Archive by Author

Final Futures…

7 May

By Gareth Evans

 

This posting is my last as JVA Writer in Residence. I’ve very much enjoyed writing around ‘Formed thoughts’ and TNK. I’m sorry only that my postings weren’t more evenly spaced across the exhibition runs, but hope that there has been something of interest in them for those of you who have followed them. Thank you very much for reading and, most importantly, to Shonagh Manson and Sarah Williams for giving me the opportunity to respond to two fascinating shows.

Watch this space for Colin Perry’s responses to the coming exhibition, which opens 9th May.

Onwards!

 

Manifest

7 May

By Gareth Evans

From 'Wings of Desire'

When the show comes down, like the circus in the commons, what survives? A matrix of browned grass, the ghost of a frame on a wall that might itself be passing; spectres in the crowded air, jostling messengers; and cables latent with the next illumination…

All artworks are in their own way manifestoes. They make manifest – show and offer – a world in which they argue for themselves as necessary. They seek to fine-tune the shape of the world. They make a claim as carriers of something they believe to be worth encountering / feeling / knowing. The strength – or not – of this claim is often a measure of their continuing / growing / lack of success in the time that opens like a fan from their making. So, they survive, if they do, beyond their ‘moment’, regardless of whether they continue to exist as artefacts.

For ‘actual’ manifestoes, much of the above is true. As if they were artworks (many are) before they are explicit calls dramatically to reorder the real in favour of their own imagined proposal. However, they are also more and less, and both aspects work in relation to their constitution within language.

Manifestoes make entirely evident the metaphorical trait of language. Not simply content to contain metaphors within their conviction, they declare that language itself is metaphorical and will aid them directly in their intentions. Language becomes what it tells. All language possesses this if taken literally as an alchemical biological procedure (e.g. lips, teeth, tongue, throat, breath etc shaping intangibles in the body of the maker or the aural / ocular devices of the listener / reader) However, another way of being is not simply aspired towards when a manifesto is spoken or read; it is. For the period of the declaration, the sought new order is manifest in reality as currently configured.

A manifesto creates both the time and the space of the consciousness that perceives it; that is, the place, the site in which the necessary action will unfold. The problem is that this location remains aerial. It has to be given, granted to the air to become manifest, but is all too likely to remain there. Might it be that a manifesto, once declared, has already surpassed its potential to affect or effect. Is the most complete moment of the manifesto its primary impulse in uncoded thought, its earliest draft, whether individual or mass; the sense that something is wrong, that something must change. The desire to stop the clocks of conformity and to reset them to a time arranged by weather, longing, light and shadow, anger, justice, love. To carry no private watch except the pulsing chronometers of body, heart and mind; to follow no public hour except the sheltering and spreading example of the tree, the common cause for multifarious goods, a calendar of continuous and consequent, truthful human acts.

 

Erase and Delete (or not): Emma Hart and the Mundane Monumental

7 May

By Gareth Evans

 

I seem to spend much of my time these days thinking about three or four things.

  1. The fact that other places exist. Now. Somewhere else.
  2. Actions occurring simultaneously. Now. Somewhere else. And normally unpleasant.
  3. Whether I have spent my day in a worthwhile manner.
  4. Following closely on from 3., how I might define and therefore improve my accomplishment of whatever it is I am or might be doing that is of worth.

Last night on earth…

First morning…

It might justifiably be observed that such thoughts, or rather, the opportunity to pursue them, to dwell even briefly within them, are the privilege of those in the 1% globally. Certainly, if not related to income, I live as one of that tiny minority, as we all do who find ourselves in the UK, regardless of class, property and wealth; not least because we can still depend on the fact that a more or less supporting external reality is, and that it endures. A structure is in place. Yes, it is threatened. Yes, it requires constant defence and advocacy. Yes, nothing can be taken for granted. But we are vast distances from those for whom a waking continuity is absolutely nothing to be relied upon (last night I watched Claire Denis’ genuinely unsettling White Material, with its portrayed forms of organisation – oppressive and benign – as vulnerable as crops to drought).

I should say that I do not recline, chaise-longued, and ponder existence through the weekday afternoons. More, these concerns exist like a static, an untuned radio interference, behind the stations of my overtly declared pursuits at any given moment (it has been said that the white noise between clear tuning is the sound of the universe, in which case such thoughts seem less indulgent, and more inevitable, than at first expression).

