To begin with, in this week’s lecture we looked at various artists in different mediums and how they handled the concept of time. I found that a large portion focused on a selective human experience rather than existence as a whole. Even Olafur Eliasson’s, ‘your waste of time’, which explores the life cycle and history of water (the glaciers are “capsules of time”), and the influence of global warming, is inherently focused on humans’ relation to it, through his own admittance with a challenge to our “sensitivity to temporality”. (Coleman, 2023)
This is something I want to avoid in my own work for this project. Instead of having people feel special with how their life and decay affect nature and life as a whole, I want an acknowledgement to be made that in the grand scheme of things humans are simply a blip, a cog in a machine. They’re not special. They’re not at the centre.
Now despite what some may assume this is not an act of rebellion in the embracement of a cynical and existential perspective. This is instead an embracement of absurdism, an embracement of life and an embracement of community. Isn’t it fun and isn’t it absolutely ridiculous that despite everything we’ve done, none of it matters? That at the root of it all, we exist solely as a community with all living things, with the universe as a whole to allow life to carry on.
Nothing matters, we’re all going to die, life will carry on and I think that’s beautiful.
To achieve this visually I want to explore the human form with a sense of uncanny, preventing a natural self-centred focus in which we see ourselves fully in the work and instead having the human features depicted as simply another form in the circle of life.
In response to the lecture, we had to research two of the artists we saw. To begin with, I looked into, Peter Tscherkassky, an Austrian avant-garde filmmaker, born on the 3rd of October 1958, who created the short film, ‘Outer Space’. An extraordinarily intense film, relentless in its sensory assault, Outer Space was shot in 35mm cinemascope with scenes of Barbara Hershey from Sidney J. Furie’s 1981 film The Entity in which a woman possessed by a violent spiritual force.
Within the reworking of the film Hershey’s screams are punctured by the scratches and glitches of the torn film, of the sprocket holes that bleed across the screen, or the mechanical groan of the optical soundtrack as it forces any narrative from the screen altogether until the crisis reaches its peak and Hershey suddenly smashes a mirror allowing a moment of peace in the chaos while also toying with the concept of “film as a mirror” ‘articulated by Christian Metz which was, in turn, stated in opposition to Bazin’s narrative concerned statement that film is a window to the world. As he fragments Metz, who before him fragmented Bazin, we know that Tscherkassky is searching for something more.’ (Graham, 2000)
Through the chaotic layering and disruption of the elements of the film separate from the image, the idea is explored of the chaotic nature lurking outside the film that can destroy its viewing and disrupt the immersion in the audience’s lives and the process of production.
‘ Tscherkassky’s film has always been a meeting point of cogent theoretical preoccupations and a kind of anarchic punk energy. His first explorations in film were an inspiration and inheritance propelled by the films of Kurt Kren, Peter Kubelka and the Vienna Actionists. Although one of his earlier super-8 films, Aderlass (Bloodletting – 1981) took the confronting performances of the Actionists as its model, it was Kren and Kubelka’s concern with the materiality of film that would continue to inform his own work. In works such as Urlaubsfilm (1983), Freezeframe (1983), and Manufraktur (1985) Tscherkassky is interested in the limits to which film can be subjected to degradation and dissolution via refilming, layering and imposition, and visual fragmentation. But the rhythms of fracturing the sound and image are so precise as to never appear random. Commonly, as in Outer Space, Tscherkassky begins from a state of calm – a black or white screen, or a coherent piece of found footage – which he then takes to the edge of absolute destruction via processes of degradation and splintering, only to return the viewer to a state of calm, their senses bombarded with a new awareness of the possibility of film. These works are a frustrated resurrection of the material which has been placed at the service of the staid traditions of narrative language and conventions. Roman Jakobson wrote that “in order to show an object, it is necessary to deform the shape it used to have” (1) and this is precisely Tscherkassky’s concern.
