Exercise 1: The Fourth Dimension:
My thoughts on time
Time goes fast and there never seems to be enough time to get things done. This is all more vivid the older we get. When we are children it feels as though there is too much time in some ways. I remember wanting to be older than I was and feeling as though it was taking too long. Now I feel I wish I had more time, and sometimes that I could go back in time.
Time in relation to artwork – I hadn’t thought about time in relation to artwork before. If I think about it now the main image that comes to mind is ‘The White Rabbit, illustration from Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll 1832-9.
There are many different artistic interpretations of this famous character from the book, in paintings, illustrations in books and in film.
Some of the images are more sinister than others, but each one show the importance of time to this character. The character is continuously talking about being late throughout the story. He is symbolic of time, he even holds a pocket watch. He is the time keeper of Alice’s journey throughout Wonderland. He is also the reason she first enters wonderland as it is he that she follows, it is symbolic in the sense that we, like Alice, are also chasing time.
http://www.alice-in-wonderland.net/resources/pictures/white-rabbit/ (Accessed 22/11/17)
Art Pieces that explore time:
Salvador Dali, “Persistence of Memory,” 1931, oil on canvas, 24 cm × 33 cm (9.5 in × 13 in), Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
This famous painting shows the iconic images of the melting clocks. The piece makes me feel as though time is something that will never last. Like the image of ice melting, it moves quickly and dissolves into nothing, which I interpret as being symbolic of death. When taking into account the strange figure that is beneath one of the melting clocks, this could be perceived as someone that is dead. The ants on the pocket clock also suggest decay and the decomposing of time. There is a distinction between hard and soft objects and Dali likes to flip the reality in a dreamlike world where here we see the clock which is usually a hard object is now soft.
http://www.theartstory.org/artist-dali-salvador-artworks.htm#pnt_3 (Accessed 22/11/17)
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/31/time-art_n_4519734.html (Accessed 22/11/17)
Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers), 1987-1990. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT. Gift of the Norton Family Foundation. © The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Photo: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY.
“Untitled” was dedicated to Gonzalez-Torres’s deceased lover, Ross Laycock, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1991. Here are the guidelines the artist supplied to MoMA when the museum set to display his clock-related work:
“When installed, the two clocks were to touch; the clocks could be replaced with white plastic commercial clocks of similar dimensions and design; the minute and second hands were to be set in sync, with the understanding that eventually they might go out of sync during the course of the exhibition; if one of the clocks needed the batteries replaced, it was to be done, and the clocks were to be reset accordingly; the clocks were to be displayed on a wall painted light blue.”
Knowing the reasons behind this piece lead me to think that the artist is saying that their love is perfect even in death. The clocks could be counting down the time simultaneously to signify that the lovers will be reunited in death and that time does not stand still for the living.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/31/time-art_n_4519734.html (Accessed 22/11/17)
Visitors watch the video installation ‘The Clock’ by Christian Marclay winner of the Golden Lion for the Best Artist at ILLUMInation Exhibitionon June 7, 2011 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)
And voila! A still from Marclay’s “The Clock.” Watch a clip from the 24-hour montage of time-keeping devices here.
When watching this piece there is a suggestion to start it at 12:04 which is the time that the piece starts. When taking this in I felt even more aware of time, it was as though I was getting a glimpse of different lives which would still continue simultaneously. It is a reminder that there are continuous stories throughout the history of time all happening at once, including your own story and life which is happening at the same time as the film. On ‘Out of Sync’ Marclay discusses time as being a stressful thing, and that we are much happier when we don’t have to think about it. He states that in his film you have to think about time constantly, he describes it as a meditation on time.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/31/time-art_n_4519734.html (Accessed 23/11/17)
Case study Interpreting sound – Longplayer
- In a few words, what is your initial reaction to the idea of this piece?
I like the idea of crossing boundaries of several different art forms; I consider myself to be a recording artist, as I have written and recorded songs as well as been apart of the composition. I am also a writer and visual artist through the medium of moving image. The idea of combining different art forms is very exciting. I believe creative expression shouldn’t be confined. Being heavily influenced by music, I am also intrigued of the notion that a musician has created a piece which integrates a number of art forms that has been supported by an arts agency.
- What do you think about the sounds in the piece?The sounds are beautiful and calming. After initially listening to the piece through my headphones, I found after removing them and going back to the sounds of everyday life that my hearing senses were heightened. The sounds around me seemed much louder and I felt more aware of the daily sounds that I may not otherwise notice.