I am sure I am not alone in such reflections. All of us who attempt to navigate some more or less conscious path through the traffic of things – that is, the world – find these or similar worries rising more and more frequently these days. Globalisation, the post-industrial, the ecological, forms of systemic unravelling, technological acceleration and the attendant volume of information (without its equivalent insight or knowledge)… these and many other factors inform and impose upon our crowded heads.

Strange to think that if I whisper into your ear – as you sleep – I am speaking directly to your dreaming brain, only centimetres away. Your mind, however, who knows where that might be, running through the trees that edge the backcountry roads, free canine; appreciating flight; climbing the peaks of long dead stellar formations…

In Patricio Guzman’s astonishing film essay Nostalgia for the Light, a likeable young astronomer confirms to the film-maker that the present does not exist. That the inevitable delay in our sensory receptors means that every act, encounter, impression reaches us after it has occurred, however intimate or intense. The present is constantly retreating, tidal, away from us as we follow it. We live finally in the past, at least in terms of experiential physiological consciousness. If this is true – and it’s hard finally to challenge – then the much vaunted goal of living ‘in the moment’, in the ‘present’ of a heightened awareness to all things, from washing up to making love, takes on a more complex hue. We reside in a constantly unfolding memory, making it step by step as we recede into the future, a door at the end of a filmicly extending corridor we can never reach. Where then, in this trajectory of displaced immediacy and aspirant attention, should we place ourselves?

Emma Hart: Monument to the Unsaved

Emma Hart’s work for TNK makes central one of the devices that, for a few decades at least, has served more often than not as a measure, both personal and public, of our place in the living and recollection of our own times. The television – especially in its phase as signal hearth to our collective growing – provided both a register of actual and existential time, and of the life undertaken in those times. That its images were, until relatively recently, irretrievable once broadcast, only served to accentuate its potential as an external echo of our own interior relationship to memory and the often expressive urgency of what has been seen  or touched us.

Hart has written that her desire in relation to image-making is less concerned with what those images might be ‘of’ than what they are ‘doing’. What’s interesting about television is that it does both. Its of-ness often is – embodies – its action. The fact of it, that it continues, around and beyond us, as a generally reassuring frame of onward making, underscores its importance to private and national identity-building (there’s still a reason to take over the television station, although it’s increasingly harder to know where it might be, or which one is most significant).

Rain on Victorian brick; a sky of smoke and milk; slow Monday, even the road is hesitant.

In her TNK piece, Monument to the Unsaved , Hart offers us a set in the old way, pre-switchover, a machine that is functioning kin to the other domestic appliances – irons, vacuum cleaners, with which it shares room space. Her television is not an autonomous system, independent of all stimuli, servicing its viewers Hal-like, with a clinical detachment. Rather, it’s both a measure of, and responsive to, audience impulse and hope. Hart’s proposal here – that the stutters, stammers and judder of consciousness, thought, memory and motivation can find a correlative in the layered glitches of early image-recording technologies – taps a poignancy that is hard to separate from the means of that mood’s manufacture.

We are all affected by the often corporate prompts towards a shared form, an index of recollection: the grimly smiling holiday photos, the cheese, the panning shot from the hotel to the sea view. So it is with our own appearance within those calculated planes. This becomes even more charged when the image originator is larger than the familial, when it is part of, and promises immersion within, the ongoing story of the socially seen.

Hart’s appearance on the long-running (long enough to grow up alongside) Channel 4 quiz show Blockbusters in 1989 perfectly illustrates this. Who can fail to feel the loss of that evidence when her father records over it with the film Moonraker (a particularly weak title in the Bond franchise). And yet, in this simplest of everyday acts, larger forces and dynamics can be glimpsed. This erasure of the smallest personal might stand in for the loss of the individual narrative in a year of seismic international shift. The human gesture that is a quiz show appearance, reliant on chance and luck and skill, is lost to a techno-corporate image franchise celebrating its own form – in both production and theme – of globalised, quasi-imperial oppression (a sidebar irony too in its counter-reminding that the BBC recorded over much of their own coverage of the lunar landing 20 years earlier)

How we live alongside others, alongside events – large and small, horrific and weighed in grace – and how we find value in our own acts and being, towards ourselves and the world; these surely are the questions of our time. Erase and delete, erase and forget, erase and… forms of closure, implosion, threat, dissolution, the slow or sudden apocalypse of the known and assumed… like all societies living on a threshold, on the very frontier between stories of itself, we can immerse unthinking in created fantasias of destruction (the psychic advance guard of what might come) or we can learn from such ‘safe’ encounter what must be salvaged in the actually existing, slipping present.

