art + time: literally

Since writing about Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’ (here), having been mesmerised by it at the 54th Venice Biennale last year, I am alerted to other works with real time connotations…

(image: Freddie Prinze Jnr. in 24)

In 2001, I watched the first series of ’24’ when it aired in the UK once weekly, in what I was aware of at the time as the first ‘real-time’ tv series. Its premise; each episode marked one real-time hour in the life of main character ‘Jack Bauer’ (played by Keifer Sutherland), with 24 episodes in each series marking one whole day-in-the-life-of,  edge-of-the-seat drama. Phew! (In this post I won’t be entering into any of the discussions of how many times Jack Bauer could die and be revived, the unrealistic ability of the satellite pictures to indefinitely ‘zoom-in’ on number plates until they were clear as day, the post-9/11 terrorist plots, the fact that in the first series they had a black president which quite possibly paved the way for americans to vote for Barack Obamma, (just an opinion!) and who also, ironically, was played by the actor Dennis Haysbert who played the black gardener in Todd Haynes’ ‘Far from Heaven’ who wasn’t allowed to ‘consort’ with his white upper-class friend, nor the fact that despite all this i LOVE 24, especially the unrealistic geek technologies and the downloadable ringtone that made my phone sound like Tony Almeida’s…”CTU, Almeida”) Er..yes, so despite all that, when it came round to series 2 I decided NOT to watch it. The reason? It took too long! 24 episodes in real-time, once a week meant SIX MONTHS dedication..and I just didn’t think I could it. Maybe i was already adjusting my lifestyle in reaction to the digital environment around me, where I wanted everything packaged neater, quicker, more instantaneous, and summarised for ease. Maybe I just had no patience. (I later discovered box-sets and this problem was solved…)

However, despite my side-tracking, the fact remains that the TV series was revolutionary in its attempt at conveying a real-time aesthetic (which it may have diluted somewhat by its unrealistic sequences of events it portrayed packed into only one day).

Which is of course what Marclay does with The Clock, although this work manages to critique the media channels that 24 embodies. It is perceived much more as “real-time” and in the process of watching the work, we slow-down with it, to its pace (real-time), whereas in 24,  we are on a constant adrenalin rush, and time is in actual fact much more distorted.

Two days ago, I came across Mark Formanek’s Standard Time via the ‘It’s Nice That’ blog.

The images here, stills from the ‘real-time’ video don’t do the work justice. You really must click through to the website for the work, here.

It’s only a 3min snippet, but you really get a sense of…real-time. At once, there is nothing happening (we are watching ‘time’ after all) yet there is constant movement, marked by the workers who are changing the clock.  Similar to Marclay’s work above, we are slowed down. We watch, we are mesmerised.

So I perceive a shift here, a reaction of sorts to our digital world, our constant connection, multi-tasking and inability to slow-down and focus our attention. The artists here are using the digital technologies both conceptually and physically, to slow us down. In particular, Formanek’s conceptually digital and physically wooden and cumbersome clock embodies this idea. And it is only artwork in its performative physical self, (i.e. had you been there, watching the performance of changing the time unfold) and exists only as clock when it is digitally streamed/presented.

It is this conundrum/dilemma/question/reaction that I presented yesterday in my post about technology’s promise that I find most interesting, and in its own way, is its own solution. Both sides of the coin MUST co-exist. The use of digital tools in the right way, and knowing when to remain rooted in human/physical connection. It’s how we enable this that will becomes the art.



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