“Here Comes the Sun”

Prologue by David Neuman

Here Comes the Sun Daniel Birnbaum on Olafur Eliasson,Francis Alÿs, Tacita Dean and Tobias Rehberger

Working With, Working Between Jérôme Sans in dialogue with Tobias Rehberger

Spectrum of an Image Jérôme Sans on Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij

Referring to a Dream Rosa Martínez on Ghada Amer, From One to Another Rosa Martínez on Rivane Neuenschwander

In Front of the Sun Rosa Martínez on Pilar Albarracín

“I always have all the time in the world” Sarit Shapira in dialogue with Avital Geva
Exhibition catalogue no 33 ISBN 91-974236-7-x. 2 books in a box, illustrated, hard cover. Texts in Swedish/English. Published 2005 by Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall.
Price: 340 SEK (approx. 34 EUR)

Here Comes the Sun by Daniel Birnbaum

Time, said Austerlitz in the observation room in Greenwich, was by far the most artificial of all our inventions, and in being bound to the planet turning on its own axis was no less arbitrary than would be, say, a calculation based on the growth of trees or the duration required for a piece of limestone to disintegrate, quite apart from the fact that the solar day which we take as our guideline does not provide any precise measurement, so that in order to reckon time we have to devise an imaginary, average sun which has an invariable speed of movement and does not incline towards the equator in its orbit. “Austerlitz” / W. G. Sebald, 2001

In Your Sun Machine Olafur Eliasson created a “cosmological” installation with the simplest of means. It is a work about the relationship between sun and earth. His contribution is nothing but a hole in the roof of the Californian gallery where the work was presented. Above, the sun blazes, creating a vibrantly hot patch of light on the gallery floor. If you concentrate on the patch, you can actually see the sun moving. Until you remember something you learned in school: the reason that the light of this heavenly body creeps across the floor is that you and your own little planet are tearing across the universe at an unimaginable speed. Or had you forgotten that? We tend to forget certain basic things. Here Comes the Sun is an exhibition about cosmology, time, and our most prominent celestial body. Francis Alÿs’ work, Zocalo, is a further example that reminds us of certain fundamental cosmic facts. A flag that stands at the center of the huge square in Mexico City casts a shadow that attracts the people who try to escape the relentless light that falls onto the plaza. Thus, a large solar clock is created with human figures as an element. This is an artwork about the Mexican sun, about the movement of planet Earth through space, and about social life in the Mexican capital. Recent works by Tacita Dean display a related interested in cosmology and time. Circularity and rotation as ciphers of time are recurring features in Dean’s projects, most conspicuously present in Fernsehturm (2001), a film shot at the revolving restaurant of Berlin’s famous television tower. Originally, when the tower was still standing in the GDR, it took one hour for the restaurant to do a full rotation. After 60 minutes (one look at the full 360¡ of the city’s horizon), one had to leave the highly sought after seat. Today, after the disappearance of Communism, the rotation is twice as fast. You get a view of all of Berlin in just half an hour. Dean likens the revolving restaurant to the spacecraft in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Once it was a symbol of the future, now it’s out of date. It’s a perfect anachronism that short-circuits our notions of future and past: “As you sit up there at your table, opposite the person whom you’re with, and with your back to the turn of the restaurant, you are no longer static in the present but moving with the rotation of the Earth backwards into the future.” Another work connecting rotary motion and time is Disappearance at Sea (1996), a film shot at the Berwick lighthouse and displaying nothing but temporality itself and the passage from light to dark when the lighthouse become functional. The “event,” says the artist, is the “passage of time” itself: “At night, you watch in the blackness for the rotations of the lighthouse and you decipher time in the gaps between the flashes. Without this cipher, there is no time.”

When forms of communication grow old, they become “an index of an understanding of a world lost to us,” says artist Stan Douglas in response to the question of the role of outdated technologies in his work. So many artists today seem interested in the very notion of the outmoded. No doubt Dean is deeply attracted to various forms of obsolescence and, as she explains, “courts anachronism – things that were once futuristic but are now out of date.” Her choice of medium, film rather than video or digital imagery, clearly relates to this interest: “So obsolescence is about time in the way film is about time: historical time; allegorical time; analog time. I cannot be seduced by the seamlessness of digital time; like digital silence, it has a deadness.” She opposes this dead time to the time of old mediums. A time that you can hear; a time that is somehow alive: “I like the time you can hear passing: the prickled silence of magnetic tape or the static on the record.” The chief theorist of obsolescence, Walter Benjamin, spelled out most of these motifs already in the 1930s. The emergence of a new technology always gives rise to new artistic and political hopes that tend to fade rather quickly. It’s not until the moment a technological device is “eclipsed by its obsolescence” that something happens: its “armoring” breaks down and it “releases the memory of its original promise.” This Hoffnung im Vergangenen (Hope in the Past) has been analyzed by Peter Szondi as the temporal figure that characterizes Benjamin’s thinking as a whole. It is not just a question of ruins and outmoded technologies but, ultimately, of the very structure of history itself: “The past carries with it a temporal index by which it is referred to redemption.” (…)

Excerpt from the catalogue text Here Comes the Sun by Daniel Birnbaum, head of the Städelschule, Frankfurt, 2005.