Crisis survived is by definition a prompt to wonder at the everyday miracles that also made it through, at what is and is again: clean water, the gleam in wine, the working of a light switch, the jingle-jangle of a playground ripe with children. These are the monumental things, whether saved or woven into ongoing forgetting by replacing themselves each time we rise. Would we rather lift hewn stone to our remembering, or follow the passage of the wind through the singing branches, the breath of what would be invisible without the tree. A deep green collaboration. Here is the dance between matter and meaning, between signal and transmitter, the fluid architectures of existence.

What cannot be saved: our lives. What can be saved: how we live our lives. In every human moment, there is a hand somewhere in the picture, seen or felt, its kind press. An offered hand – I am, you are, and we. The great and lasting monument, one nobody builds, except in warm attention, except in passing air, inside the memory of the world – a mercy and a process. A kind of bread. A hand. A hand upon the buzzer, a hand to press ‘record’.

Particulars – Naheed Raza’s Forensic Gaze

7 May

By Gareth Evans

 

Several years ago I found myself in the Bloomberg Space next to London’s Finsbury Square. It was the first time I’d been to the gallery, situated in the entrance hall and on the balcony of a vast interior well that dropped the length of the media and news conglomerate’s UK headquarters. Certainly, it was a distinctive location for such a cultural venture, with the usual blank cube vigorously informed by its context and container.

Occupy Finsbury Square London

Since then, of course, attention has been given to the surrounding area for all the reasons we know, with one immediately local being the ongoing presence of the only remaining Occupy site in the City of London. We also find ourselves in the most explicit ‘bread and circuses’ moment of the capital for decades, a time that includes Tate Modern’s hosting of a Damien Hirst retrospective, memorably described by Hari Kunzru as evidence of an art become capital, no longer able to claim for itself a space of purpose beyond its financial value. Sure, for quite some time art has been one of the few commodity markets retaining and increasing its returns, but this is something different. This is art made of and for its potential towards profit. So it goes…

So it goes, indeed. What was clear on that visit, however, was the worth of the Bloomberg Space ‘Comma’ series, original commissions across all media for the venue, with a substantial financial commitment and a valuable range of emergent and established artists. I was there to see Naheed Raza’s film work Sand. A looped 16mm installation in the main room, it compelled at once, with its scale-deceptive immersion in shifting dunes and rivers of silica, the ebb and flow of granular tides.

Naheed Raza: from 'Sand'

This is a sensory piece, keenly aware of the tactile and of the almost-silk of the sand’s smooth passage. Inevitable, then, that it was made on celluloid. The whirr of the projector and the granularity of the film stock become explicit participants in the orchestration of the desert. Similarly, it’s not surprising that Raza studied medicine and natural sciences before turning to art, and, equally, that she also works sculpturally. A faceted awareness of the materiality of things, of their structures and processes, keenly informs her visual practice. She can, literally, imagine the chambers and arcades beneath the skin of her subjects, in ways that create a useful parallel with the layering of intent within an artwork.

If all artefacts – even Hirst’s production-line latest – aspire to embody an ultimately ungraspable, intangible meaning, a series of ideas, emotions, proposals – within their actually existing fabric, then a correlative is set between the matter and metaphor of a work. So, the cellular thingness of a thing and, differently, its ‘essence’ (large and loaded terms, needless to say) become productively intrigued. Conceptually, the fact of DNA’s spiral quality seems a given (once discovered), but surely the helix is threading finally with an unknown, intangible other – that might be called spirit, soul, G-d or the means towards consciousness, towards life, nowhere better formulated than in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.

