Sculpting Time (Höltermann)

By  Janne Höltermann
Luther Gregg Sullivan Visiting Artist, Department of Art and Art History, Wesleyan University

In daily life when we talk about time we understand it in relation to a readable time on a clock. We say “I have a meeting at 10 am or I have to take the train by 5 pm.” Our concept of time relies on hours, minutes and seconds. To structure and measure time we rely on electronic devices. They are our constant companions and remind us how to organize and structure the world in order to control and suppress biological time.

Supposedly we are constantly aware of time but, actually, many things in life are too fast or too slow to capture and comprehend. We have a limited ability for the perception of time and only by manipulating and sculpting time do things that we consider too big, too small, too fast or too slow and that exist beyond our horizon of perception become visible.

 Our ability to represent, perceive and manipulate time has changed in a radical manner with the omnipresence of time-based media in our daily life. They accelerate time, parallelize it and multiply it; thus, we can (apparently) perceive more at once. The tempo and editing of mainstream moving images, on the other hand, reflect these time structures and we are expected to adopt our reception attitude to them. Images that don’t reflect these generally accepted temporal structures and rhythms can create a disruption in time.

 The artist’s tool palette for sculpting time with moving images in order to create temporal disruption is vast. With custom made cameras and production procedures, clips can be slowed down to an extreme, different time layers can be composited in one image, shadows can be added to simulate a specific time of the day, past, present and future can be arranged in split screens or multiple projections, still images can be composited with moving images, and clips can be reversed, frozen or edited in endless loops.

 The video works in Passing Time disrupt time in a way that counteracts our daily rhythm of life by establishing their own, poetic time. All of them are played in a continuous loop, lacking a beginning and an end, refusing to prescribe their time of contemplation.

The works of Passing Time are a mechanism to change our focus on time.  When artists use time as a central visual compositional medium by creating time structures that differ from our perceptive patterns it is like reversing the relationship between background and foreground. The background gains more importance than the foreground and the viewer focuses closer on the background, opening up a perception unseen before.