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11 May – 31 Aug 2013
Time / Resistance

The Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon, Israel

Curators: Yael Messer and Gilad Reich
Loan by Kontakt: Sanja Ivekovic, Triangle, 1979


Press Release

Participating Artists: Levi Orta, Dalibor Martinis, Navid Nuur, Jose´ Antonio Vega Macotela,
Sanja Ivekovic, Daniel Kiczales, David Sherry, Vahida Ramujkic and Aviv Kruglanski, Roman Ondák, Ohad Fishof, Núria Güell

“Space seems to be either tamer or more inoffensive than time; we’re forever meeting people who have watches, very seldom people who have compasses.” Georges Perec[1]

In the two decades since the beginning of the Information Age, there has been a ‘spatial revolution’ in art and critical theory alike. More and more texts, artworks, research, and exhibitions have begun to engage in the way the internet and other technologies are forcing us to rethink space and how it defines us and the human geography in which we act. Concepts such as ‘place’, ‘public space’, and ‘distance’ have undergone theoretical revolutions to adapt them to the new spatial experience typifying the Information Age.

Time, the Siamese twin of space, has gained considerably less attention. In fact, it is only in the past few years that engagement with the implications of the Information Age on our perception of time has begun to come to the fore (and consequently, time as well) in the integrated fields of art and theory; even though any change in perception of space means change in perception of time as well, for we are incapable of thinking about one independently of the other. According to social psychologist and time researcher Robert Levine, how we experience time can inform us not only about our own way of life, but also about the society we live in, since society ‘uses’ time as a material and form, as a foundation on which social order can be established.[2] And to achieve this, ‘hegemonic time’ takes shape, dictating the everyday in our life, and defining basic concepts such as fast and slow, early and late, ‘being on time’, ‘taking time’, and ‘wasting time’.

This is the point of departure for Time/Resistance, which engages in different forms of resistance whereby artists challenge hegemonic time perception by means of everyday practices – a matter that is not self-evident in Israeli art, which frequently engages in questions of place, space, and territory, but to a lesser extent in the regulation of time.

The exhibition presents the works of eleven artists from different artistic media, including video, photography, objects, and installations. The works as a whole engage in non-compliance with various time regimes, from national time economies and the technologies of the 1960s and 70s, to the latent time ideology of the neoliberal Information Age. As a whole, the exhibition asks how social, economic, and technological time regimes dictate our everyday life, how they create the link between time and place, and how they shape our attitude to the environment we live in, the relationships we maintain, and to our physical and mental condition.

Some of the works in the exhibition go even further, and seek an alternative: Is there a different pace of life we would rather maintain or exist in? Is it possible to create parallel time economies? And how, if at all, can hegemonic time be identified and resisted? Emerging from the works is the tension between private and public time, between competing time systems, between regulated living and personal experience of time, which is subjective by definition.

The exhibition is accompanied by a film program that will be screened in the course of May and June at Cinematheque Holon, and a special issue of the online magazine Maarav devoted to the potential for resistance inherent in everyday life. In the spirit of the works, the exhibition and its public program adopt a modest and intimate attitude to the subject. They present a series of small, subjective gestures that do not necessarily seek to formulate an ordered ideology of time, but rather to indicate the potential for resistance. In this respect the exhibition corresponds with the space in which it is being hosted, which until recently served as an elementary school: a functional, unassuming space that personifies the regulating element that exists in any educational act, as well as the potential for (limited) freedom of action.

Sabotaging Time

The time with which the works presented in Time/Resistance engage with is the pace of life. They address how we conduct ourselves in our everyday life, which is comprised of a series of regular, personal practices (sleeping, walking, washing dishes), and their encounter with social time regimes that exist in parallel (national-religious calendar, workday, progressive time perception, and so forth).

