EXHIBITION CONCEPT NOTES
THERE IS NO PAST OR FUTURE IN ART (Pablo Picasso)
How much ‘time’ has passed between a Cycladic fertility symbol, a fabric designed by Mariano Fortuny and a mirror by Anish Kapoor?
While museums and exhibits increasingly direct their focus on particular periods, styles or artists, we are living in a global society, surrounded by ‘timeless’ ideas and objects.
ARTEMPO aims to explore the universal, timeless language of art..
If, as the Greek philosopher Zeno claimed, time does not exist, then there is no doubt that the timelessness represented in this exhibition by objects and works of art from a variety of cultures and eras does exist: a mask by the Italian artist Marisa Merz alongside three faces by Picasso next to a weathered Neolithic stone face, in addition to a simple, oft-repaired old vase or dust dancing in the sunlight by Sabrina Mezzaqui.
NUMBERS / STARS
The most obvious choices for a subject like ‘time’ include On Kawara’s date paintings, the number-filled paintings by Roman Opalka and the installations by Tatsuo Miyajima, which reduce ‘time’ to digital numbers. Objects from ancient and distant cultures also fit into this theme: texts containing a thousand prayers, or astronomical instruments. An installation by James Turrell, who uses light to link time and distance, the celestial photographs by Thomas Ruff and Marina Abramovic’s amethyst geodes also represent the infinite quality of ‘time’ and space.
DESTRUCTION / CONSTRUCTION
One important aspect of ‘time’ is the fact that it leaves traces, adding things or taking them away; not only does the passage of ‘time’ break things down, ‘time’ also creates. For this reason, an artist like Lucio Fontana has a central role in this exhibition with his Concetto spaziale, which reveals sharp slashes through the canvas. He tried using destruction to create something new, to reach an unknown dimension. After World War II, destruction became an important tool for other artists like Alberto Burri, Shozo Shimamoto, Günter Uecker, Yves Klein and Arman. Other works that fall into this category are a seldom-exhibited broken mirror by Marcel Duchamp and an oxidation of piss painting by Andy Warhol, as well as the work of the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who draws with exploding fireworks, and of the Flemish artist Peter Buggenhout, who makes strange dust objects from household junk. The fear of loss plays an important role here.
VANITAS / NATURE MORTE
We see especially that transience is a part of life in the 17th-century Vanitas and Nature Morte paintings, which aim to remind us of life’s inevitable passage with images of beautiful flowers, fruits and animals. The collection of fantasy objects from natural history museums belongs in this category, as do Jan Fabre’s sculptures made of beetles. Images of death or working with dead people or animals (or their skeletons) are not only a clear reaction to a consciousness of ‘time’; they also allow us to escape ‘time’.
DECONSTRUCTION / DEFORMATION
Even deconstructing the human body is a permissible technique. While Berlinde De Bruyckere, Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon created new forms by distorting the human body and Hans Bellmer built disturbing dolls, Orlan actually deforms her own body through surgery. Antonin Artaud made a dance of death in his film and Kazuo Shiraga ‘dances’ in red paint, in memory of the blood of war victims. The absence of the body is primarily found in Yves Klein’s Anthropometries, in ritual objects from India and in the video showing Kimsooja standing silently on the bank of a river. Sexuality is also an important aspect of the topic of ‘time’: several ritual fertility objects are brought together with an ecstatic female face by Marlene Dumas and Louise Bourgeois’ double phalluses.