Jim Campbell’s ‘Last Day in the Beginning of March 2003’, a reimagining of the last 24 hours in his brother’s life, is a transfixing experience. One enters the dark space into the sound of rain. Pools of flickering light illuminate wall texts identifying single moments such as the slamming of a car door, windshield wipers, the sound of a car radio, the lighting of a cigarette. Apparently random, banal – even meaningless, until they are connected by other texts identifying moments of nausea, anxiety, and the monitoring of medication levels to become a compelling, mysterious narrative. Lights rhythmically dim and brighten, suggesting the ways that memories of traumatic events blur over time, becoming disconnected and fragmentary.
Tatsuo Miyajima’s ‘Death Clock’ is chilling. 10,000 participants entered personal information in a ‘contract’ with the artist, nominating a time to die which activated their own ‘death clock’, an online countdown of their remaining seconds. 500 still images and 3 screens show the inexorable progression of each human life towards the inevitable. Like a 17th century Vanitas, this work forces each viewer to confront their own mortality.
Katie Paterson worked with Osram to develop a unique bulb that emits light identical to a full moon. Consisting of 288 halogen lightbulbs with frosted, coloured shells, simulating the colour of the moon’s glow, and a single hanging lit bulb, ‘Light Bulb to Simulate the Moonlight’ is evocative rather than confrontational. If each bulb burned out one by one they would last for 66 years, the average human lifespan when Paterson made the work in 2008. Daniel Crook’s ‘time-slice’ video work ‘Static No. 12 (seek stillness in movement)’ starts with an elderly man performing morning Tai Chi in a Shanghai park, and develops into an alternate reality where physical matter dissolves into a viscous digital abstraction. Time is stretched like toffee and the laws of physics appear entirely mutable.
Lindy Lee’s ‘weather drawings’ are suspended scrolls which have been exposed to fire and water. Works such as ‘Conflagrations from the End of Time’ reference the teachings of Buddhist masters who likened the universe to an infinite net. In some works intricate patterns are created by holes burned in the paper with a soldering iron, casting lacy shadows on the wall behind them. They are suggestive of the movement of constellations across night skies and the passage of rain and wind. Burnt and stained surfaces reveal the processes of their creation – Lee leaves her scrolls of paper outside in the rain and the sun allowing time and natural phenomena to make their marks.
In similar vein, Rivane Neuenschwander‘s ‘Continente – Nueven – Continent – Cloud’ consists of a false ceiling, lit from above, containing small fans and thousands of tiny white Styrofoam balls. Activated by timers, the fans blow the balls around the ceiling in great drifting clouds. Audiences are invited to lie on the floor watching the slow movement which at times evokes ink dissolving into watercolour paper, or the movement of leaves or grasses in the wind, suggesting the ephemerality and fragility of both the world we inhabit and ourselves.