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‘Days of Endless Time’ Takes It Slow

A new exhibition tracks the dissonance between connectivity and solitude in the digital age

In the video installation Afterimage (2013) by Clemens von Wedemeyer, a drifting camera takes viewers through a warehouse filled with replicas of ancient statuary. The storeroom is part of the Cinecittà Studios in Rome, where movies such as Ben-Hur and Cleopatra were filmed. Footsteps and breathing are the only sounds, and the overall effect is of traveling through the past. “The material of film is time,” says von Wedemeyer, whose goal was to preserve a space that may not exist in the future.

This immortal quality of the moving image is the subject of “Days of Endless Time,” going on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., on October 16. The exhibition aims to show how artists use film and video in ways that counter the speed, stress, and connectivity of smartphone culture, with pieces that emphasize escape, solitude, and meditation. “The ephemeral nature of digital media” is also a touchstone, says assistant curator Mika Yoshitake.

When the world moves fast, it’s hard to stand still, yet Lady Gaga does this remarkably well in a high-definition video portrait by Robert Wilson. The pop diva is dressed as a 19th-century aristocrat posing for a portrait by Ingres and appears to be still, until the blink of her eyes and a bird flying by reveal that she’s part of a film.

A still from Sigalit Landau's DeadSee, 2005. ©SIGALIT LANDAU/COURTESY THE ARTIST/COLLECTION OF LIZBETH AND GEORGE KRUPP

A still from Sigalit Landau’s DeadSee, 2005.

©SIGALIT LANDAU/COURTESY THE ARTIST/COLLECTION OF LIZBETH AND GEORGE KRUPP

Spirals are a recurring motif in these cyclic visions of time. In DeadSee (2005), Israeli artist Sigalit Landau floats naked inside an unwinding spiral of watermelons on the Dead Sea, which borders Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. Some of the watermelons are halved, appearing bloody and evoking death.

There are also works by David Claerbout, Siebren Versteeg, Su-Mei Tse, Hans Op de Beeck, Douglas Gordon, Guido van der Werve, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Matthew Weinstein, and Flatform. The show’s title is inspired by Jorge Luis Borges, whose writing is full of dreams, labyrinths, and mirrors. Yoshitake says, “This suspended notion of time can blur the lines between fiction and reality.”

A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 33 under the title “Take It Slow.”

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