Assignment One – The Shape of Time

Assignment 1 - The Shape of Time, Assignments, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons)

Part 1- Review and Reflection 

I cannot believe it is already a month since I enrolled. I have learned so much and there are many areas in which I feel I have progressed and so many more I want to work on.

When I look at my work for this unit as a whole I can see how my thoughts about time and the whole creative arts discipline have changed. In my initial reflection, I was very rigid and literal in my thinking. I wrote everything I could brainstorm about time and you can see from the mind map I made that everything was already split into neat categories of art, music, science etc with some attempt to connect them. This is interesting to me, as I always thought that I was already interested in the interdisciplinarity nature of creative arts but I feel like I hadn’t even begun to understand this on a contemporary level. A lot of the examples I used in that initial reflection were classical rather than contemporary and I already realise that I need to be more up to date in my art references which I hope to do so by attending more in-person events.

The very first exercise where we looked at Ma(r)king Time by Milou Van ham and Moniek Driesse opened my eyes to more contemporary expressions of Time. I feel by looking at this piece and in particular, trying to recreate a small part of it made me get into the mindset of thinking about how artists use and portray Time. I am glad that I took this opportunity to try and experience in a small way the way that the work was produced and it actually made me experiment with creating something using simple tools like a drawing pin and a straw. One thing that I gained from this was an insight into the deep meditative state of flow that creating something like this can induce and by posting about this on OCA Learn, Adam linked me to another similar piece of work – the sunflower seeds. This highlighted to me about finding connections between pieces of work that on the surface perhaps don’t seem to have anything in common but when you think about them they have many links. It also made me consider the more positive aspects of spending time working. I think we automatically jump to the conclusion that work and labour are bad and exploitative without considering the positive aspects too.

There has been the opportunity to gain and reconsider many study skills during this first unit. The piece on note-taking was interesting, as even though I have studied recently it made me stop to contemplate if I do make notes in the most effective way. Since doing this, I have definitely incorporated a mix of the Cornell system and Feynman and I ask myself more questions as I read and stop to think if I could explain what I have just read in a simple way to someone else. I feel this is making me a more effective learner. There have been some very interesting texts to engage with. I really enjoyed reading George Kubler’s The Shape of Time, although it was stated we didn’t need to for this unit, I managed to get a copy and have skimmed through it and it is a text I will keep returning to. I particularly enjoyed contrasting it with another book on Time by Carlo Rovelli that approaches time from a more scientific-philosophical angle and I want to look at both of these again. I have also started reading Amelia Groom’s book from the further reading list and again, this is one that I will dip in and out of through the whole course.

The Shape of Time lecture by Doug Burton was a mine of information and it really opened up my eyes to many new artists and their work. There were so many avenues I wanted to go down and research from, but I took into consideration some advice from Adam in our first call when he told me it is sometimes more interesting to reflect on why you are drawn to the ones that stand out. The one that really stood out to me and that lead me to research a lot more offshoots from it was The Spiral Jetty Again, I found it quite difficult to know how much depth to go into when looking at it and I feel like I sometimes struggle still to put into words what I am feeling about it. I ended up looking at spirals in general, the symbology and geometry of them, how they have been used across time and how they represent a different non-linear form of time that has religious and spiritual connections. I also spent a lot of time looking at the land art movement itself and how that fits into the politics and culture of the time. I feel a lot of the themes are still very relevant today, this anti-commercialism, anti-establishment and pro-environment ideas.

Development Action Points: 

  • I would like to look into different ways to reflect on my work as I feel this is an area to develop.
  • I would also like to expand my own research away from just focusing on the course suggestions.
  • I would like to read a wider range of texts about artworks to hone my ability to write about other people’s work.
  • I would like to get into the creative elements of the course and start exploring more about how I would use time as a subject or medium. 
  • I would like to attend more exhibitions and in-person art events.

Part 2 – Summary of Understanding of How Time is Used

On reflection, there seem to be three broad categories of how time is used as a material for shaping artworks. Firstly, time and its nature as the focus of the work itself, secondly time is used as the medium in which the artwork evolves and thirdly how we experience and spend time.

The nature of time and what it is still is a mystery to us. Scientists and philosophers question its very nature and existence and creative artists explore it. We seem to categorise is it into past, present and future and accept they are somehow different from each other. We also equate Time with Memory as something in memory can only be in the past. Sarah Sze explores this idea in her work.

