Today we spent the whole day on the beach walking from the morning until the sun went down. We were without a watch only following the time by looking at the sun. It made me think a lot about time and timepass.
For the last two weeks in Sao Paulo, we were working with every day changing exhibitions focusing on art that is produced and exhibited the same day – in the now. In that process, we are constantly dealing with the notion of time and questioning the contemporaneity in art. We call this type of art ultracontemporary; ultra is referring to the artworks’ closeness to the now and the artists’ ability to be produced and exhibited in time. The term ultracontemporary also carries a critique of the contemporary. Contemporary art (in its name con- ‘together with’ + tempus, tempor- ‘time’) claims to be in time, and close to the time we are living in, but often it is not the case. In the exhibition situation, we give artists a timeframe and deadlines for showing up, meeting, delivering, etc. We do this in order to make it possible for them to both catch and express about important issues regarding the everyday changing the world we live in. A clock is an important tool in this process.
To emphasize the daily deadline for artists is a way of making a cut in time or a rhythm. A rhythm that fits to the beat of the things happening in our society. But when walking on the beach for a whole day, only following the sun, the feeling of timepass is different, even though there still is a clear beginning and the end of the day.
Being on the beach is without a doubt a different time experience than the mechanic time of a clock. Are there different kinds of time? Different speeds?
In a book I was reading last year “TIME –Documents of Contemporary Art” Giorgio Agamben wrote in his text “What is Contemporary” about different times: “Those who have tried to think about contemporariness have been able to do so only by splitting it into several times, by introducing into time an essential dishomogeneity”
Being on the beach feels like being in the untimely place, but still with a strong feeling of being in the moment and being present. It is almost meditative. I remember that some of Roland Barthes’ as well as Friedrich Nietzsche’s thinking were connection contemporary and untimely/unhistoric.
Time of the now (ho nyn kairos)
What does it rally mean to be in the now and catch the moment? Maybe by following the now or coinciding too well within it, the artist loses the ability to see, to make the interesting syntheses about the now. Maybe the true contemporaneity needs an element of disconnection. Maybe the anachronism (from the Greek ἀνά ana, “against” and χρόνος khronos, “time”) is what can make it possible for artists to grasp the time and express in the now. Maybe an artist that wants to be timely or con-temporary has to be slightly out of jointness with the present. To adhere to the now and at the same time to keep a distance might be the key method for grasping it.
Maybe the real moment of magic transformation in the now can only happen if we let the different times/nownesses coexist. Like messianic time, time of the now (ho nyn kairos) including different times in one; Not being completely part of the past nor the future, just a contraction of time in the now – as the only real time. Nowness. Being able to embrace the timepass on the beach and the timepass in the emergency art exhibition changing every day can lead to a curtain kind of transformation of energy as well as new points of view and visions.