Such thoughts are clearly in the air. The Wellcome Collection and Somerset House’s new gallery, The Inigo Rooms, both explore this space between form and content, flesh and function. And Raza herself, in TNK, takes her investigations directly to the body with Frozen in Time and its Cryonic persuaders. This is not the space to raise any more than the most obvious questions about what surely can be described as flaws in thinking around the belief that preservation of the physical form, ‘head only’ or ‘full body’, is a viable means towards ceaseless life. Whether around issues of energy stability, future signage, installation security or social / ecological collapse, let alone the ‘age’ of revival, loss of one’s culture, community and shared belief systems, and the very principle of what constitutes life, its worth and meaning, the project seems to this observer to be profoundly misdirected.

Naheed Raza: from 'Frozen in Time'

If we are being encouraged, by the film but more fundamentally, by the existence of Cryonics at all, to think about what constitutes humanity, then surely both leading definitions should be weighed. Cryonics asks us to reflect at the deepest level on our relationship with the matter and metaphor of ourselves, with the locus of our identity as more or less singular entities, and our consequent place in larger environments.

That said, rather than speculate on how we might endure in a time-displaced, technologically-heavy future (intellectual strategies all too present in our current species failure to engage with our own ecologically self-destructive behaviours), we could ask instead, what constitutes our humanity now, our ethical priorities, our empathy while we are certainly alive? Instead of becoming ourselves again, elsewhere, later, in possible other carriers, we could seek to become ourselves now, here, fully (lifelong work), in our own skin by meeting the ‘other’, the bag lady, the wheelchair-bound, the migrant, whomever and wherever they might be, in their own skin and their own terms; helping to craft a conscious, collective humanity – with the others that complete us – in the present of our own being.

However, Raza wisely presents the whole business in its own perception, taking in the facts of the Michigan facility – an industrial operation, liquid nitrogen, caretakers and all – and placing these alongside interviews with key players in the scheme. Her filmic looking skilfully allows the viewer much space for their own take and yet, in dealing with the process by which Cryonic devotees seek to continue themselves  – and so deny the process of life and death – one can’t help thinking of exactly its opposite, the entropic finality of at least our current vessels. (This is neatly counterpointed by the fact that Raza’s piece here is in-process, with confirmation now that it will be completed, finished, given her receipt of one of the two TNK production awards).

Whatever might persist after mortal re-incorporation into the humus, the air, the cosmos, it’s hard to think of a more optimistic expression of the hope that the majority of humanity surely has, that something endures, than Nabokov’s wonderful phrase (thank you, Robert Macfarlane) from his novel Transparent Things concerning the ‘dream life of debris’. If we are all destined for detritus, at least for some station of the journey, then imagining our reverie while there is a lyrically enticing conception.

Ozymandias, after Shelley's poem

So it goes, and it all goes. That’s not news. Which brings me back to Bloomberg, and the prompt for this piece’s opener. Viewing Raza’s Sand, I enjoyed it enormously, its art and its artisanship, its world and its sense of becoming particular; but one of its readings completely escaped me then. A film about sand, about the mountain ground down to desert, about the physically dominant reduced to a common grain: how clear and successful a vision of capital and corporations is that? And to show it in one of the city’s palaces of power. Matter and metaphor, means and message. In sand is our unity (this is what democracy looks like). People have noted that we are living in a Nero moment, the decadent phase before collapse. But there’s always a period after (let’s call it Ozymandian), that lasts much, much longer…

In the Future – 13 Times

23 Apr

By Gareth Evans

 

In the future

the amber dog that leaps into morning shall chase the amber cat that watches from the high window with all the faith of creatures rescued from doubt

 

In the future

we shall leave nothing to chance but chance

 

In the future

we shall practice the wisdom of the seed, complete in our latency, the still point waiting knowing the path but not its weather, alert to all affections and always

 

In the future

we shall climb

the stone stairs of the

building that no longer is to

wander the green balcony we shall

climb the stairs of the now untenanted air no

we shall

 

In the future

the light on the canal at the fade of afternoons shall settle as strongly as ice and we shall walk on it as those might who are learning that the halls between things and beneath them are where the lasting lasts

 

In the future

the undergrowth that takes the wall shall be praised and finally alone in its survival

 

In the future

which is now as the present leaves us as it reaches like a gaze always a space between us and attention so now we shall enjoy the present of the past and the future in the moment we might name breath or step or hand or look or listen or anyword we choose and use to describe how most to become ourselves in each instant of the time that is ours all co-existent with each like the pebble in the pond and its ripple to banks and beyond them

