Timeliness – Karen Archey questions art in the present tense

Posted filed underCriticism, Curators, Text.


Karen Archey is a critic and curator based in New York. She writes Image Conscious, a blog for Artinfo and she has a really interesting essay up at Map Magazine:

“The concept of time, slippery and peripatetic, has long been a favourite indulgence of artists, theoreticians and writers. Although philosophical doctrines have been penned, sculptures erected, and books of poems published in years past, the topic remains evasive, especially in light of recent technological innovations that often disorient and streamline our circadian habits. Our experience of time is highly personal – customised, even. Yet a macro-level consideration of how our collectively shared experience of daily time has changed in the recent past reveals a quickening of pace, the result, perhaps, of increasing integration of technology with the everyday, accompanied in some instances by a reactionary appreciation for the slow, skilled and considered. What can be gleaned today from the accrued and fractured accounts of time, the quickening and lessening of pace as felt through the works of an artist?

There are certain artists whose works exist in multiple temporalities, and challenge the notion of temporality itself. They exhibit a sensitivity to an evolving contemporary condition defined by this recently developed shift in pace. such work operates under multiple, connected working methods, each containing at least two temporalities: the first being the specific cultural moment in which it is made, evidenced by the marks and mediums endemic to its time; the subsequent moment being that in which the work is accessed or activated by its viewer. But what happens when these temporalities are complicated, or even masked? Is it possible for an artwork to possess multiple meanings through different activation points in time, or preserve a singular meaning that is timeless?

Consider Andy Warhol’s ‘Time Capsules’ project, an archive of the artist’s everyday accruals from 1974 to his death in 1987. A set of 612 dated cardboard boxes containing banalities ranging from daily newspapers, correspondence, and financial records to gifts and refuse, Warhol’s ‘Time Capsules’ reimagine the impetus of the first time capsule realised in 1939 by Westinghouse Corporation for new York’s World Fair. As per the popular understanding of the time capsule, the Westinghouse version combined and preserved items considered emblematic of their historical moment: microfilaments, bank notes, recorded messages from Albert Einstein, commonly used textiles, etc. somewhat perversely, the boxes containing Warhol’s cast offs have since been lovingly catalogued, preserved and photographed by museum archivists. Yet Warhol presciently understood that it was the near-invisible matter most familiar to us that may most distinctly define a given historical moment, perhaps more so than whatever is ceremoniously deemed significant at the time. Warhol’s nonchalantly collected materials accumulate significance and authority through their maturation, acting as a glimpse into its historical moment.”

Read on at Map Magazine.