Pamela M Lee makes a claim for the inextricable relationship between time and technology in the art and art criticism of that decade, organized around an anxiety of time that she terms ‘chronophobic’.

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In her recently published book Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s (The MIT Press, 2004), Pamela M Lee makes a claim for the inextricable relationship between time and technology in the art and art criticism of that decade, organized around an anxiety of time that she terms ‘chronophobic’. Informing practices as diverse as Op art, conceptualism, performance and kinetic sculpture, the chronophobic impulse suggests an insistent struggle with the temporal, an effort to either master its passage, still its acceleration, or give measure to its changing conditions. Throughout the book, Lee traces how forms of time in the work of art serve as figures of uncertainty around historical change itself, most often linked to the emergence of new information and digital technologies. The introduction of systems discourse and cybernetics; the rhetoric of speed in new modes of data processing; and the ambitions of sixties futurologists are seen as co-extensive with many of the aesthetic experiments of the period, however seemingly removed they may appear from the spheres of advanced computer technology. In what ways does recent art offer a post-millennial perspective on these developments? In the last chapter of the book, Lee suggests that we are still very much confronting problems of time instantiated in the 1960s. For her lecture at the Tate Modern, After Obsolescence, which relates to the Time Zones exhibition, she considers the aftermath of the chronophobic in current art making, addressing both our continued inheritance of 1960s models of time and the work of art and some departures suggested by an ever-shifting relationship to new media. Indeed, if conditions of the chronophobic announced a certain ‘waning of historical affect’ to borrow Fredric Jameson’s précis on postmodernism, what logically follows this moment of art historical ‘obsolescence’? Lee’s starting point for this lecture is the last artist discussed in the book, On Kawara. On Kawara’s on-going Today series, begun in the 1960s, continues in the present. She will consider a few of his more recent projects in light of the book’s argument, notably, performance-based work involving the reading of dates in museum and public settings. She will also consider the work of Wolfgang Staehle, featured in the Tate Modern’s Time Zones exhibition, discussing his live internet transmission of the Empire State Building , and its relationship to Andy Warhol’s Empire. Finally, she takes up Bill Morrison’s film Decasia which quite literally renders the obsolete poetic. Stitching together found film footage that has degraded beyond the point of recognition, Morrison’s aesthetic of the outmoded reflects critically – and with some longing – on the faith we place in new media and its promise to represent the conditions of the present as transparent.