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Poetics of Time – Research

The concept of time

While researching time or time based performances, I felt that it was crucial to get down to the most important question regarding this subject. Does time exist? Or is it an illusion? I found this video that cleared up quite a few questions for me and also provided new insights on the existence of time.
So some things I noted from the video are:
1. Einstein’s theory of relativity explains that time passes for everyone – however, not necessarily at the same rate, depending on the situation (this leads me to think of experienced time in comparison with measured clock time, if clock time is truly objective)
2. Einstein combined space with time to define space-time. However, we can travel in space but not in time. This is then known as the arrow of time. This topic has also been heavily referenced in the animated series Bojack Horseman, on how time only ever moves in one direction and how we are merely pushed along and can’t change the past.

3. Finally, the video discusses if time is an illusion, and if it is an illusion, does it mean that it cannot be real? There’s a paradox here that I find very interesting – the ability for time to not exist but yet come into existence through events that occur. This for me ties in causality, that time is an outcome/effect of a cause/event/action.

Ok, but these are just a few theories that may or may not be related to the poetics of time. So moving on~

Time in literature

Clock time is our bank manager, tax collector, police inspector;
this inner time is our wife
.

– J. B. Priestley, Man and Time

This is an amazing quote used at the very beginning of one of my favourite books, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This books deals with the concept of time and travelling through it for quite a bit as the protagonist suffers from a chromosomal condition that results in him flitting through different points in time, before and after his life.
I think that the above quote is relevant to this project/lecture as it presents the existence of different categories of time, especially in the context of the book. These categories are “clock time” and “inner time” with both being extremely subjective to various characters in the book. This is extremely interesting as it introduces the idea of time as something subjective to different people based on their experiences. More on this topic/book analysis here.

The entire poem can be found here.

Also, I thought this poem depicted time in an interesting manner as the chronology of the life of the protagonist is rearranged for narrative effect. While we do not learn about all the details of the protagonist’s life and not in chronological order, we are filled in on key moments from his conception to death with space for our own imaginative interpretation of his life and personality.

Installation art

Ember Rain (2018) by Starlight Alchemy

“Create a mesmerising downpour of sparkling embers as you pedal on a bicycle in this interactive fire sculpture. The sparks generated represent catalysts of ideation and innovation, while the tower’s lotus-shaped petals symbolise the rebirth, purity and beauty of ideas flowing through space.” -excerpt from here

This August, I went to the Singapore Night Festival and viewed this piece titled Ember Rain. Looking back, I feel like this is quite a relevant installation to use to discuss time and causality. If I recall correctly, the piece is interactive in that a member of the audience has to physically cycle on an exercise bike to power a mechanism that delivers some sort of flammable object to the top of the installation. Then, the ‘lotus’ creates a rain of ember and sparks. This to me is quite an interesting representation of clock time as it is quantitively measured by the recurring shower of sparks. It is literally a cycle – circular time.
The recurrence of the ember rain could also be seen as a rhythm if one stands to view the installation for a longer period of time.
Also, tying in causality, the actions of the audience member who engages in the cycling actively results in an outcome that is a huge part of the installation.

Others (?)
Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995) by Ai Weiweiimage from here

One of Ai Weiwei’s more controversial pieces, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995) is a 3 panel series of photographs depicting Ai Weiwei dropping/destroying an ancient and precious artefact. In the creation of this artwork, 2 2000-year-old ceremonial urns were shattered, angering antique collectors.

I wanted to include it as I feel it deals with old objects in such an interesting manner. Ai questions the value of artefacts with cultural significance in this artwork, along with other projects where he paints over urns (Han Dynasty Urn with Coca Cola Logo/Coca Cola Urn, 1994) and grinds vases into powder.

Additionally, this photographic triptych captures the action of the vase being dropped, freezing linear time and presents it so frankly with no way of reversing the event as time’s arrow marches forward.


image from here
In the footsteps of Ai, Swiss artist Manuel Salvisberg recreated the photo series with art collector Uli Sigg in an identical stance as Ai, named Fragments of History (1995). This “reproduction” of Ai’s piece challenges Ai’s original work as Sligg destroys Ai’s Coca Cola Urn as opposed to Ai’s destruction of the Han dynasty masters’ pieces. Read more on Uli Sigg’s Fragments of History here

In other news:

There seems to be a trend of destroying Ai’s pieces! ?