What does an hour look like? (2011)


If we talk about invisible worlds we also talk about spaces and talking about spaces we inevitably get to the slippery notion of time. Time, defined as dimension of the Universe after which the irreversible succession of phenomena is ordered, is probably one of the absolute abstractions.

At a very simple analysis, we could say that it only exists in its effects, in the consequences of its passing and in the way in which it influences matter, be it alive or not. Time seems however to be above all the other abstract notions, of which none dictates so dictatorial the way things go as time does. But this dictatorship of time is noticed especially in the space that was artificially created by man, in which the clock appeared, who orders the passing of time and assures the good going of things, while in the natural environment, with animals, with plants, the notion of time has kept its abstract character, manifesting itself only through the consequences of its passing. Man tried to materialize time, to put it in a concrete form, to give it shape, colour, taste, smell, everything with the sole purpose of mastering it, enslaving it, without realizing even for a second that he only becomes its slave. Atemporality has become an exotic notion, heard of only in theater plays in which characters sell or buy time, only to finally wake up outside it.
The work “What does an hour look like?” raises a question to which an infinity of answers could exist, probably as many as the individuals questioned. But the hour itself never looks like anything, it is only a measurement unit for the time mentioned above, another abstract notion, dependent and determined by it. Talking about the composition of time, about its divisions, we observe a sum of units that compose it, each unit being divided in sub-units and so on…until the end of time.
One of the aspects that this work wishes to underline is the relativity of the representation of time, the ambiguity of such a representation, having at the same time the intention to put into a concrete form the measurement unit named hour. Accepting the idea that an hour can “look” different for each individual, but not wanting a representation that would be too close to the concrete sphere, the work looks at the hour as a sum of photographic exposures of thirty seconds. Because of the present technology, an hour can be recorded, memorized, retransmited, with the help of the video camera that can assimilate the information and then replay it with fidelity. What this work tries to do is to transpose the representation of an hour in the photographic medium, to create an image, a shape for the abstraction called hour, image that would be completely different in video.
The work consists of 120 frames done with a 30 second exposure time.

Clarity, concreteness, are not relevant, the whole ensemble of images being itself the look of an hour, not as sum of consecutive minutes, but as annexation of frames, which underline yet again the level of relativity reached by any attempt to represent an abstract notion.
As far as the theme goes, it is clear that the work lines up with works talking about time, one of the most offering themes in contemporary art but also one of the most exploited because of its infinite abstract potential. The concept of time varies, sometimes greatly, from one culture to the other, therefore to speak about time in general is mostly wrong, time being totally relative to the being or thing which perceives it.

An essential aspect to be considered when speaking about this work is the one stressed by Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel in the work „Themes of Contemporary Art. Visual Art after 1980” namely the fact that “artists that want to represent time are faced with an inherent contradiction: while many visual works are static, time is measured and it manifests itself through change”. One of the reasons why time has been such a prolific theme throughout art’s history is the fact that artists always wanted to immortalize it in one way or the other which brings us to the work “What does an hour look like?” in which time is represented through an attempt to photograph it, to give it visual materiality, time being something which through the excellence of abstraction, cannot be photographed.

The translation of this work into video form has been determined by a desire to over-impose these two mediums in this attempt to illustrate time. Aspects related to the clarity of the image are irrelevant here as well, the stake being to see, through different mediums, with different technical capacities, the same idea. Because the video medium is much more offering as far as illustrating time goes, having the capacity to record it and replay it even in real time, I have decided that for the work itself, the parallel with photography is more important, the frames shot in video starting from the same principles as those shot in photo stills – 30 seconds, which in this case are not allowed to unravel themselves but instead are limited as far as the playback goes, to only 2 seconds, which I considered enough to visualize an image of the series of 120. This option to speed up time does not in any way decrease the symbolism, meaning or authenticity of the work, on the contrary, being an observation of the different ways in which time can be manipulated in the video medium, lengthened or shortened and played around with according with the wishes and preferences of the artist.


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