[-empyre-] Week 1. Duration: Passage, Persistence, Survival

Kate Brettkelly kate.brettkelly at gmail.com
Tue Nov 6 07:11:48 AEDT 2018

Thank you for your introduction, Timothy. I love hearing about seasonal
changes from the other side of world (we're moving into summer down here in
New Zealand and I'm battling the last vestiges of spring hay fever). I also
want to acknowledge that this cycle of election change has been
particularly harrowing, as you say. I'm afraid my initial thoughts on the
topic of duration are quite far removed from the difficult immediacies of
the present moment, but I welcome any thoughts and responses that might
frame this subject: Does the recent artistic celebration of 'deep time'
risk overlooking the subjugated histories and experiences of indigenous

Just as I enjoy descriptions of autumnal leaves falling, I am also
especially fond of first-hand descriptions of encountering 'deep time'
geologies. The closing chapters of my book on time and contemporary art
explore organic, ecological and geological durations that exist beyond the
confines of human experience.

This 1788 passage from the naturalist John Playfair is a wonderfully
breathless account of visiting a geological ‘unconformity’ on the Scottish
“An epocha still more remote presented itself, when even the most ancient
of these rocks, instead of standing upright in vertical beds lay in
horizontal planes at the bottom of the sea and was not yet disturbed by
that immeasurable force which has burst asunder the solid pavement of the
globe. Revolutions still more remote appeared in the distance of this
extraordinary perspective. The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far
into the abyss of time.”

Robert Smithson reported a similar durational experience when visiting the
site of his 1970 work Spiral Jetty:
“As I looked to the site, it reverberated out to the horizons only to
suggest an immobile cyclone while flickering light made the entire
landscape appear to quake. From the gyrating space emerged the possibility
of the Spiral Jetty. No idea, no concepts, no systems, no structures, no
abstractions could hold themselves together in the actuality of that
phenomenological evidence.”

And finally, my own experience of finding an ammonite in the Himalayas in
“Stone in hand, time split open. It unfurled into durations greater than
the colossal mountain range that had once been a sea—waters that had once
held a shell-less creature, now hardened in stone. I was just a speck, a
body, a set of patterns, human striations, in the vast, dusty histories of
time and space.”

Works of art by Darren Almond, Nicholas Mangan and Olafur Eliasson have
similarly centred on seemingly wondrous encounters with geological
durations or glacial deep time.

But looking more critically at this artistic interest in deep time, I have
wondered whether it risks the presumption of an absolute, universal frame
of reference. Does it presuppose a primordial time that is rather
conveniently indifferent to histories of social inequality and subjugation?
More pointedly, when we celebrate the deep time of earth, do we actively
overlook the durations and experiences of indigenous peoples?

I very much welcome your thoughts and responses.