 

In the future

we shall sleep until we are properly awake

 

In the future

we shall make and pursue only what life demands be made and pursued but first we shall trust life to tell us what those things might be

 

In the future

the sapling of the boy willow or birch or grass lengthening into years shall guide us out of our age into a holding space, a hollow of earth or a navel of dunes perhaps

 

In the future

we shall abandon simile for metaphor, and wish that we had conceived the phrase a driftwood altar

 

In the future

we shall instil an autocracy of trees and kneel for their shadow and their lungs their arms of shelter and their mark their incarnating wind the sea in their tall mouths and for their blossom rushing us a crowd a sudden mob of beauty milk and coral

 

In the future

we shall cast the net of our loves ceaseless into day attend to all things shining and begin

 

Radio Free Future…

23 Apr

By Gareth Evans

A short  dispatch here,  to alert you to an imminent posting on the JVA site of a radio programme I made with Resonance FM (www.resonancefm.com; 104.4 FM) for their excellent open access strand Clear Spot (Monday to Friday at 8pm for an hour).

Anchored around a conversation with FVU Director Steven Bode, and with music by Sun Ra and the Boxhead Ensemble, we explored the intentions of the project, the nature of the works in the show and the zeitgeist concerns and positions, regarding the future, that have prompted the establishing of TNK.

We also included short readings by Therese Henningsen (recorded by Andrea Luka Zimmerman) of four Utopian texts, drawn from John Carey’s excellent anthology The Faber Book of Utopias (provided by Chris Darke); and we were very glad that the great writer and commentator Paul Morley could join us to read his superb original discursive manifesto, commissioned especially for this exhibition and published in the newspaper accompanying it.

Special thanks to Ed and Tom at Resonance, to Mike at FVU and Oliver at JVA, Andrea, Chris and Therese and, of course, to Steven and Paul.

Fleet Street: Corin Sworn’s Assembly of the Elements

21 Apr

By Gareth Evans

 

When a final analysis is made, the constituents of the moving image – beyond the technical vessel of their carriage  – are few and primary. In Ur terms, versions of time enter into complex conversation with space, or what we might think of as the unfolding of time (it’s a debatable point, and one universally larger than the remit of this posting, as to which is fowl and which shelled) to produce the territory of the image, its place, both in the world and in its representation of that reality.

This can be said to apply as much to an entirely abstract/ed image as it does to the figurative, narrative or topographic kind. All incarnations of the seen occupy an optical zone which requires a chronology fully to be appreciated. And yet, this is only the foundation of the architecture that is a film (whatever its means). Almost all moving image makers engage with the sonic of course, crafting arcades, galleries, high vaults of perceptual extension from that sensory exploration alone, even before it waltzes with visual across the receptive terrain of the audience.

Once these have been established, the secondary fashioning can begin. Here, narrative (or plot, story, exposition) embraces character; genre frames subversion, systems of conveyance are ruptured by luminous glitches that contain medium (in both definitions) secrets the import of which only they themselves are fully cognisant.

More, location dialogues with action, the moment finds its priority – or hierarchy – within the series; the startling framing of a singular vision submits or rises above the body entire. Context is all, or nothing. The fleeting speaks volumes, or the volumes speak volumes. Poetry wrestles with prose and both understand they are necessary to the outcome. Information bleeds into insight as if it has wounded itself deliberately to transcend its own mundanity.

And now, in our times more than any other, questions of volume rise like gulls off landfill. How might any image, any constellation that edges towards meaning in its arrangement, find spectatorship at least, acknowledgement and appreciation at best?

The Groundswell Collective

Strategically, and before one even considers the context of this particular award scheme, Corin Sworn’s As the Mark Strays takes all of this on board; indeed, it makes these questions, enquiries, investigations the actual stuff of its purpose. A nourish conspiracy text, in which a young researcher finds herself paranoid of surveillance within the image archive of an information facility, a corporation of classification that appears to aspire to a Borgesian one-to-oneness between image and reality, in both time and space, her sketch towards a very likely already arrived future compels with its light touch, large implication gathering and deployment of the tools in patterns and arrangements that make one wonder and wish further.

