Unhooked From Time
by Tom McCartan
The latest show at Ann Arbor's Gallery Project, Unhooked from Time, is a study on the nature of time. A daunting task, indeed, and a perusal of the show's press release further illuminates the depth, breadth, and inherent difficulty of expressing such a fundamental, essential, and eternal quality as time. “Time” is our perception of entropy, and entropy is the most pervasive force in the universe. Our concept of time has fluctuated wildly throughout history. We have gone from suns and moons to digital clock faces, via forty ounces of fine sand, the advent of wristwatches, and all parts in between.
Unhooked from Time attempts to address and express our current standing with time through “a multimedia exhibit in which 28 local, regional and national artists examine how we have lost our sense of the cycles of nature, and how we have artificially hooked ourselves to linear digital time.” The full press release is a behemoth, and necessarily so. Gallery Project should be applauded for taking on such a task.
The best pieces in the show are the ones, like Andrew Thompson and Scotty Wagner's mixed media piece Seen and Not Seen, that actually effect the viewer's perception of time in--for lack of a better term--real time. My first impression of their piece, to be honest, was negative. Located in the back of the gallery, it appears as a mountain of technological detritus. It is, basically, a heap of outdated televisions, computer parts, and other little nasties. I was ready to write it off as another glib statement on contemporary Western culture's “throw-away” mentality, which would make the piece boring and didactic, when gallery co-director showed me the true beauty of the work. The trash heap is hollow and there is a spot, hidden amid the refuse, where the viewer can look inside. The inside is made out to look like a sort of Bedouin living space, replete with sheepskins. There is a figure seated on the ground watching a monitor that relays a live video feed of the gallery from a cleverly hidden camera mounted somewhere on the pile. The effect of watching someone (or something)watch the space that you, the viewer, are a part of, is mesmerizing and serves to actually “unhook” the viewer from time.
On the lower level of the gallery is Lubia's video installation The Slowly Project. The videos are a perfect expression of the show's curatorial concept. The viewer watches a woman walking, at quarter speed, the packed streets of Milan, Italy and New York City, amid the frenzy of these full speed cities. The reactions of onlookers in the video range from idle curiosity, laughter, and annoyance, all the way to utter disgust. The most powerful moments in the videos, however, are when an onlooker erupts in a fit of joy that springs from the primal reaction of seeing time manipulated and bent by the walker's beauty and poise.
Also on the lower level are Meghan Reynard's Tunnels. Through the use of wood, mirrors, and light, Tunnels is the show's best use of space as a comment on time. Reynard's mirrors create eternity in the basement of a gallery in Ann Arbor, I can think of nothing more superlative than that.
Unhooked from Time flirts with an overuse of technology-based pieces. Chris Koelsch's video Tell Me Why: Immortalization is a how-to video showing, in the style of an informercial or corporate training video, how to achieve immortality through the uploading and downloading of one's personality. While there is something of a connection to the show's curatorial concept, it comes across as sarcastic and somewhat contemptuous, as is the danger with parody and kitsch. Charles Jevremovic's Wall of Circuit Board Panels, is exactly that—a wall of circuit board panels, and I was surprised so much valuable gallery space given to such a tepid piece. Thankfully, Unhooked from Time's flirtation with technology falls short consummation, and any notion of being overwhelmed by it is annulled by the number of pieces with a less myopic view of time.
Pieces like Nicole Gordon's Asylum, Mark Kersey's Magnificent Fountains, and Renata Palubinskas' Girl and Bird—all paintings—portray spaces where time cannot be perceived. They show the inexorable link between space and time and how, through the re-imagining of space, time becomes illusive.
Unhooked from Time achieves what it sets out to do, and achieves it well. The show is evidence of a gallery that is committed to addressing what it means to be human, and through doing so has created a show that is infinitely accessible. Everyone has a personal, fundamental, and, at times, antagonistic relationship with time, and perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Unhooked from Time is that it offers the opportunity for the visitors to consider that relationship.
Unhooked from Time runs through May 15th at Gallery Project, 215 S. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor. Gallery hours are noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The gallery is closed on Mondays.