Tempus Fugit

This installation was inspired by Chris Burden’s “Samson” and by some of the topics in his broader body of work. In “Samson” the participant’s actions create the hypothetical that many small actions can compound into a dramatic singular act of destruction that will likely never occur. In reality, that tension exists only in the minds of the participants. In my practice I use the phenomenological nature of interactive installation to highlight the participants body in relation to the work: height from the ground, shifting balance, shifting perspectives, or shifting masses. This is a continuation of my research into how the tension of risk within an artwork operates as it shifts from explicit danger to an abstract tension that exists only in the mind.

In Tempus Fugit the presentation of the conceptual layer is presented in a highly theatrical manner. There are two oversized pulleys that hold the bundle of strands on opposite sides of the room in order to heighten the sense of the potential movement. The pulleys act in a cartoonish manner, to emphasize and clarify the connected relationship of the yarn to the suspended component. While the bundle of yarn condenses to under a foot in diameter, I chose to fan them out across the square grid, tying one to each of the over one thousand intersections, making each strand and each hand-tied knot individually viewable. The frame is painted a vibrant red in order to add a bold punch of color, while downplaying the overt masculine characteristic that a large amount of steel could add to a project.

It is designed to be ephemeral, to exist only within the duration of this exhibition, since each string that is cut brings it closer to the fulfillment of its potential, that is to say the work cannot be completed until it has been destroyed. There are two levels of consequence in this work: immediately, you can see the effect of your individual actions as the strand of yarn springs upward, and, as a result of the collective actions, the counterbalance on the other side of the room is one strand closer to falling. While your cut might not be the final one, each participant is complicit in the destruction of the piece. Materially, the physical characteristics of the yarn are being put on display, with the strength of each remaining strand being further highlighted with each strand that is cut.

Upon entering the space the participant is presented with a heavy pair of fabric shears and a text prompt:

“Please cut a string with these scissors.
Please put back when you are done”.

The participant has to carry the heavy object while walking around the space while digesting the instructions and beginning to consider the implication of the requested actions. With only several words of black vinyl lettering guiding them, they are now in control of the device that has the capacity to destroy this installation. Navigating the oversized scissors into position is an unfamiliar experience. The length and weight of the scissors makes the process of engaging with a single string a more drawn out process, giving them more time to think. The flow of this process creates an unusual choreograph of movements drawing the attention of others in the space.

The perspective of participants is increasingly narrowed to qualities of the individual strand. Although a single strand can be easily snapped with bare hands, collectively they can support a significant amount of weight. However, this sense of precariousness does not dissipate; on the contrary, it highlights the ever-present fragility in every system.

The physical counterbalance to the many strands of yarn is an amalgam of grandfather clocks and components from an antique chandelier. Most of these clocks were collected years earlier by my dad with the intention of one day repairing them. The chandelier from which I sourced the crystal was purchased as a gift for my parents from an estate sale half a century ago by my grandmother–they didn’t like it, never used it, moved with it across the country, but held onto it all these years. These clocks exist today as an anachronism stripped of their primary function, even good grandfather clocks don’t keep time very well compared to their inexpensive modern digital counterparts. This class of objects that were once valuable, once important, and once status symbols languish in closets and basements, begrudgingly saved from the scrap heap because someone in our family held on to these things, so we too feel a sense of obligation to continue holding on to them. This tendency extends well beyond physical objects, as our collective family histories can loom large in our individual decision-making. Our concern for the impact of our individual choices on others can sometimes make our lives not feel like our own.

There is a fine line between sentimentality and allowing an adherence to the expectations of others, real or perceived, to become an albatross around one’s neck.