Corin Sworn: As the Mark Strays

The protagonist’s employment requires categorisation by editorial, commercial or other criteria (all of which feel, in this fiction and in the actually existing world, to be increasingly meaningless divisions. Unfortunately. Sworn, however, subscribes to the undomesticated impulse of the lyric at key pivot moments, hinges that open the work, provisional but prospective, onto vistas that cannot be restrained by the index. Most notable among these is the recurrent image of small jellyfish, navigating beyond our consciousness and carrying their own illumination. Their meaning is both inherent and other, in and of themselves while also carrying signification past their knowing. In these ways, they embody for us, here, in this proposal and more widely, the raison d’etre of the moving image, of art, creativity, even the soul in its own passage.

Large claims maybe – do judge for yourself as always of course – but in serious times, it doesn’t pay to be frivolous. Lightly treading yes, but always serious. And what treads lighter than a jellyfish? And what is more serious. Like anything that is; it wants to live.

 

Or… Ed Atkins, the Generative Turn and, Everywhere, Unfolding Now, It Is

13 Apr

By Gareth Evans

So, my answer will be an improvisation and not a meditation. Trace evidence. An interview is the first and crucial step in the processing of a crime… Also, a certain channelling here – clairvoyant practice. Mediation, as in, I am a medium […]”

– Ed Atkins, from MATERIAL WITNESS or A LIQUID COP; Episode 1: Pilot (the Publication)

 

We might think of it as coastal. The process. Phases of geology transparent and co-existent. There’s no arrival, only permanent becoming. We’ve been here before. The medium as journey. This train perhaps. The dazzle in the head, late afternoon sun and its beautiful melancholy, slanting lower, a limbo, as we head West. Into the future. A certain haze, another way of seeing, a sense that phenomena are no longer latent but explicit in a fever dream of a certain kind of longing; a yearning that something WILL happen, something substantial – with and of matter, and import; that what unfolds will embody ‘the hopes of a generation’, in age AND (re)production.

Ed Atkins: from MATERIAL WITNESS or A LIQUID COP

Shoreline also because we’re between worlds. We’re right on the edge of things, of one thing and another. If the moving image is time and space in conversation about the possibilities of reality and its representation, then there are no limits, only the imaginative potential of the psyche encountering the options.

Nick Holland: The Ridgeway

I just looked up; the steadily moving fields, the world breaking past the window; the green – brown wave of it. But look at the sky – always look at it.  A great curve of cloud, shades of pearl and slate and river-silted mud and coal and wool and marble and ivory and all the rest, BUT notice how the cloud bank, highest wall, high, high, has arced in such a way around the visible sky so that the sky itself, a semi-circled blue vault climbing over trees, appears as nothing less than its own rainbow sign. The sky declaring its always occasional glory as if it was indivisibly and permanently singing.

Which is to say…

When it is, in years to be, that Ed Atkins incarnates his own adjective, aspects of the definition (high, low and all points in between) so laid down will dwell in part on this – (t)his fascination with how we tell the world through a medium that is not the world. How the pixel hymns the song of the physical; HOW embodiment is both possible and even familiar in the digital realm, which is virtual and not, actual and not.

Pixels

He’s not hiding the means of making. These are images, this is an effect. And he’s loose in different media, often at the same time. This is writing – marks on the former tree, shapes with substance. Words as environment, as places in which to dwell, with modulations and variations in scale and texture, temperature and weight but, substantially, writing as accumulation, as container for images that cannot be visualized or made in other matters; a surging forward of language where the build, the volume, the incessant will-to-exist of the word is undeniable evidence of the fact that something is happening. Speak enough and more can be spoken.

Genetic Code

There is always m(OR)e. This is what OR means. And and. But Or is something else, literally; it speaks not to the ceaseless sequence but rather to the rhizome possibilities within the same body. Or can be mined to great effect. Process is its genetic code. Like the systems that surround us, it does not sleep. It is on permanent standby. No it is not. It’s never waiting. It is. Always.

And the twist of it, this being the pilot. The navigator of a vehicle that might or might not follow after (we know now it will, Atkins being the recipient, along with Naheed Raza, of this scheme’s two completion grants). And here’s the second twist, one that informs all the works in this exhibition. A (televisual) pilot needs to convince those in possession of the power to grant its future that it is both complete, realised, convincing in narrative, thematic and character terms AND that it remains imminent, able to deliver on the promise contained in its seed episode; that its greatness remains to be seen.

