Text by Dr. Till Julian Huss
If we take a step back from everyday routine things and attempt to experience time as it passes, to glean from it a state of mind or meaning, we find ourselves to be going less and less with the flow of time than we are caught in a complex net of time structures. These structures are physical, social, cultural but increasingly, also technical, medial and digital in nature. The search to localize one’s own time among heterogeneous time regimes has gained incredibly in virulence since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly during the lockdown this past spring. For her solo exhibition, Lena von Goedeke transforms the gallery rooms into a kind of artificial living situation in which she allows us to sensually experience her inner sense of time in the installation works.
The title of the exhibition, Static, points not so much to a state that is solid or rests in itself than it does to motionlessness and standstill. It is the antipode to the acceleration that had determined modern society and its progress since the beginning of the 20th century. As a consequence to the ever-increasing acceleration in information technology, the French philosopher and media theorist, Paul Virilio, prophesied a frantic standstill exactly thirty years ago. The lockdown this year may be interpreted as its realization: In virtual reality, all times and spaces are available, but physically, we enter a motionlessness state. This enormous tension is something von Goedeke translates into a special aesthetics of material. In her work, At the tone the time will be, she brings the incessantly updated announcement of the time to a standstill with a newspaper made of concrete.
The absurdity of fixating in print a piece of information that only makes sense in the immediate present is something von Goedeke tops yet again by casting it in solid concrete. The speed of the information, the medium of the information and the material carrier all come together to form a tension that expresses the paradox of being able to come to terms with digital acceleration by using a means of physical deceleration. This aspect of localizing time is also taken up in Transmission, an installation that consists of 6 towels in the connecting hallway between the gallery rooms. The news ticker contents of half a day at the beginning of the pandemic have been embroidered in the soft fabric of each towel. In the textile processing, the flow of information is once again brought to a standstill. Moreover, the white towels address the strict hygiene requirements during the time of the pandemic.
Everything is only perceived through layers, as von Goedeke remarks. Whether it is now the protective layer of disinfection, the mask, or the additional protective glass for smartphones, these are variations of analogue and digital filters in the exhibition works to be experienced as a theme and for their aesthetics of material. In this respect, the haptic nature of the surfaces plays a special role. Whereas the concrete and the terrycloth towel afford an immediately tangible sensual experience, the phenomena in our everyday lives increasingly recede behind the smooth surface of displays and become digital images.
In her paper-cut silhouettes, von Goedeke deals with virtual textures, which stem from the digital scans of surfaces such as photos of mountains. In the paper or the felt blankets of the silhouette cut, This Summer, she translates the digital transformation of reality back into an immediate sensuality. The felt blankets hanging on the wall have their own corporeality; The shadows cast by the paper cuts supplement the virtual depth of the 3D structures with an immediately physical one. A further strategy for making the digital more available to experience is the disruption of the flow of data and its transformation of pure signals into meaningful contents. Via white noise as digital information that is useless to our senses or through the glitch as a faulty data transfer, the artist allows the digital state of our environment to become visible in the form of graphite drawings. Only in the negativity, the loss of transparency, does the digital emerge in its peculiarity.
In the context of this exhibition, time may no longer be understood as a unit in the way our language uses “time” in the singular. Our present is no longer the pure moment of the transition of the future becoming the past. The plurality of time is characterized by various units of measurements of the clock, the calendar and the algorhythms of the digital media. Fundamentally at odds with orderings of measured divisions, there stands our inner sense of time, which von Goedeke shifts to the center of her exhibition. Our intrinsic physical and psychological times are qualitative phenomena and, therefore, they may not be quantatively grasped, a point the French philosopher Henri Bergson had argued as early as the end of the 19th century. As pure intensity, the perceived duration defies all standard measures of scientific time models. From the concept of duration, Bergson developed a philosophy of life, and at a time of increasing science and technology, he became the most widely read philosopher. Since then, the tension between subjectively felt time and the objective measurement of time has not lost in importance. On the contrary, more than one hundred years later, due to the increase in media and digitalization in our daily lives, it has only become stronger and more complex. In her works, Lena von Goedeke demonstrates how much the racing and fragmented time of the digital media has fundamentally influenced the perception of a wholly new and different kind of duration of isolation at home. The heavy concrete cast and the fine embroidery on the towels rob the information of their technical speed. They are the expression of the experience of intensive duration. In our helplessness at not being able to convey the fusions and confusions of different temporalities in language, the works by the artist create possibilities for an aesthetic experience as well as a sensual understanding of her wholly individual perception of time.
The series of photographs, A Long Now, may be regarded both as a guiding principle and an access to the exhibition. At first glance, they seem to show the measurement of an interval of time in an hourglass, but upon looking more closely, we note the impossible conditions. The digital manipulation of the passing time sealed in the hourglass disregards the laws of physics. The images are the presentation of a felt time, not a representation of a measurable time. The complexity of the sense of time condenses here to become a more concrete statement: There is no one time. It must give way to the perception of contradictory classifications of time. In doing so, what is important is that we find our place within this plurality, maintaining it or behaving artistically and aesthetically in its face.