This duality of time perception is not a given. In fact, a substantially different perception and experience of time were prevalent in the ancient world and the middle ages: a cyclic time perception and experience that enabled the existence of parallel but not identical time systems containing recurring rituals which were accorded new meaning in accordance with personal-social needs. The invention of the clock at the end of the thirteenth century brought about a complete change. The church clock, and subsequently the personal clock, divested the pace of life from the individual and the particular social group, and made time an objective, linear, and external entity; an entity that does not emerge from the everyday, but rather subordinates the everyday to it. Two parallel processes attended this change: the urbanization of life in Europe, and the rise of capitalism. The clock determined a uniform measure of time for the urban space, blurred organic time cycles, and reorganized everyday activities such as awakening, eating, and resting. The uniform time created by the clock also facilitated capitalist production methods, whereby machines and workers alike are scheduled in accordance with a single tempo that can be quantified and whose efficiency can be improved.[3]

And indeed, studies conducted in recent years that examined the experience of time around the world found that the more developed the economy, the more extensive the industrialization, and the bigger the city, the more pace of life increases. And the more individualistic a particular culture, i.e., the more inclined it is to sanctify personal over collective achievements, the pace of life within that culture is faster and driven by a sense of urgency. It is hardly surprising, then, that despite the extensive changes that urban space and capitalism underwent in the course of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first, many artworks that seek to challenge and contest hegemonic time perceptions still primarily exist in an urban environment, and still directly or indirectly relate to the way capitalism in its current configuration dictates the pace of the metronome of our life.

The principal characteristic that Time/Resistance seeks to explore in the context of time regulation and the ability to resist it, is the choice made by many artists to challenge hegemonic time specifically by means of everyday actions. In the main, these are repetitive, minor, personal actions that challenge time by means of a series of modest, at times almost invisible actions that make skillful use of the subjective dimension of time to reveal both the normalizing effect of the dominion of time, and its fragility. In the words of Michel De Certeau, these tactics are “an art of the weak”, of those who cannot dictate the pace of things and are compelled to act within a system of rules that are imposed on them. “A tactic”, he writes, “takes advantage of ‘opportunities’ and depends on them… It must vigilantly make use of the cracks that particular conjunctions open in the surveillance of the proprietary powers… It can be where it is least expected. It is a guileful ruse”.[4]

This ruse – the ability to snatch, disrupt, and interfere – can only exist in the elusive and fluid dimension of time. For space is prone to rational, bureaucratic actions of definition and delimitation, of setting boundaries and measurement. By contrast, although time can be measured, it cannot be educated or tamed, dissected or divided. Time, literally, passes. Even when it is subordinated to production or national time regimes, it is always experienced subjectively. The elusive nature of time opens an aperture in the everyday to evade any systematic analysis or effective supervision. This is the source of the power of everyday practices as a possible foothold for sabotaging hegemonic time.

Although the everyday is subject to regulation by the dominant disciplines of knowledge and power structures, it possesses huge potential for escaping or evading them. It cannot be isolated in discoursive system analyses, and any attempt to elicit from it a single inclusive insight will do its character an injustice, for it is always both repetitive and unpredictable. The everyday dwells between subjective experience and social norms and mores: between the individual’s ability to act and the forces acting upon him, between resistance and compliance. Investigating and engaging in the everyday are consequently a political act; an act that has the power to extol the history of the weak, to accord meaning and visibility to experiences that have been silenced, and to illuminate dark areas of pseudo-public situations. In other words, inherent in the everyday is a huge potential for change and inspiration – change that begins in the most basic layers and ways of life itself. “The everyday is both authentic and democratic; it is the place where ordinary people creatively use and transform the world they encounter from one day to another”.[5]

This potential for change and resistance is the source of the increasingly growing interest art has shown in everyday practices since the second half of the twentieth century. Although observing the everyday has occupied painters since the beginning of modernity, engagement in everyday practices increased several-fold after World War Two, and even more so in the wake of the Fluxus movement in the 1960s, and feminist art in the 1970s. According to critic and curator John Roberts, the everyday enables artists engaging with it to draw closer to life, to be in the world rather than merely observing it and judging it from the outside. It also makes it possible to divest art of the autonomous status it established for itself – a status that allowed it to flourish, but at the same time distanced it from the ‘earthly’ aspects of life.[6]

Sociologist and theoretician Henri Lefebvre claimed that works of art can serve as an opening for new paths within the everyday, for the everyday is where the repetitiveness that typifies life confronts the creativity inherent in it. The everyday is therefore simultaneously a space of alienation and joint activity.[7]

At the same time, as we have seen, the everyday is also a central site of regulation. It becomes more intensely so under the post-industrial dominion of time in the Information Age, where the non-material nature of the new economy substitutes old time regimes with biopolitical time regimes, as defined by Foucault: the regulation of life no longer imposes itself externally, but is rooted in life itself, in how we think about ourselves and what is expected of us. Cultural ideals that are the product of latent economic forces clarify what is considered ‘quality time’, and how we should ‘use’ time, which everyday practices are a ‘waste’ of time, and what constitutes a ‘correct’ and ‘efficiently’ organized daily routine.