What is striking and, in certain ways, initially destabilising, about these works is how achieved they are. This does not mean to suggest that there is a surprise in the accomplishment of the artists selected  – all are distinctive makers with concerns and signatures of interest and vigour. Rather, it is what we bring to the viewing when we think of the idea of ‘proposal’ – something tentative, nascent, young in its days, learning to walk. Miss the signage, the flyer or blurb and there’d be every reason to believe that these are finished works (whatever that means, given what’s been nudged towards above, given that, in the digital arena, little, if anything, is fixed or final; given that what the viewer will find – and feel – beyond the moment of production is certainly in these times a more likely and reliable index of conventional ’closure’, however much any other windows remain open).

Da Vinci: from the sketchbooks

That said, in the era of the digitised, the notable scarcity of sketches, drafts, storyboards, diagrams of intent compels its own attention. The medium, with its formal and accelerated ability to deliver, in some way precludes versions, although it can of course generate endless iterations, layering over the original with ease. Given this, why indeed might any work ever want to arrive at itself when another, perhaps ’better’ incarnation exists, just a click or two away.

Ed Atkins: from Material Witness...

All of which means that the current ‘finish’ of these pieces attracts comment. Very few funding or commissioning projects advocate or validate public viewing of works or selections that are not absolutely confirmed. In exposing its own process to scrutiny, in risking an assessment that the job has been done when films as rounded and delved as these are displayed, TNK asks for a different reading – or register – of process, one that allows for way-stations of completion as opposed to stagings of progress. It declares that there will be more, but that what is now matters equally and that it can be trusted to reward scrutiny. We should be glad for the ‘completeness’ of the films to date; this indicates nothing so much as the desire of the artists to respect the confidences invested in them.

If, in the genuinely final (or terminal) analysis – mortal, ecological, entropic – nothing is but nothing, then these still shall stand as fulsome fragments shored against our ruin and, in their polished partial propositions, might surely remain more trustworthy pilots than a wealth of brittle extensions towards a future of the form.

Yves Marchand and Romain Jeffre: from the ruins of Detroit

 

Unformed Thoughts: Something for the Future

29 Mar

By Gareth Evans

“Edmée turns around, but all she can see is whiteness melting into whiteness and, over a few metres, the traces left by her own feet in the snow…”

– Marie Darrieussecq, from White

Yves Klein - Leap into the Void

Words on a train heading north. The sky a climbing field, from crop haze to Klein blue, a colour, if any, out of time. Wasn’t it that he was leaping towards, in his continental suburban falling towards a moment clear of falling while, passing by on the other side, the cyclist, out of the solitary street themselves, daydreamed by their own wondering, worry, futures past and yet to come, a ship to Klein’s Icarus but no splash here, as he slips between the waves of air to become his own Pantone tab, the final hallucinogen, none greater, think now of yourself, meadow-resting, back against the summer, eyes wider and wider as the sky pours in and soon you are, Magritted by the incursion, you are, you are becoming, and becoming a vessel for the clouds, a skin vase for the ceaseless blossoming of… of what, of time.

Yves Klein Blue

Because this clockless space, this yearned for delirium of sky delivering itself and us to hope, to full sailed sense of all the clear potential for our lives – a walking through the pines and dunes to glitter gleam of tides and all the elsewheres, all the might be, all the distance, promises, breeze-borne so very close – this dimensionless arc of shelter and sea but aerial, is our oldest timepiece, our ancient measure, days and gone and years away and all the empires faded in its gaze.

Rene Magritte - The Entrance

Undeniable its present tense: we are here; we feel, we know it to be true; beneath the sky, confirmation that we are, consolation that we live, not yet loam or birds of ash in seed-sown final flight. But now it shifts, we close our eyes a beat, a century, and all the scapes of sky are changed, the cloud towers toppled, the billow softened to mackerel; so fast our present past, and there the future is, carried on the coming wind – all change it calls, all change.

Derek Jarman - Blue

Derek Jarman knew – he sung the sky blue song of time in his own Blue; has there been a simpler, more complex, more fragile and enduring lyric of the lasting things that pass; the love we have of being and all the being we value.

Hard to know, however, still, where the hours are made; do they issue from the earth, kind or callous crops, and thresh themselves clear of the stalk to step the ladder of light up and over us, descending with the dark back to the night of soil and forests, and where we sleep, and breathe them in, one day more, one day less.

