Dozens of handmade clocks ticked away in Emily Roysdon’s exhibition at Participant Inc., the latest in a series of projects for which the artist tangled with notions of temporality. Roysdon’s battery-powered clocks are fairly uniform in design, with downward-pointing triangular dials made of glazed ceramic. The crenulated top edge and hour hand of each resemble cresting cartoon waves. Beyond the will to measure (2014) includes some 40 synchronized, royal-blue timepieces hanging in a row along one wall. The seven seven objects in the installation What instruments have we? (1-7), 2014, each feature a mauve clock affixed either to a stanchion or a wheeled armature.
Roysdon has used the squiggly wave motif in a number of recent works; it constitutes something like a logo for her practice. Here, it also appeared in two large triangular floor sculptures (one lying flat, one bolted upright) made of blue powder-coated aluminum. The triangular form also refers to the pink triangle that in the 1970s became a symbol for queer liberation, a movement obliquely referenced in the text piece Uncounted (2015). Distributed as a poster available at the gallery’s entrance, the essayistic work comprises short passages on topics such as collectivity, “undisciplined time” and “uncounted experience.” The texts, arranged on the page in a clockwise spiral, were collected from statements that Roysdon has made over the past three years at performance conferences in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Many of the fragments employ concepts she developed in conversation with fellow artist Ian White, who died in 2013 and to whom this show was dedicated.
The wall-based Not to be the thing itself (2014) suggested a link between temporality and light. The work includes roughly a dozen white and yellow neon fixtures that, in this context, evoked clock hands emancipated from their dials. A series of photograms hung in a grid on one wall. Roysdon has compared the works to sundials; she created them by placing a butt plug on photosensitive paper and exposing the arrangement to light. The bulbous forms that result—illegible as traces of the sex toy—are covert references to queer politics and embodied experience.
The exhibition, curated by David Everitt Howe, also served as the platform for a series of collaborative performances featuring artists Sharon Hayes, Gregg Bordowitz, Morgan Bassichis, JD Samson, Nick Hallett and Malin Arnell. Roysdon has made explicit reference to the history of modern dance in her previous work, and in Uncounted she compares the motion of people and objects in performance to the rhythm of spoken language. According to the artist, all such forms of artistic expression create “gaps of intention” for life to fill. While this idea points to a concept of time as relational—a medium for the intersection of subjectivities—the army of timepieces on display here all showed the same standardized time.
The installation seemed to poke fun at the temporal experience found within art galleries, spaces where one seldom finds a clock. Against this feeling of suspended time, Roysdon presented what amounts to an overabundance of reminders of time’s passage. Yet rather than portraying this as a grim march toward death, Roysdon treats temporality as a tide: maybe coming in, maybe going out, but carrying the viewer along either way.