- Kate

On Tue, 6 Nov 2018 at 08:29, Timothy Conway Murray <tcm1 at cornell.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Welcome to the end of fall, everyone.  The last of the leaves are falling
> in Upstate New York and we are on the edges of our seats awaiting the US
> election results tomorrow night after an election cycle of harrowing,
> racist attacks on the world's most disenfranchised.  The results of last
> week's election results in Brazil make us all the more nervous.  Bizarrely,
> I too await my own election results as I am on tomorrow's ballot
> (unopposed, so no mystery) for election to my town council (I've always
> wanted to have a say in how to preserve snow plows and which potholes
> should be filled!).
> But on a more serious note, I've chosen to moderate this month as a
> follow-up to the deeply thoughtful conversations that have been catalyzed
> by artworks and performances mounted over the past three months for the
> Cornell Council for the Arts Biennial, which I have curated under the same
> theme as we'll have for this month's discussion: Duration: Passage,
> Persistence, Survival.  I'll say more about that as the week and month
> progresses, but for now just want to say that many of the participating
> artists have agreed to join us after this week.
> For this week, I am joined by three international curators and
> theoreticians whose work probes the extent of duration across the arts and
> philosophy.  Their experiences and projects across the globe -- New
> Zealand, Singapore, Canada -- should provide our discussion with some
> exciting framing about how duration has been throught within the arts and
> digital culture.  So welcome to our discussion, featured guests, Kate
> Brettkelly-Chalmers (New Zealand), Justine Kohleal (Canada), Elizabeth
> Wijaya (US/Singapore).
> Kate Brettkelly-Chalmers (New Zealand)
> Kate Brettkelly-Chalmers is a contemporary art historian, public
> engagement specialist and arts writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. In
> 2017, she was awarded the Vice-Chancellor's Prize for Best Doctoral Thesis
> at the University of Auckland. She is the author of the forthcoming book,
> Time, Duration and Change in Contemporary Art published by Intellect and
> distributed through Chicago University Press. She has lectured at the
> University of Auckland and AUT University, worked as a curator at Artspace,
> NZ and currently manages a public engagement team at Auckland Transport.
> Her book, Time,
>  Duration and Change in Contemporary Art,  presents a major study of time
> as  a key aesthetic dimension of recent art practices. This book explores
> different aspects of time across a broad range of artistic media and draws
> on recent movements in philosophy, science, and technology to show how
> artists generate temporal experiences that resist the standardized time of
> modernity: Olafur Eliasson’s melting icebergs produce fragile temporal
> ecologies; Marina Abramović’s performances test the durations of the human
> body; Christian Marclay’s The Clock  conflates past and present
> chronologies. This book examines alternative frameworks of time, duration,
> and change in prominent philosophical, scientific, and technological
> traditions, including physics, psychology, phenomenology, neuroscience,
> media theory, and selected environmental sciences. It suggests that art
> makes a crucial contribution to these discourses not by “visualizing” time,
> but by entangling viewers in different sensory, material, and imaginary
> temporalities.
> Justine Kohleal (Canada).
> Justine Kohleal is a Toronto-based curator and art critic. Prior to her
> appointment as RBC Curatorial Fellow at The Power Plant Contemporary Art
> Gallery, Kohleal worked as an independent curator and arts writer in
> Edmonton, Alberta. Select past curatorial projects include [INTERFACE]
> (Fringe Gallery, Edmonton); No Job More Dangerous and Intellectual Play
> (dc3 Art Projects, Edmonton); Sounding the Alarm: The Poetics of Connection
> (Art Gallery of Ontario); and Beth Stuart: Length, Breadth, Thickness
> and—Duration (The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery). She acted as a
> curatorial assistant to Gerald McMaster and Denise Birkhofer at Ryerson
> Image Centre, Toronto for The Faraway Nearby: Photographs of Canada from
> The New York Times Photo Archive and to writer and curator Kari Cwynar for
> Duane Linklater’s installation Monsters for Beauty, Permanence and
> Individuality (Evergreen Brickworks, Toronto). She has interned with The
> Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Luce Foundation Centre for American Art
> and with the Art Gallery of Ontario. Kohleal holds a curatorial M.F.A from
> OCAD University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta with a focus in
> Art, Design, and Visual Culture. Currently, her research focuses on the
> intersection of space, the body/senses and boredom within performance-based
> art and curatorial practice.
> Elizabeth Wijaya (US/Singapore)
> Elzabeth Wijaya is a President's Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of
> Asian Languages and Literature of the University of Minnesota (Twin
> Cities). She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Comparative
> Literature at Cornell University in August 2018. Her research interests are
> in film-philosophy, ecocinema, and cinematic time. She is working on her
> book manuscript "Luminous Flesh, Haunted Futures: The Visible and Invisible
> Worlds of Chinese Cinema." She co-edited a Special issue of Parallax
> "Survival of the Death Sentence" in which she contributed an article "To
> See Die Again: The Act of Filming and The Act of Killing." She has also
> published in Derrida Today. She is a co-founder of E&W Films, a
> Singapore-based film development and production company: ewfilms.com.sg.
> Her co-directed feature-length film, I Have Loved, competed at
> international film festivals including the Shanghai International Film
> Festival.
> Timothy Murray
> Director, Cornell Council for the Arts and Curator, CCA Biennial
> http://cca.cornell.edu
> Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
> http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu <http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu/>
> Professor of Comparative Literature and English
> B-1 West Sibley Hall
> Cornell University
> Ithaca, New York 14853
>     _______________________________________________
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>     http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
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