Or are they far flown, solar, in, a story like the rain, the sky a sieve that lets the smaller scales of time just through, so that we might not, always at least, dwell on the greater, deeper giant clocks that whirr and roll around us.

All of this to simply say that we dwell inevitable in time, bridged between the earth and stars, partly players, partly only parts; the future in us equally as much as any of our pasts; and when it comes to this, who still has versed it better than this here…

 

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened

Into the rose-garden. My words echo

Thus, in your mind.

– T.S. Eliot, from ‘Burnt Norton’ in The Four Quartets

***

From the window – time as transport – a stave of crows alighting on the plough.

***

This is the month of cherry blossom; in places, this is faith. And why not? Who would fail to subscribe to the promise trees reveal, latent in their winter wood; you thought I was this, but look; this is myself, my message, I am more than now, this hibernating present. But most present I too am: in this moment of my putting forth, I am all my times. I blossomed once, I blossom now, and so I shall again.

Cherry Blossom Tattoo

In such uncertain times, as described acutely in the newspaper essay accompanying this exhibition, it is barely a surprise that most self-helping wrestles with relations to the clock as primary, as the device by which we might make lives anew, or certainly afresh. We all know there is only now, and yet fear is evidence that the future really does exist and that it’s getting closer by the minute. And as for the past, that foundation pit of horrors, of happiness so keen, so fleet, so lost…

Once it was that we fretted over physical collapse; now it seems more fearful that the mind will unscroll first. Whichever it might be, it’s an exhilarating anguish to exist and has been since we crawled, one-celled, out of soup and spawned. If the stakes feel higher now, it’s partly because they are and equally because we are more, and messaging about it. The world was and is and will be; we might not, and have not been that long, so there will sometime be a loss. How to site ourselves then in this scale of constant alterations? Is this where the moving image can somehow prove of use? Because… I have just read this review. Clear now that the polar is our future, however we might manage it, whatever it might look like. There are lakes under the ice so large… and these sheets so huge, and yet so much we have unravelled their peace (and likely soon our own). These figures…

“…the much larger East Antarctic Ice Sheet seems to be stable (which is just as well because it comprises 60m-worth of sea level rise should it melt) but the West Antarctic Ice Sheet – which contains enough water to raise the sea level by 4.8m – is breaking up because a warming ocean is undermining it.

Larsen B ice sheet

The Larsen B Ice Sheet in West Antarctica disintegrated spectacularly in 2002 and this event is a key indicator of anthropogenic climate change. The ice sheet had remained intact for at least 10,000 years…”

Ice as time and space. Ice in time and space. The graphic axes of the filmic. If the melting ice is time and space translated (or time in a different place), then can we say the future lies where we are now, but in a varied guise, a diverse station of the elemental? Can the moving image tell us something then about this shift, this jolt?

In this way, does the ice become our faith; is white the colour of a prayer, its tentative, pale hue?

In 1977, the American writer Walter Abish published a novel all too little known here. His most acclaimed across the (rising) water, like much innovative writing it is probably much less read, even by those who know of its existence, than it should be. One of its own singular reasons might be due to its title, which seems in many ways so complete, so perfect a summation of the potentialities of fiction, of what we seek for and in it, and in our own living. Fusing aspiration with an inevitable accompanying melancholy, and hope with a keen awareness of all that might have led to that moment, it is in its own way, before the spine has even been cracked, a book in and of itself, perhaps the shortest novel ever written, a text to which we can bring all that we were and are and all we wish to be. The book of time, and where that time might take us… In the Future Perfect

The flooded silver birch grove, the morse of horses still in railside pastures; and all the passing houses of the living and the dead.

 

Forming

28 Feb

And I said the darkness

and you whispered bright

 

and I said the wall

and you found a door

 

and I said the surface

and you offered depth

 

and I said there’s nothing

and you held it all

*

And I said the fire

and you traced the ash

 

and I said the circles

and you started to dance

 

and I said beginning

and you put out your hand

 

and I said the pattern

and you took a chance

*

And I said the ground

and you replied clay

 

and I said beneath us

and you looked above

 

and I said it passes

and you it transforms

 

and I said this process

and you said this love