Thursday, November 18, 2010

Time Zone

by Drew Martin

Time is the greatest differentiator of the arts. Not only does it trump aesthetics and creativity but it rules them. History is simply the byproduct of time. Knowledge is an overlapping, compression and "retrievability" of time.

Time is everywhere. It is in the formative quality and the endurance of materials and it determines the nature of the art form: a live performance versus the past act of having made an object. The former is the simultaneous alignment of creation and experience, while the latter (even action painting) is a kind of posthumous experience (regardless of whether the creator is dead or alive). Robert Irwin referred to the art object as a fossil of that original process of discovery.

Time is the best critic: unopinionated, no strings attached, not trying to impress anyone. Sometimes the relevancy of the art is cyclical, while other times the value appreciates or depreciates, whatever that value system may be: financial worth, perceived uniqueness, admired labor. Ironically, the fresh frivolity behind pop art is eventually judged by its ability to last.

Time is an unstoppable transformation of substance: virgin whites, stain yellow; fleshy rubber, cracks and disintegrates; muscular marble men crumble into sooty powder and smooth bronze beauties become pitted and rusty.

The transformation is also of interpretation: the once, mind-blowing atomic insight of Seurat's pointillism is lost to today's take of the very same works as quaint period pieces. The old avant garde seems cliché.

Which artists understand this phenomenon best? Dali and his Persistence of Memory? Robert Irwin with his subtle shifts of light and form? Marina Abramovic and her epic exchanged stares? Or is it more about what time has shown us in the conviction of Vincent van Gogh? Or is this a matter better suited for musicians, whose repeating chorus is time; or writers who can express longing and waiting so well.

Damien Hirst may "sculpt" with entropy and death but death is just a pitfall of is the curse of that which tries to measure it and defy it. Death is how time measures us with various corporeal tickers: the graying of hair and the loss of it; the wrinkling and drying of skin; and, the slowing and aching of gait. Death is simply the termination of a system of organic time keepers. But there is no death of time or past of time or future of time. The real beauty of a moment is to not be distracted by obsessions of the past and promises of the future. The masters of art go beyond the obvious themes and metaphors. The infinite is not comprehended by following a path of time to an ever escaping termination but by beholding the sensation of the moment.

"If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."
William Blake