Fine art tends to exist in three dimensions. Painting and sculpture are the most traditional media, and both deliver works with spatial, but not temporal qualities (except for the unwelcome fact of deteriotion over time). Artists have often puzzled over how to bring time into their work, exploring everything from dynamic forms to decay. Continuing in this tradition, The North Carolina Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibition called 0-60: The Experience of Time Through Contemporary Art. Here's a speedy tour of some highlights.
A number of regional artists are featured in the show, like Tom Shields, currently a resident at Penland, North Carolina, whose deconstructed chair appears at the start of this post. The work by locals holds up well in the show. I was very taken with the work of Virginia-based Sonya Clark, for example. The piece above is a digital print, in a scroll of a 30-foot dread lock. Other work uses hair to track the years since the Emancipation Proclamation.
The show also includes many national and international artists. It opens with a number of clocks made by the ever-inventive Californian, Tim Hawkinson. The examples above are a dried banana skin and a medicine cabinet filled with toiletries, all of which have moving parts that keep time.
Hawkinson's banana expresses time through its movement and also it's ongoing process of degeneration. More subtle--and stunning--is Tara Donovan's cube made of thousands of toothpicks. Talk about transfiguration of the commonplace! Donavan is a master at making the mundane marvelous. This toothpick monolith looks like it is about status rather than temporality, but a brief look at its periphery reveals the fragility of what appears structurally implacable. The assembly could not survive transportation, and will likely loose parts over the course of the show.
A bit more conservative, but also impressive are some photographs created over long periods of time. There is an imposing triptych by the German photographer Vera Lutter (not pictured here), which used a camera obscura to document an afternoon at Frankfurt airport. The image above is a remarkable 3-year (!) exposure made by Michael Wesley using a pin hole camera which remained on during the construction of the renovation of the Museum of Modern Art.
The exhibition also included two large installations of the excellent Mexican-born Montreal-based artist, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. The piece above uses a respirator to inflate a paper bag continuously using the breath of a Cuban singer. It inflates 10,000 times a day, the breathing rate of a typical human adult.
Another room-sized installation includes a small hole where visitors can insert a finger. The hole captures the fingertip on video and measures the pulse, resulting in an encompassing montage of fingers and nails.
One of my favorite pieces in the show is a one-room apartment made entirely of sheer fabric by Korean, Do Ho Suh, one of the most interesting artists active today. Do Ho Suh is interesting in biographical time, and this room is part of a larger project in which he creates fabric scale models of every home he has lived in.
For me, however, best in show was an old classic. It celebrates a piece by one the legends of performance art, Taiwan-born Brooklyn-based, Tehching (Sam) Hsieh. Hsieh's performance works of the late 70s and early 80s were true tests of endurance. In one he avoided anything having to do with art for a year. In another he lived outside for a year, never entering any enclosed space, including vehicles. In a third, he spent a year in a wooden cage, not speaking, reading, or watching television. The exhibition documents another performance from this period, in which Hsieh took a photograph of himself every hour on the hour for a year. The photos have been assembled into enlarged contact sheets and a video, which document his hair growth, and his amazing punctuality. Day or night, he managed to be on time for his hourly photo. The work is about the passage of time, but also about life on the clock--a ineluctable aspect of modern life. If artists strive to represent the world they live in, the Hsieh's pieces does a better job than any other on display in representing what time has become.