SculptureCenter, New York, USA
In our current moment of constant re-performing, re-staging and historical referencing, the lines between what exists in the past and present are increasingly indistinct. At the same time, as we’ve become accustomed to consuming a stream of varied imagery, it’s possible that our willingness and ability to distinguish between the two states are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Such considerations were the subject of ‘Time Again’, for which curator Fionn Meade brought together an ambitious collection of works that looked at the varying manifestations and considerations of repetition. A gathering of international and decidedly of-the-moment artists created an elegant, highly expanded view of the curatorial concept. Meade made a clear attempt to work with a commendably diverse range of mediums: Troy Brauntuch’s 30-year collection of rubber stamps (‘Stamps’, 1975–2007), which bear their proof of heavy usage and a vaguely historical gallery of images, was an especially unexpected and smart use of material, while a wall of Ull Hohn’s scatological plaster reliefs had an enormous sense of presence inextricably tied to the artist’s limited output (Untitled, 1988). There was also a mini-exhibition-within-the-exhibition, organized by the London-based publication Novel, which presented works by Steven Claydon, R.H. Quaytman and Paul Thek, among others, and which added an expanded writing practice to the list of represented mediums.
Predictably, though, photography and video were the crux of an exhibition about time. A selection of wall-mounted works by Rosemarie Trockel are always a welcome sight, but it is the strange depiction of art-world relations in her video Goodbye Mrs. Mönipaer (2003) which was most compelling here. As a film noir short starring masked or obscured characters performing behind the screen of a Modernist glass house on an island, accompanied by only a soundtrack of lapping waves, the questions it conjures are equally as interesting as the interactions it contains. Where, in time and geography, are we? Are we voyeurs or participants in this exchange?
The overall tone of ‘Time Again’ was dominated by works such as William E. Jones’s Berlin Flash Frames (2010), a hypnotic re-edit of black and white film footage of 1961 Berlin, found by the artist in the US National Archives, which alternates between historical document and constructed scenes. The unrelenting flicker of disconnected images starts, stutters and repeats; a few minutes in, figures and locations begin to feel familiar, though familiarity with this material is absolutely impossible. Matthew Buckingham’s Image of Absalon to be Projected Until it Vanishes (2001) was another emblematic and simply beautiful inclusion – a deteriorating slide already operating as apparition – while meditative photographs by Moyra Davey (‘50 Photographs’, 2003) provided a counterpoint to the generic cheer of Elad Lassry’s commercial images. While Davey’s grouping portrayed the intimate and mundane repetition of home life, Lassry used the populist pictures which exist beyond the individual and resituated them in a context divorced from a locatable space or time. Blinky Palermo dropped in for a brief appearance, with a small screenprint of a blue and red projection on an apartment building from 1971, but presumably acted as a historical model for the artists in the exhibition.
In the midst of so much quiet, taste and restraint, Laure Prouvost’s It, Heat, Hit (2010) seemed like an aberration, but provided a much-needed jolt of energy and impatient urgency. This short, percussive video combines a fast succession of pleasurable images, such as an exuberant leap into but the ocean, matched with a sound of violence, such as glass shattering or a car crash. The colourful abstract drawings, paintings and film by Steve Roden also pointed to a completely different landscape than many of the works in the show, exuding a decidedly West Coast, cosmic quality which broke up the binary black-and-white, past-and-present rhythm of the works which surrounded his work in the basement galleries.
The idea of the looped video was integral to the thinking behind ‘Time Again’, a definitive trademark to stand for the cyclical nature of both time and art-making. As viewers of the exhibition, we experience what seems like an endless trail of images which desire to be so out of linear time that they need no marker of start and finish, existing in continual perpetuation; this is not only limited to the indexical stamp of time in video or photography, also in the process of creating any body of work, with its markers of signature, identifiability and just plain style. This overarching theme seemed to be the simplest way to qualify the inclusion of many excellent, but ultimately superfluous, pieces. As a result, the more works you saw in ‘Time Again’, the more it seemed almost any work could have fit right in.