- Why do you think Finer has chosen these particular sounds?The purpose of the Tibetan Singing Bowls has been to heal and for meditation. These bowls are centuries old. The range of sounds they make are known to restore the normal vibratory frequencies of disease and any body parts that are out-of-harmony. They also help to clear the mind and soul. We are living in a time where work is important, as are the social constraints and pressures of everyday life. It is appealing to consider a continuous sound, performance or even experience that we can tap into at any time in the day to take us out of the chaotic lives that most people live. Many people attend meditation and yoga sessions for these very reasons. Finer has created a piece that serves a similar purpose and it can be heard / experienced throughout the world.
- Site-specific meaning in art terms.
Site-specific art is designed for a specific location. If it is taken out of that location then it’s meaning could be lost. Site-specific art includes installation art, which could be an in site installation; and land art which is self explanatory within it’s definition.
Example of site-specific art: Watt Towers, Simon Rodia, Los Angeles, CA, USA. Ship of Marco Polo, the first sculpture created by Simon Rodia at the site.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/s/site-specific (Accessed 23/11/17)
Analyse the performance of the piece, looking at how it’s presented to the audience. Think about:
- The quality of the sound used:The sound quality is good and clear; this is important as if you are tuning in to listen live online and the quality is poor you will disengage with the piece immediately. The sound production and quality allows you to fully immerse yourself in the sounds listening to the tones and where they are coming from.
- The choice of the singing bowls:This made sense to me, the tones and sounds are relaxing and calming. They are used for meditation purposes therefore the choice of these instruments / objects immediately insinuates that it is to help the audience clear their minds of daily routines etc and focus on the piece.
- The positioning of the bowls:The way the bowls are positioned is symbolic of the positioning to the planets in the solar system.
The solar system is continuous, and calming. It exists in the foreground but we never really pay attention to it unless it is brought to our attention. When looking at footage or associating sound with space, it is always represented as calming. Finer may have chosen to position the bowls in this way to represent the solar system and it’s link to time, as it impacts day time and night time on earth but is always moving.
- The positioning of the spectator:The spectator is on the outside looking in, it is a sense of not being inside the art piece; but they can walk or sit around it and enjoy the vibrations and tones from the sounds. There is also enough space to sit in your own area around the Longplayer if you wish to meditate.
- The time length of the piece:The idea of it being 1,000 years long implies that it is continuous and moving through time much like the solar system; and much like the solar system it is also predicted to end.
- How the piece is performed:The piece is performed in a very calm way, you don’t have to watch the piece or see what is going on to appreciate it. The performers are calmly moving within the circles, but they are not drawing attention to themselves in any way.
- Write a short interpretation of Longplayer(around 250 words).
In the performance of Longplayer the singing bowls are set out in layers of outer and inner circles. This is implicative of the solar system, as the planets are situated in similar points. The earths place in the solar system along with the speed that it rotates, form 24 hour days on Earth. Humans have produced time zones and night and day patterns. The Longplayer is active 24 hours a day also; the performers are calmly moving within the inner and outer parts of the circle, this could be indicative of the planets moving. The choice of sound comes from the singing bowls which are historically from Tibet. The bowls were used for healing properties and meditation. Meditation has been practised for over 5,000 years, it is a spiritual activity; today it is included in many people’s everyday routines, it is to promote greater health and wellbeing. Longplayer therefore includes scientific elements to its design due to the placement and layout of the materials for the performance; along with spiritual elements relevant to the materials used for the musical composition. It is suggested through research that meditation can reduce stress. Severe psychological stress has been linked to poor health, which can increase the risk of heart disease, strokes and some cancers. If these risks are reduced due to meditation, the opportunity for improvements in health will then mean humans living longer, thus having more time on earth.
https://sciencing.com/solar-system-affect-earth-10027301.html (Accessed 23/11/17)
https://www.project-meditation.org/mankinds-oldest-getaway/ (Accessed 23/11/17)
Exercise 2: Interpreting Video Art:
Sam Taylor-Wood’s Still Life: 2001
- Your initial response after first viewing.
The minute I saw the beautifully framed fruit in the bowl with its vibrant colours, I knew that we were going to see it decompose before our eyes. Although I knew what was coming, it was still fascinating to watch. I found it sad to see something so beautiful in its colour and shape, turn into an image of rot and decay; an image that as an audience you no longer enjoy looking at.
- The media and the form of the piece.
For me it made sense to take footage of the fruit and film its journey rather than paint it or show the stages through photos. This is because it is interesting to watch the movement of the fruit through the process of decomposing. It gives the audience a closer sense to reality and how decay looks rather than an interpretation through a painting. Still photographic images would not have had the same effect as we would not have seen the movement and changes as vividly.
