“We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
We stand on the last promontory of the centuries!… Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute, because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed.”
— F. T. Marinetti, The Futurist Manifesto
Artists: Guido van der Werve, Guy Bar Amotz, Johan Grimonprez, Leigh Orpaz, Mark Formanek, Neil Beloufa, Ohad Fishof, Romy Achituv, Sala-manca. Dates: 25.11.08 — 31.01.09
The exhibition is presented in the framework of VideoZone 4, International Video Art Biennial in Tel Aviv.
Internet-Radio station Halas, was launched with performances by the artists: Avi Baleli Trio; Uri Katzenstein; Binya Reches; Ohad Fishof;
Poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s assertions were published in 1909. Beyond the accurate prediction regarding the death of time and space, elaborated below, Marinetti ties speed— the speed of a car, to be accurate—to the individual’s experience. The experience of acceleration is a private experience that may be encountered while cut off from the collective, in which the body unites with the machine in a new experience of speed. It is available to the well-to-do, furnishing them with the ability to join the revolution of acceleration, which began in the 17th century, with the invention of the telescope.
This revolution was preceded by a long period in which Aristotle’s geocentric theory of the universe reigned supreme, whereby the sun, moon, planets, and other stars orbit around the stationary Earth, perceived as the center of the universe. Then came Nicolaus Copernicus in the 16th century, and reversed this theory, developing the heliocentric model whereby the planets, Earth included, revolve around the sun. The religious/scientific struggle in the 16th century between the adherents of the heliocentric and the geocentric models centered the question of the center of the universe.
Guido van der Werve’s work The Day I Didn’t Turn with the World (Nummer negen) was filmed at the North Pole. Van der Werve stood on the axis of the world for 24 hours, and moved clockwise while the earth under his feet turned in the opposite direction. The artist’s movement for 24 hours was desynchronized with the movement of the earth. Van der Werve filmed the performance every six seconds, and contracted the 24-hour footage into a nine-minute film, thus generating a sense of stasis when viewed. The monotonous Arctic backdrop remains unchanged; only the artist’s figure appears to make odd movements. The acceleration of the artist’s counter-movement against the motion of the earth generates tension between two antithetical, non-complementary movements.
Many works in the exhibition explore time-based art. Video, more than any other artistic medium, addresses and confronts “duration.” The very fact that the viewer must observe the work from beginning to end, alongside the fact that a video work, much like a sound piece, has duration and dictates the viewing mode more so than in works which are not operated by either analog, electronic or digital devices. If we were to examine the medium of painting and inquire where its temporal dimension is found, we may say that it lies in the duration required to create the image, whereas in photography the duration clearly amounts to the moment when the shutter is opened. Since a video work undergoes editing and temporal manipulation, its duration cannot be measured by its editing time, but rather by the duration of the work itself. Photography is the turning point in terms of time in art. The moment of shooting time is the moment time becomes a significant part of the work of art.
Before the invention of the telescope there was a correlation between what was visible to the human eye and what was attainable. The invention of the telescope created a situation where a person observes something which is out of his reach. It took centuries for man to get to the moon, and it will probably take many more years for him to start cruising to the distant planets. Contemporary technology enables us to receive tele information. Sights and sounds which are outside our scope of sight or hearing are conveyed to us in real-time, expanding our sense of experience and changing our perception of reality.
In Romy Achituv’s generative new media installation Sediment an aerial video of Jerusalem and its surroundings is digitally processed in real-time. The landscape is interspersed with an exceptional diversity of habitats: ancient and modern, privileged and impoverished, rural and urban, Arab and Jewish. Using the camera’s motion to reshape the landscape, the algorithmic manipulation deconstructs and morphs the captured view, symbolically reifying the subjective eye cast upon this turmoil-riddled land. The subjectively constructed, real-time landscape is created by and with motion, and can be modified continuously as the viewer desires. The morphed geography can be perceived as reflecting the oscillation of present-day Israeli topography between the urban and the rural—a landscape in which the characteristic structural distinctions between cities, suburbs, villages, and nature often seem to dissolve. (Sediment is one in a series of works created with a digital slit-scan photographic technique called Pixel Present developed by Achituv in 1997-98.)
Two major forms of acceleration exist today. One transports us physically to another place (airplane, spaceship, train, car); the other takes us elsewhere through our senses of sight or sound, without our having to move (mobile phone, television, virtual reality). Several contemporary thinkers, among them Paul Virilio and Hartmut Rosa, regard acceleration and speed as the foundation of modernity. We live in a culture that has been accelerating for three centuries. From this perspective, the world may be divided into populations which fit into the global speed trends and others that stay behind, literally. The latter populations lack the speed and acceleration technologies required in order to adopt the global tendencies; they are in the so-called “Third World,” mainly in Africa and Asia, but also, increasingly, in growing communities in the Western world. Today there is a mobile elite which neither recognizes geographical borders nor is it subordinated to economic constraints, and lives under conditions which make acceleration possible.
Against this backdrop, Neil Beloufa’s science fiction piece, Kempinski, offers an interesting view. Filmed in Mali and the United States, it explores both the future and the mysteries of the present. Beloufa confronts us with prejudice about progress and backwardness; advanced technology as we know it today appears backward in comparison to the one presented in the video; the new or alien technology presented to us on film is one of telepathy or telethought—an image conveyed via thought, rather than through television, for example.
