Category Archives: Project 2 – Time and time-based media

Sam Taylor-Wood Still Life, 2001

Sam Taylor-Woods video piece, of what looks be a Vanitas painting from the 20th century, starts off with a bowl of fruit.  The dim lighting, dusty earthy colours, and the composition from afar, you’d bet was a painting by some Dutch master.

It takes a few moments to see the slight movement of the fruit, as they slowly start to decay.  Still life turned to motion.

How long does it take a master to paint a still life composition?  It is long enough that they would encounter such changes in the fruit of fish which they paint?

It’s not often that we see the effects of time on perishables, the mold slowly multiplying. It’s an interesting view on biology, microbes in action.

Looking at other works by Sam Taylor- Wood, time is definitely an influence on her, that a the use of time based media.  The technology used, such a fine camera captures time, impossible until the last decade.

The placement of the plastic pen, is there as a contradiction, or perhaps a constant, or a statement that plastic will never decompose.

Other artist who uses the traditional ideas of vanitas paintings to demonstrate the passing of time, is Jason Salavon.  Instead of film, he uses digital animation.  In his Still Life (Vanitas)   2009, he evolves a human skull into animals skulls, using 3D rendered technology.

I think Sam Taylor- Wood wants us the think about the passing of time, unseen. There’s magic in the still of life, so many things we cannot see, tiny worlds of bacteria, reforming the present, changing it, into the past.



The Longplayer, a piece of art which is meant to outlive us, and generations after us.  When thinking about the impermanence of art, its beautiful that sound cannot decay.

The traditional Tibetan singing bowls emanate this infinite sound, which has such a clear beginning, but the reverberations feel like they remain somewhere, perhaps the vibration carry on.

I cannot help being reminded of the universe, and the space in between, distances measured in years, light and sound being parallels.

The circular shape of the singing bowl, is repeated through the position of the concentric circles, keeping the movement of sound evenly proportioned towards the audience.

Watching the recording of the live performance, the time-lapse of the sun shinning through the lighthouse windows, intersecting the circles, brought a new dimension of time and space, thinking about the earth turning so slowly, shifting the position of the sun’s light through the window.  Like a sundial, you could almost determine the lapse of time.

Thinking back to 1000 years ago, when perhaps these traditional singing bells, or standing bells were used, could they have imagined this piece of art? Now hopes are, that their sound will be preserved for at least 2000 years, if not more, the sound will never die.

The more I listening to the Longplayer, the more it starts to grate on me. It is not a fluid noise, but jolting in places.  Maybe that’s the unpredictability of it, inconsequential to the next ring, never creating pattern or rhythm, which in turn, is a comfort to the human nature.

When I consider the idea of time in art, I go straight to the question, “when was the piece made?” I’m no historian, but to better understand a piece, you should research not only the artist, but the social and environmental which could have influence the artist.

For example, at the turn of the century, during the Modernist movement, Picasso was influenced by primitivism. Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, 1907  was considered one the riskiest paintings of the time, but why? The models are nude, but the cubist shapes leave everything to the imagination. The women were perhaps whores, their faces brutally painted. It was not pretty, when paintings in those days, were. It still holds a sense of savagery, but in today’s eyes, students seeing this for the first time, would consider it perhaps tame, compared with contemporary art.

I am also interested in the time is takes for an artist to complete a work.  I can’t help but to think some of Jackson Pollocks paintings took no time, spontaneous expression of paint, whereas an artist I saw exhibited in Saigon, called  Yohei Yama has taken years to complete a series of works, painting one tiny tree, after another to equal thousands of little trees.

The other prominent area where I think time has a huge amount of relevance, is in film and photography.  To capture an exact moment in time, or moments as in film, is something no other form of art could do.  Sound and vision, an impression of light or sound on film is the most beautiful invention of the 20th century.

Never before could artist’s see the flight of birds slowed down, or the way a horse gallops.  One of the best painting which looks to be like a photograph taken on a low shutter speed, is Giacoma Balla, Dynamisn of a Dog on a Leash, 1912.  The little feet, looking as if they are moving, instead of most traditional ways of painting still life.

Time is so broad, and we can look at it from many different angles in art as in science or philosophy. Going back to more contemporary art, Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca machine, actually produce excrement, after digesting food, for a period of time, the same as a body. The poop was then packaged and sold, as a piece of art… makes you think what the shelf life would be? Is the machine itself the art, or what it produces?  Is it only art when it is working?

‘Like time, place is something with which we engage in our everyday lives; we can use it to describe the relative ‘rightness’ of a situation – ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’,…’

When we try to understand something, we tend to categorise the information into context. Place is a thought bubble, alongside time and motive, or intention. Like a story, you need to set the scene to better comprehend the characters.

Looking at work in an exhibition, the environment enhances the senses, and this is why most of the settings are plain white. The display, mounting, or frame of the work can create different emotions, as fonts can relate to eras.

To relate to place, it must be familiar, which in this day in age, is easy, with film creating most worlds imaginable. I think because of this, we are reminded of something un-relate to the art’s intention.

Other senses can make us think of place, not only visual, but sounds and smells alike can guide us.

Place could be emotional, more than physical, feeling safe in someones arms no matter where you are, or feeling trapped, or disgusted by the colours on the walls around you.

The open expanse of a landscape painting could bring wonder to what’s over the ridge.  A place in time could give context to a painting of war or religion.

Surrealist paintings may question the idea of place, where the images are displaced.