Art Papers  

coming soon from the January/February 2013 issue:

Does Anybody
Really Know What Time It Is?

by Gergory Zinman


On Being Contempoary –
Re-activating
the Present:
Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige

in conversation with
Nat Muller




January/February 2013
Letter from the Guest Editor:
On Temporality


In his ambitious literary tour de force Parallel Stories, 2005, Hungarian writer Péter Nádas establishes a polymorphous narrative that abrasively deconstructs time. Contrary to what its title suggests, the novel's multiple storylines do not unfold in parallel fashion, stubbornly shifting instead between the characters' numerous intellectual and bodily desires—their personal obsessions as well as their sexual and eschatological explorations—and their inexorable complicity in the political upheavals of 20th-century Eastern European history. Nádas challenges us to confront a decidedly complex and daunting vision of the now, and offers a perspective in which distinctions between past, present, and future collapse in an epic struggle for a new kind of humanism liberated from the whirl of time.

Péter Nádas' haunting, obsessive, and exhaustive 1,000-plus-page book, which I devotedly consumed in early 2012, was one of many conceptual triggers for my ongoing interest in the theme of temporality, of which the ART PAPERS issue that you are currently holding in your hands is the first manifestation. When executive director Saskia Benjamin invited me to guest edit this issue, I eagerly jumped at the occasion to put together the content of the magazine under this specific thematic framework. Temporality should be understood here as the manifold complexities relating to the experience of time, and in particular the ways in which such experience resonates and changes in diverse artistic practices, geographies, and sociopolitical contexts. This decidedly international inquiry prompted the formulation of a series of questions, intended as simple guidelines, which in turn allowed me to open up a series of dialogues with potential contributors and consider the wide range of perspectives they offered on the theme of temporality:

How do we experience time? What does it mean to be fully in and of this moment? How does time relate to notions of past, present, and future? Should we take our time? Are we moving forward? Are we bored by the present? Is this our time, or is time constantly escaping us? Are we behind time? Are we anticipating another time? Are we ahead of our time? Does time besiege us? Can we seize hold of the present and resolutely make it our own? What does it mean to be temporal? How do we define an event? How do we measure the time between events? How can we be sure that the future will occur? What is our relationship to the past? Are we inventing time? Are we bound by time? Is time a construction? Did the same time already happen in the past? What is time? Are we time? What will we be doing tomorrow?

The issue starts with a critical assessment of Christian Marclay's blockbuster video installation The Clock, 2010, and its straightforward mediation of Western markers and experiences of time. A number of essays then jump off to explorations of temporality tied to cultural, historical, and/or politically bound contexts. These texts move between New York, São Paulo, Thailand, New Orleans, and Gambia. Other texts offer critical reflections through the work of specific artists or filmmakers who work in, or on, countries as diverse as Israel, Nigeria, Croatia, Lebanon, and India. These essays are interspersed with two newly commissioned artist projects by Raqs Media Collective from Delhi and the French-Hungarian cooperative Société Réaliste, and followed by a selection of lengthier reviews focusing on the theme of temporality through recent exhibitions, film screenings, and publications.

Finally, what binds many of the authors featured in this issue is an assertive rejection of sentiments of nostalgia when thinking about past, present, and future, something that is all the more refreshing in the light of contemporary culture's craze for rituals of commemoration and retromania. This ultimately brings me back to Péter Nádas' Parallel Stories and the inventive ways in which the novelist mediates time, rejecting a direct relational entanglement between the distinct narrative elements of his book. Similarly, the texts offered in this issue of ART PAPERS do not provide a simple comparative approach. They do not evolve in parallel ways, but evoke a sense of creative synchronicity through which difference and the singularity of experience emerges.

—Niels Van Tomme
Guest Editor and Contributing Editor

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