In addition to the understanding which already came to fruition in the early 20th century regarding the centrality of speed, the current technologies put the image and the ability to preserve and broadcast it at the core of culture. The broadcast image has introduced a new type of light into our private space, the light from computer and television screens. It is refracted from a real object to a camera, wherefrom it is transmitted as a new light emanating from the television set. It is a reality constructed via light and images, taking place in two loci concurrently: in matter—in the reality of the event itself, and in light—in the representative alternative reality which technology generates and disseminates in accelerated time. This artificial light promotes the elimination of time and space and the “contraction” of the world, just as the technology of acceleration does. Speed and light are responsible for the accelerated culture and society in which we live. Despite the prevalent ascription of these technologies to the world of entertainment, it is important to bear in mind that these are the very same technologies on which control and surveillance systems are based; technologies of crisis, of a state of emergency; technologies which eliminate the democratic processes of representation, of debate and deliberation. There is no longer representation; there is substitution. There is a catastrophic aspect built into these processes of acceleration and empowerment.1 As Virilio maintains in his book War and Cinema, war and destruction are intended to generate terror, the horror of war, the image designed to terrorize and thus paralyze the enemy. There is no point in weaponry unless they produce a spectacle of destruction and horror.
There is also life of deceleration, the life of those who stay behind and refuse to join the race. For the most part, they are unable or lack the right to join it. But there are also those who stay behind by conscious choice, as a type of resistance. The “Slow Movement” in food and art is based on this very ideology. Its adherents create zones of deceleration, which in the future may transform into territories out of bounds to acceleration technologies and culture, a type of refuge from current technologies.
Leigh Orpaz’s work features a young girl standing against the sunset; the only movement discernible on video is not that of her body, but rather of two illuminated hearts painted on the girl’s head, two red hearts. In the video work, which is based on a moving image, Orpaz uses a technique of still photography, of an image frozen in time. The depicted figure stands frozen, trying to keep still. The light emanating from the two illuminated hearts is the only moving element in the work—the light within the work, and the light passing from the projected image to the viewers’ eyes.
In A Slow Walk for Longplayer, Ohad Fishof crossed the London Bridge on the longest day of the year in 2005. The act began in the early morning rush hour and continued for 9 hours, 43 minutes and 25 seconds. The walk produced a radical contrast between the city and the accelerated elements within it— cars, pedestrians, airplanes, trains, etc.—and the slow-moving body. Instead of photographic techniques which enable deceleration for the purpose of observing details, as customary in scientific video photography, in Fishof’s work the body itself performs the slowing within the space it occupies. It allows for a different type of observation of high-speed urban life, accentuating every basic element of existence (step, breath, turning of the gaze) by stretching it over a long duration. The transformation of basic nuances takes the foreground and is further reinforced by the accelerated pace of life around.
Guy Bar Amotz’s The Clock explores the tension between acceleration and deceleration. The clock is frilled into the wall with an electric drill which rotates in high speed, engraving a clock in the wall that becomes a static icon of frozen time. The act of drilling exposes the paint layers on the wall, confronting the spectator with a different time, the geologiacal time of the building.
In his book The Time that Remains, Giorgio Agamben discusses messianic time as operational time, “the time it takes for time to come to an end, to accomplish itself.” The idea that time has time, duration, acquires actual representation in Standard Time by Mark Formanek, realized in collaboration with Datenstrudel. The work features seventy workers who, in real time, build a 4×12 m digital representation of the time display. The work represents time through the use of time rather than space. It presents the time required for time to pass via manual labor and the duration of the action.
Similarly, the Sala-Manca collective’s Minute Box Machine: A Reconstruction of Marian Loop’s Time Machine enables viewers to play with time. The Minute Box Machine invites the public to acquire a product—in this case, one minute. Inserting a one Shekel coin into the machine activates a clock inside the Box for 60 seconds. The clock is being filmed in real time by a surveillance camera, and the footage is projected from inside the Minute Box Machine onto a central wall at the open space, showing the minute running. After 60 seconds the purchased time is finished, and the clock stops. Time stops until another coin is inserted into the machine. The projection of the clock for 60 seconds becomes a visual representation of the economic transaction (the purchased minute), concurrently converting the private minute into a public one. At the same time, since the clock in not activated continuously, a gap is generated between the “real” time and the time of the clock, “degenerating” the local time where the Minute Box is installed. The backside of the box, from where the projection is screened, is transparent, showing the dark side of time generation to the curious public, juxtaposing the old-looking wooden machine with the electronic devices suggesting a homemade bomb. The Minute Box is an attempt to reconstruct Marian Loop’s (1920-1985) machine destroyed
The technologies of acceleration which have become prevalent in the fields of science and art generate visibility, in addition to acceleration. They make it possible to see everything in real time. This correspondence between the fields of science, defense, and art raises a question about the role of art vis-a-vis these technologies. What is the role of art in a reality which is gradually replaced by a technological reality? What is art’s new place? Perhaps it ought to offer us blindness, slowness, and silence?
Special screening during the exhibition of Speed of Light, Johan Grimonprez’s Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y invites us to meet the romantic skyjackers of the 1960s and 1970s, who by the 1990s were gone and replaced by stories of anonymous bombs in suitcases. It can also be read as foreseeing the 9/11 attack. The film tracks the politics behind this change in the practice of terror attacks and their media coverage by blending archival footage of hijackings with other themes, including fast food, disco, and home movies.
- Virilio brings the Wall Street crash of 1987 as an example of a catastrophe built into accelerated information systems. The computers responsible for commerce reacted and interacted with one another in real time, at a speed which traders were unable to follow. Hence, it was the system itself that created the crash.
- Giorgio Agamben, The Time that Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, trans. Patricia Dailey (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford UP, 2005).
Co-curated with Eyal Danon