Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chronology - Daniel Birnbaum

" ‘It all starts with an ending, and then it ends again’, writes Daniel Birnbaum in his slim, expansive essay on the species of temporality extant in contemporary film and video art. If the sentence sounds Beckettian – and Samuel Beckett, after all, is one antecedent of much of what keeps us shuffling about in dimly lit black boxes and calling it art – it is to the extent that Birnbaum is interested in a certain inhuman unfolding of time, stripped of consoling metaphors. In the early works of Dan Graham, Bruce Nauman and Joan Jonas, and latterly in the art of Stan Douglas, Doug Aitken and Darren Almond, he discerns varying degrees of autonomy from traditional, subject-centred models of time. At the starkest extreme a work such as Aitken’s diamond sea (1997), which explores the post-human drosscape of a Namibian diamond mine, ‘can be read as a grandiose illustration of a return to the mechanical processes of the inorganic’.

Birnbaum’s notion of an art of unpredictable becoming is a compelling and sophisticated take on the common theme of Deleuzian immanence. But it has its aporias too. A brief aside à propos Matthew Barney – to the effect that his art is all meaning, all of the time – is quite telling. What Birnbaum resists is hermeneutics: work in which the topography of time is mapped with traditional instruments: metaphor, allegory, symbol."

Brian Dillon - Frieze

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