- Contextual information:
What do you think has influenced this piece?
Taylor is influenced by traditional still life paintings, which usually includes cut flowers, fruit, vegetables, fish, wine and so on. Still life can be to show the celebrations of food and wine, or more often it is used as the brevity of life, also known as memento mori. Momento mori is the latin word for ‘remember you must die’.
https://dailystoic.com/memento-mori/ (Accessed: 26/10/17)
Examples of still life art including fruit:
On the left, Caravaggio’s ‘Still Life Basket of Fruit’ 1599. On the right Paul Cezanne’s ‘Still Life with Fruit Dish’ 1879-80.
Caravaggio searched for reality within his work; he was not aiming to search for aesthetically pleasing pieces. To him painting was about accepting life as it is with its imperfections and without ornamentation. It is clear from Taylor’s ‘Still Life’ that she also wants the audience to experience a realistic image of decay.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/s/still-life (Accessed: 26/10/17)
http://www.theartpostblog.com/en/still-life-caravaggio-basket-of-fruit/ (Accessed: 26/10/17)
Have a quick look at some of Taylor-Wood’s other work. Does this piece fit with those?
Looking at Taylor’s other work ‘A little Death’ it fits the contextual narrative of ‘Still Life’. Here Taylor uses the traditional work of still life and shows the transient nature of life; she does this by showing a dead hare decomposing rapidly before the audience’s eyes. It is interesting to see the peach beside it staying untouched by any insects. Similarly to Taylor’s ‘Still Life’ piece she has chosen a subject that has been used in still life for decades.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYka4ouQXqk (Accessed: 26/11/17)
Examples of still life art including a hare.
On the left, Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, ‘French Still Life with a Hare’ (1699 – 1779) Oil on Canvas 1730.
On the right, Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, ‘Still Life with Dead Hare’ (1699 – 1779) Oil on Canvas 1760.
This film is more brutal in its approach and almost sinister. The decay is shown quicker and because it was a living animal we feel more empathy when watching it. The peach does not decay, however we know it will be next as we have already seen in Taylor’s previous film.
https://www.dia.org/art/collection/object/still-life-dead-hare-36817 (Accessed 26/11/17)
Are there other artists working in a similar way?
Peter Greenaway explores decay and seeing animals decompose through speeding up film in the same manner. The famous 1985 film ‘A Zed and Two Noughts’ has an emphasis on the reoccurring theme of decomposing images in nature, this is the stop-motion decay of organisms. He does this to transition scenes and represent the life cycle; this is done through the evolutionary chain, starting with fish, to reptiles, birds, mammals and finally humans.
http://sensesofcinema.com/2001/film-and-the-other-arts/zoo/ (Accessed 26/11/17)
How does this piece comment on ‘time’?
Taylor’s ‘Still Life’ comments on time as it is providing the audience with a chance to see the process of decomposing which takes time and is not noticed by the human eye. It is only identified after it has taken place, for example when a piece of fruit is showing it has mold present. Time is relative because the decomposing does not happen immediately, it needs the time to take effect.
What do you think Taylor-Wood wants us to think about or experience from watching this? 250 Words
In ‘Still Life’ 2001 the artist Sam Taylor-Wood is exploring the reoccurring theme of mortality through the use of fruit. As has been shown by other artists like Caravaggio in 1599 in his ‘Still Life, Basket of Fruit’. The placing of the fruit is central and vibrant in colour; however through using the media of film which Taylor has used in her piece, we are able to see the time lapse decomposing of fruit. The fruit loses its colour and shape, the mold and decay of the fruit takes over covering the colours first to white then black, after which the fruit begins to disappear completely.
There is a pen sitting next to the fruit which does not move from the image throughout the piece. Whilst the fruit is decomposing and changing, the pen is unmoved and unchanged. My interpretation of this is that nature has its pattern whereby all living things will die, the pen on the other hand is a man-made product, made from materials that do not perish through natural causes. Such materials like plastic, do not decompose and are affecting the planet today. I saw this point as a reminder that the pen and its materials will outlive people.
Most artists are dealing with questions surrounding themes of our mortality and what it means to be human and the passing of time. Sam Taylor is no different, she is showing that through the centuries things have not really changed at all as discussed in an interview with Artpulse Magazine. Taylor displays through this piece that we are still trying to figure out big questions about our existence.
http://artpulsemagazine.com/breaking-the-medium-of-painting-down (Accessed 26/11/17)