Against this backdrop, the importance of artistic tactics that seek to take advantage of the untamed nature of time and the potential for resistance in the everyday, increases several-fold. These tactics are many and varied, from symbolic actions to actions grounded in the social world. On the symbolic level, these works that adopt tactics that this is their purpose, mostly include acts of waiting, delay, and repetition whose purpose is to ‘put a spoke in the wheel of time’, to emphasize the arbitrary nature of time structuring, or expose the mechanisms that determine everyday life. Works engaging more clearly in the social dimension of time mostly seek to create alternative time economies, and emphasize the importance of time for socialization processes and shared endeavor. As noted by anthropologist and poet Prof. Zali Gurevitch, the perception of time is always local-social. The Hebrew word for time, zman, shares the same linguistic root with the words for convening, summoning, inviting, and scheduling; in other words, it deals with connections and relationships, with people, events, or situations coming together.[8]



***


In the past, a clear distinction was drawn between performance art, which by its very definition engages in the dimension of time, and visual art, which engages in space. The works presented in the exhibition do not comply with these clear definitions. They can be catalogued under the title “Biopolitical Art” in the words of art critic Boris Groys. Although the artists participating in the exhibition express themselves by means of self-documentation or physical presence in the artistic activity (for “time, duration, and thus life as well cannot be presented directly but only documented”),[9] most of the works are not a direct presentation of an artistic activity that occurred in the past, but “the only possible form of reference to an artistic activity that cannot be represented in any other way”.[10] Just as the everyday is a series of actions without an end result, thus, too, artistic activity that draws from the everyday is a practice that does not strive for an end product, but directs the observer to life itself. The gap between art and life is reduced. “Art becomes a life form, whereas the artwork becomes non-art, a mere documentation of this life form”.[11] The sophisticated and camouflaged nature of time regulation in contemporary life is what led us to focus Time/Resistance on artists who use their own body, life and thoughts as a tool of resistance. Such resistance, which is inherent in life itself, enables the exposure of connections and inferences between overt structures of political and economic control and the latent perception of time that establishes them. Hegemonic time is revealed as an episteme that organizes life on the one hand, and subordinates it to power on the other. Nevertheless, the subjective practices adopted by the artists reveal that concealed in the very structuring of time is the possibility of challenging it. Despite the considerable differences between them, all the works in Time/Resistance enable critical examination of hegemonic time regimes – private vs. national time, productive vs. non-productive time, local and subjective vs. global time, ‘big’ vs. ‘small’ time – and propose a very personal and private tactic of resistance.


Yael Messer & Gilad Reich


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[1] Georges Perec, Species of Spaces (translated by John Sturrock), Penguin, 1997, p. 75.
[2] Robert Levine. A Geography of Time, New York: Basic Books, 1997, p. xix.
[3] Yoav Ben-Dov, “Concepts of Time”, in Time-City, the catalogue of the Bat-Yam Biennale of Landscape Urbanism, 2010, 64.
[4] Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (translated by Steven Rendall), University of California Press, 37.
[5] Stephen Johnstone, “Introduction: Recent Art and the Everyday”, in The Everyday, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008, p. 13.
[6] John Roberts, Philosophizing the Everyday: Revolutionary Praxis and the Fate of Cultural Theory, London: Pluto Press, p. 1.
[7] Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life Vol. 1, London: Verso, 1991, p. 97.
[8] Zeli Gurevitch, “The ABC of Time”, in Yotam Benziman (Ed.) Memory Games: Concepts of Time and Memory in Jewish Culture, Jerusalem, Van Leer Institute and Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2008, p. 20.
[9] Boris Groys, Art Power, MIT Press, 2008, p. 56.
[10] Ibid., p. 54
[11] Ibid., p. 55.

http://www.digitalartlab.org.il/ExhibitionPage.asp?id=740&path=level_1