The artistic image is always a metonymy, where one thing is replaced by another, the small by the largest. To speak about their lives, the artists use something dead; to speak about infinity, they show something finite. Replacement. The infinity cannot become matter, but it is possible for it to create an illusion of the infinite: the image.
Andrei Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time, 1986
Shaping Time brings together the work of three artists who explore the relationship between art and time: Daniel Silvo, Javier Artero, and Sophie Mackfall. It compiles a selection of pieces in formats ranging from painting to installation, from sculpture to performance, and from photography to video, which tell stories about displacement and settlement processes. It integrates ideas about the transfer or the trip, the regeneration and transformation of the messages that art contains and transmits to us. In the end, it invites to reflect on the aesthetic appreciation of nature, the transitory and discontinuous, the loss, the fading, the contemplation, and the migratory processes in art.
The name is inspired by George Kubler’s book The Shape of Time (1962), he uses biological metaphors to represent time, which, just as the mind, is not knowable as such, according to this historian of American Art. We have access to their understanding only indirectly, through what happens inside of it. To understand the time, it is necessary to observe the processes of change and permanence. Historical time is understood based on the linear succession of events, so there are ruptures and empty spaces —which ultimately connect such events. Biological time, on the other hand, contains uninterrupted events, these are called “lives” —in life there are no ruptures or empty spaces. Based on these ideas, Kubler proposes the interpretation of art as an autonomous organism, a free system with successive stages of development.
Following such theoretical association, the pieces included in Shaping Time are referring to the development of aesthetic experiences as well as to the development of artistic events that born, grow, die and reborn with/in time. They contain echoes and resonances of messages inscribed thanks to nature and time’s intervention in the processes of plastic production. These experiences also present images that use metaphors to understand and represent the universe and check the ability of the moving image to suspend time.
The photograph Ana Mendieta by Daniel Silvo, refers to a process of travel, transfer and abandonment. The artist pays tribute to the canonical Cuban artist by creating a marble tombstone with reference to the piece Blood Sign/Body Tracks (1974). This object made by Silvo challenges the capacities of conservation and permanence of the video by transforming it into sculpture and taking it to Morocco to be buried and abandoned. At first sight, the photograph that is shown in the exhibition could seem the documentation of the act of performance, which is prior and ephemeral, and, in addition, represents another action that arose even earlier (Ana Mendieta’s original). But it is not just the proof of an event that was and no longer exists —the memory of what was, but no longer is—, photography passes through an adaptation process that depends on the passage of time, and, thus, comes alive on its own. In other words, the evolution of the piece materializes in the transformation of different formats: marble sculpture, performance, video and photography. The image exhibited in the gallery connects us with a past time but also makes us think about the future: the possibility that the marble tombstone may be discovered years later. Silvo’s work represents a funeral, but also proofs a connection with the earth and with death. It is related, finally, with the transformation, resurgence and regeneration.
For the making of Ass to the Wind, Sophie Mackfall had the collaboration of wind, rain, sun and other elements of the climate. Like Silvo, the artist, moved from her studio to an outer space, allying herself with nature and climatic conditions in the process of creating the artistic image. These elements worked as co-authors in the registration of aesthetic messages.
During a certain time, the private garden of the artist became her studio of plastic production. The piece took shape from the pictorial materials used by Mackfall, together with external elements that have to do with the climatic circumstances of London. These elements are not inside the creative field that the author determines under her control. As Buddhist prayer flags, the piece carries a series of messages that belong to the wind, the sun, rain and nature. Ass to the Wind connects us with the outside, with the passage of time, and with Mackfall’s subtle and corporal movements carried out during the creative process. If we combine it with the additional domestic context, the piece brings the echoes of a past event understood as a kind of artistic ritual, where time fabricated and moulded the final work exhibited in the gallery.
Paula López Zambrano