: http://www.shapingsoundco.com/