Many artists use time as a medium to evolve their work. One example is the land artists who give their works over to time and the land for them to change and in some cases completely destroy them. The Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson was made very quickly, only four weeks from design to complete construction, but the true beauty and piece then are generated by it being left to time. With time, the piece was submerged underwater for a period and then emerged covered in white salt crystals, it will eventually be lost to the sea completely. Another example from the lecture is the Future Library by Katie Paterson. This won’t be complete for 100 years, so the artist herself is unlikely to ever see the full reward of her work. This on one view seems a very selfless act, she is leaving something that only others will be able to enjoy and she will never know how the final reveal is received. The choice of 100 years is interesting as it is just out of reach of most people’s lifetimes but not too far in the future to be incomprehensible. It seems tantalisingly close, but just out of reach.

The experience of time seems to be the most common way in which artists engage with time. There have been many examples in this unit including Ma(r)king Time. One that stands out to me is an exhibition I saw about Motherhood and how that changes your experience of time. Becoming a mother can sometimes make women outsiders to “normal time”. A woman can go from working full time and having a very time defined role to having their world turned upside down. Breastfeeding still even in 2021 makes it difficult for some women to return to the world of work, they can lose part of their identity and with it feel like linear time has stopped for them.

Part 3 – Reflection on ‘The Art of Contemporary Experience’.

The Art of Contemporary Experience was an interesting read by Peter Kalb. I have been trying to get hold of a copy of the whole book as it would be interesting to put into context the chapter excerpt we were given. I wrote up my full notes here on the artists mentioned in the chapter here.

I tried out the SQR3 method for reading this chapter and it did help gain a greater more in-depth understanding. Upon skimming it, the first thing that seemed apparent to me was that there were a lot of different artists mentioned but they all appeared to be very western and male. It would be good to consider the contemporary experience from a broader more diverse range of examples, but again I would like to see the whole book to judge if this chapter is representative of the whole text.

As is often the case when I read, I was left with more questions and avenues that I wanted to research. The chapter (and book) focuses on the post-1980s as it is felt this is when we as a society became more self-conscious. What was it about the 80s and 90s in particular? This lead me to think about post-modernism and the philosophy associated with it and again highlighted that the time in which creative works are made will always have an impact.

Throughout the chapter were various artists that explore this idea of subjectivity and objectivity when experiencing art. How much of what we experience when we connect with a piece of art is down to the art itself, and how much is our past experience, memory, pre-conceived notions and politics of the time in which we are in. One of my favourite pieces mentioned in the chapter was Roni Horn’s ‘Things that happen again’. It is two identical copper cones that are placed in two different rooms that are next to each other. The piece needs time and memory. You go into a space and see a simple disc. It doesn’t look like much: it isn’t until you walk in and see that it is a three-dimensional cone-shaped object which is familiar but has certain subtle formal qualities which make it different, which take away from it being familiar. It becomes memorable. Then you go into the next room and enact exactly the same experience, but of course, it’s unexpected and it’s so many minutes later; it’s a slightly younger experience in your life. Whereas when you walked into the first room, you had the experience of sometl1ing unique, you can’t have that a second time. It is a very insightful way of highlighting that everything we see we are influenced by past experience. This idea of things being identical is a paradox, you always have one that is here and one that is there. Time and place have such an important role in something’s identity.

Another strong message from the chapter was this idea of how we want to classify and categorise everything. Mark Dion’s work ‘On Tropical Nature’ intrigued me here. I resonate with him mixing biology and art and his idea of interdisciplinarity between the two. It is early environmental art. I also am intrigued by his references to the way we want to classify and categorise everything. It seems a very human need. Like the historians who want to categorise time into distinct periods. Dion gathered different curiosities from his trips and placed them together, leaving the viewer puzzled as to why they were together. It makes us think about why museums choose the collections they do. Who gets to decide what is valuable enough to put on a show? If you look at children and the way they treasure the strangest of things at times, it can often seem illogical too. But isn’t every categorising illogical and influenced by someone? It reminds me of a scene early in Stalker where the three men are talking in the bar before they set off to the zone. One tells the tale of an artefact in a museum that was found to be fake to trick archaeologists. Before this was discovered everyone viewed the item with “oohs and ahhs”. After the discovery of its deception, it was deemed worthless. Why do we place value on some items and not others? Is art really the influence of galleries, is this the same thing the Land Artists were running from? Some things also lose their value when placed in a gallery or museum. Like the hemlock tree in Dion’s Vivarium. It can no longer contribute to the greater environment even though it can be grown inside for decades.

Part 4 – Questions

  1. Is there a particular way in which we should write reflections?
  2. Are there any word limits or guidance on what style to write in?
  3. Am I putting the right level of information on my learning blog and is it easy for you to nevaigate?

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