A Fetishism of Divided Time


Translation: Alfred BIRNBAUM

“THE SECOND / Time Based Art from the


November 13December 27, 1998

ICC Gallery A, D


InterCommunication No.28 Spring 1999 ICC Review


Documenta X, held in 1997, evidenced a

growing tendency toward electronic imagemaking

in contemporary art. Within this trend,

how are we to regard the element of "time"?

Though hardly a large-scale exhibition, ICC's

THE SECOND was remarkable for the

sensitive vision of the participating artists.

Planned by Montevideo/Time Based Arts =

Dutch Media Art Institute, the exhibition has

traveled from Amsterdam to Mexico City,

Taipei, and now Tokyo's ICC.

Montevideo/Time Based Arts = Dutch Media

Art Institute was founded in 1978 by the

exhibition's guest curator René COELHO

as an organization dedicated to fostering

local Dutch media artists as well as showing,

selling and archiving their works. As the

name states so emblematically, TBA's take

on media art focuses on associations with

time. In many ways, the present exhibition is

a sequel to IMAGO, fin de siècle in Dutch

Contemporary Art, also curated by

COELHO in 1989 and subsequently toured

to eight countries.

Media art, which implements sound, film and

video mediums, is essentially predicated

upon time. Just how media art reflects on

time is of particular interest to this writer. For

needless to say, running video images alone

does signify not any real grasp on time. Even

so, rather than even "time-based," more apt

keywords for the overall exhibition might well

have been "detail and whole" or "aspect and

recomposition." Almost every work played

upon by such expectations by displaying

subdivided and fragmented data to viewers

via video monitors and computers, then

leaving the viewers to recompose for

themselves; the result of such minutely

segmented and parsed time frames being

that the very organic flow of time and

continuity of duration no longer registered (at

least not to me).

Take for instance PETER BOGERS's

«Heaven» (1995), the "central installation"

 of the exhibition: 17 small video

monitors are placed in a white room, some

hanging on the wall, some suspended in

space, some sitting on the floor. Each

displays part of an object (a clock, a sleeping

cat, a person) one might find in an actual

room, sound and image all repeating with

exacting regularity in one-second cycles.

Upon entering this curious space, we are

forced to take in as many of these

instantaneous image fragments as possible

and assemble them into some kind of whole

(if only to dispel the unsettling atmosphere of

the room). What emerges is a kind of early

cubist time-space, where viewers must

subjectively analyze and synthesize from

their perceptions of the monitors.

The exhibition also includes two other works

by BOGERS, both highly acclaimed in

Holland. In one of these, «RETORICA» (1992),

two TV monitors show a father and child

trying to communicate. Such a scheme of

two TV's conversing was previously seen in

Bruce NAUMAN's «Clown Torture» (1987),

but whereas NAUMAN's two clowns

repeating their tales ad nauseum presented a

nightmarish tableau of closed

communication, BOGERS's soundtrack of a

child's baby talk and the father's responses

paint a far happier smile. Yet as only the

eyes and mouths are shown, even this

communication begins to taken on a

deviously serpentine aspect.

Another BOGERS's work, «Sacrifice» (1994)

situated strategically at the entrance to the

exhibition space, peers into the open mouth

of the artist himself drowning (dissolving?) in

a bathtub. Displayed alongside is a large

photograph of the production studio showing

the outlandishly huge device the artist used

to shoot the scene, the sheer mechanical

complexity of zooming in on himself reduced

to a mouth, juxtaposed with the sacrificial title

putting a somehow sinister slant on the

image. It turns the commonplace TV into a

fetishistic implement forcing us to examine

the human form piece by piece. A similar

tendency towards fetishism is also seen in

A.P. KOMEN's «Face Shopping» (1994), in

which women's faces are projected close-up

onto a row of four screens, the artist

persistently following their inadvertent eyelid

twitches and facial ticks, causing an

uneasiness in the viewer who is made to

focus in on these women's more "indiscreet"


Different approaches to the theme of

subdivided time apart from the fetishistic

gaze are presented by Bea DE VISSER and


Skipping Mind / A Film about Forgetting»

(1994), the artist builds an utterly lifelike

moving "mosaic" of women's portraits culled

from old books. In GERRETS's «Time/Piece»

(1994), the artist rotates a still video image to

create a moving panorama by stroboscopic

effect. Both works are displayed so as to

openly illuminate their workings. GERRETS's

work is set up on a bronze pedestal

reminiscent of an astrolabe, inscribed with a

quote from St. Augustine: "Time is the mobile

image of immobile eternity."—words that

might epitomize both works. Indeed, both DE

VISSER and GERRETS have produced

"reborn" or "reincarnate" readings of the wellknown

principle behind film and animation,

whereby a succession of slightly shifting still

appears to produce motion, breathing new

life into fragmented time.

In the exhibition catalog, Rudi FUCHS points

out that "the patient will" of traditional Dutch

painting is still alive in the production of

contemporary Dutch artists. To be sure, the

various participating artists of THE SECOND

cast an exceedingly patient and finely tuned

gaze upon their subjects, such even the most

familiar of relate are dissected down to mere

fragments. Some artists like DE VISSER and

GERRETS patch these fragments back

together in Frankenstein fashion as if to

reassemble an organic continuum of time


But most clearly what these works bear

witness to is the time awareness of this

media age. For is not the world we face an

intellectual construct of fragmentary data, in

which we must process fragments of time

and information via rational means alone?

Has not our gaze microscope down to

details? While I find this image of time

somewhat distorted and disquieting, in Jaap

DE JONGE's «O.T.S.» (1995), an antique

octagonal display case for a collection of

fragmentary videoworks situated near the

entrance next to BOGERS's piece saved the

day for me by the artist's precious loving

stance toward media art.



Born 1970 in Yokohama. After working at the Watari

Museum, he proceeded to postgraduate studies in

Aesthetics and Art History at Keio University Graduate

School. He currently researches on Josef BEUYS and

20th century German art.