Tscherkassky himself expressed the revival of found footage filmmaking as a “response. from a technological standpoint to the overwhelming presence of electronic imagery: a conscious return to the artistic specificity of the medium’s historical expression.” ‘ (Graham, 2000)
For my second portion of the research, I explored some quotes shown in the lecture from Joshua Foer’s column, titled, “A minor history of / time without clocks’ (from issue 29 of the ‘Cabinet’ magazine, titled “Sloth”) which explores the varying ways humans have been able to tell the time over the centuries, but also the way plants and animals have without human intervention
Joshua Foer is a freelance journalist and author with a primary focus on science with his writing appearing in The New Yorker, National Geographic, Esquire, Slate, Outside, the New York Times, and other publications alongside his international bestseller, ‘Moonwalking with Einstein’, in addition to being the co-founder of Atlas Obscura, the non-profit Sefaria, and of the design competition Sukkah City.
This impressive resume guarantees quality and accuracy when reviewing work, leading to us to focus on this expert from his aforementioned column:
CARL LINNAEUS, FATHER OF TOXONOMY, DIVIDES THE FLOWERING PLANTS INTO THREE GROUPS; THE METEORICI, WHICH CHANGE THEIR OPENING AND CLOSING TIMES ACCORDING TO THE WEATHER CONDITIONS; THE TROPICI, WHICH CHANGE THEIR OPENING AND CLOSING TIMES ACCORDING TO THE LENGTH OF THE DAY; AND THE AEQUINOCTALES, (EQUINOX FLOWERSL) WHICH HAVE FIXED OPENING AND CLOSING TIMES, REGARDLESS OF WEATHER OR SEASON. LINNAEUS NOTES IN HIS PHILOSOPHIA BOTANICA THAT IF ONE POSSESSED A SUFFICIENTLY LARGE VARIETY OF AEQUINOCTAL SPECIES, IT WOULD BE POSSIBLE TO TELL THE TIME SIMPLY BY OBSERVING THE DAILY OPENING AND CLOSING OF FLOWERS. HE COMMENTS, TO THE CONSTERNATION OF SEVERAL LOCAL HOROLOGISTS, THAT HIS FLORAL CLOCK IS SO ACCURATE THAT IT COULD ’PUT ALL THE WATCHMAKERS IN SWEDEN OUT OF BUSINESS’.’
The reason for my focus on this expert is how it supports my beliefs behind my project by showing factual proof that even a concept many consider to be entirely centred around human knowledge and self awareness is in fact general knowledge for most beings, enforcing the belief that human’s in the grand scheme simply just aren’t these special individuals but equals apart of a greater system far beyond our comprehension.
This week I also began an oil painting as an experiment for what could be the final work of my project. I’m creating a corpse-like figure from which I intend plants to be growing from, as we’re beginning to see the flower growing from the eye. While this is recognisable as a human figure I’m achieving that lack of personal association through my choice of colour and abstract brushstrokes to create the corpse’s head which is in a state of decomposition that removes the noticeable human nature.
The reason I chose to work in oil paints for this portrait is due to the thick consistency which allows me to layer the paint, complementing my brushstrokes well and bringing forth a new element in the painting that allows it to appear fully completed once finished instead of the feeling that something’s missing to correctly achieve the desired emotion and life desired. To achieve this style, I’ve solely used pallet knives instead of brushes.
The painting isn’t finished yet and while I do like it, it’s failing to evoke the desired response from me that would allow me to want to exhibit with the belief my intentions for this project are portrayed at their best.
Finally, I’ve also continued my work on printing in class, adding colours as I said I wanted to last week. Within this, I explored 3 different formats of colouring:
- simple block layering by coating the prints in one colour and printing it, continuing this process one at a time with my desired colours
- Selective colouring in which I added multiple colours onto the plate simultaneously, carefully wiping down the plate before adding another colour.
- Weighted printing, in which after printing down a base outline, I held the image down with weights to keep it in the correct place while I cut out some film in the shape of what you wanted to colour and applied a thin diluted colour over the plate for the background.
I loved all the prints I created here, but they don’t pack the punch I desire for the exhibition and so I’ve chosen to move on from this experiment for now.
Coleman, J. (2023, February 16). MoMA PS1 – Olafur Eliasson’s Your waste of time. Vimeo. https://vimeo.com/116118034
Graham, R. (2000, September 1). Outer Space: The Manufactured Film of Peter Tscherkassky. https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2001/cteq/outer/
JOSHUA FOER, A MINOR HISTORY OF TIME WITHOUT CLOCKS 2008, DOCUMENTS OF CONTEMPORARY ART; TIME PAGE 67 – 69