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fader: evacuating the time scene
In time's absence what is new renews nothing; what is present is not contemporary; what is present presents nothing, but represents itself and belongs henceforth and always to return. It isn't, but comes back again. DERRIDA
Fader is something of a strange event. While everywhere 'emerging artists' obsess over the there or immediate in everything, here is assembled a show positively dripping with a nostalgia for the unattainable in art. Grouped with a mind to highlighting their common interest in the construction and experience of immateriality, curator Sandra Selig presents the work of Krissy Collum, Chris Comer, Mat Fletcher, Chris Handran and Jess Hynd as collectively committed to an expression of time's complication, super-fluidity and foregrounding in digital imagery and consumer objects. These artists employ audio-visual technologies as discursive tools, alternately cropping and distending the speed of their communications in order to complicate viewers' perceptions of space and time. Whether it's Comer propelling amorphous video blips at speed across the gallery's curved back-wall, Handran slowing an image of moving clouds to a virtual standstill, Fletcher transmitting near-inaudibly high and low- pitched sounds throughout the space, Collum's synaesthetic pun-transformation of light into sand or Hynd parading the gallery's length for who-knows-how-long, in each instance the effect is the same: a schizophrenic confounding of viewers' perceptions of space and time. Theirs is a garner of work committed to re-timing representation and the gallery space, a mixed yet slick bag of performance, sound, video and traditional object based work examining the nature of timed and ongoing experience.
In Lacanian psychoanalysis, schizophrenia is understood as a failure on the part of the subject to accede into language, as a breakdown of the relationship between signifiers. For Lacan, the experience of temporality is an effect of language: it is because language has a past and a future, because the letter moves in time, that we have what seems to us a concrete or lived experience of time. Because the schizophrenic cannot accede into language, (s)he is condemned to live a perpetual present. So it is with fader. The binary codes of computer-generated sound (Fietcher) and digital video broadcasts (Corner and Handran) are immaterialisations of both signifier and signified. They function to dissolve the distinction between message and medium, to frustrate the viewer's attempt to exert her/his will over the art-object. These immaterial works resist objectification because they are always already in play. Where there used to be clear-cut distinctions (idea/material, linear time/editing, conceivable boundaries/frequencies) in each case we find, egged on by digitisation, a collapse, a field of differences. Fader is an attack on the utility and reliability of the empirical that hits on all levels.
In a dossier on the exhibition 'Les lmmateriaux', Jean-Francois Lyotard writes, 'When you drive from San Diego to Santa Barbara ... you go through a zone of "conurbation" ... The opposition between a centre and a periphery disappears, as does the opposition between an inside (the city of men) and an outside (nature)'. This is the kind of space-time invoked by fader. a dense and uncertain field of shifting differences reproduced as a crisis of subjectivity and a problem of time. Like so many e-mails, the works' 'messages' float freely, somehow disassociated from their senders/sources. What emerges is not merely a space dotted with embodied objects and messages, but rather a kind of disembodied, intertextual environment that is eminently contingent and continually reproduced. Like the internent, fader enacts the disembodiment of the human subject. lt complicates the relationship between its viewers' agency and the world of its installed objects. Viewers interact with the works as discursive entities whose properties cannot be deduced by the messages they send. Lyotard says, 'In the tradition of modernity, the relationship between human beings and materials is fixed by the Cartesian program of mastering and possessing nature ... Man's anxiety is that he is losing his (so called) identity as a "human being".' By employing audio-visual technologies capable of complicating our sense of time and space, fader generates just such a feeling of loss in its viewers. lt is always coming yet is forever past: your relation to it is not one of cognition, but of recognition. lt is this recognition that ruins your power of knowing it, your right to grasp its 'messages'. Fader functions to make the ungraspable inescapable, it shoves it in your face.