Dóra Maurer

Timing

1973/1980

Not on display
Artist
Dóra Maurer born 1937
Medium
Film, 16mm shown as video, projection, black and white
Dimensions
Duration: 10min
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented 2014
Reference
T14284

Summary

Timing 1973/1980 is a 16mm black and white silent film transferred to Digibeta. It is ten minutes long. The film starts with an image of a white, rectangular cloth with creases visible where it has been folded. In the following sequences the cloth is shown being folded – at first only once, before being unfolded and shown at full size again. Successive shots repeat this action, adding an additional fold and then returning to the open position before adding yet another fold, until the cloth cannot be folded further. Each movement has the same duration. This sequence of seven folds is then repeated in numerous different takes, filmed using a camera masking technique, where alternating portions of the film stock are exposed. The resulting image is a composite of multiple performances of the activity, inevitably unsynchronised in their timings despite their attempt at uniformity. Appearing to divide the frame into two, then four and then eight parts, the composite image mirrors the act of folding. As the cloth is folded, it unveils the presence of the artist, who is holding it. Her black silhouette is almost invisible and it is only her palms which mark her participation in the action. The double dating of the film indicates the year when the artist started to work on the idea (1973) and the date of the actual realisation of the work (1980). Tate’s work is number four in an edition of five.

The work began as an expanded cinema performance, which the artist has described: ‘Turning towards the audience, I unfold the canvas used while shooting the film, nail it on the wall and, with precise overlapping, I project the film image onto it. After the screening I take off the canvas and fold it again’ (Maurer 2011, p.46). The canvas she refers to is a white bedsheet cut to the 4:3 aspect ratio of the 16mm film frame and proportioned to correspond to the width of the artist’s arm span, introducing a biometric element to the work. Though the film can be projected onto a wall, the ideal way to display the work is by projecting it onto the white cloth depicted in the film, with the cloth nailed to a wall in a darkened space. In these expanded presentations of Timing, the use of the cloth as a projection screen means that this aspect of the apparatus is not only given a central place within the projected image but also acts as a physical base and frame for the film, its grid of creases causing noticeable distortions to the projection. This is significant because it emphasises the materiality of the projection surface, which is generally meant to disappear behind the image it supports, like a painter’s canvas or printmaker’s plate. Timing can thus be seen as part of a broader impulse in Maurer’s work towards medium specificity. In Seven Foldings 1975 (Tate P77124), for example, the formal properties of the work also relate to its physical base.

It is the passage of time, measured with the changing proportions of the white cloth, which gives the film its title. The artist has described the work as follows: ‘Time is measured by folding a piece of white linen in front of a black background: I fold it altogether seven times, one more fold each time, always starting anew.’ (Maurer 2011, p.46.) The film represents Maurer’s preoccupation with alternating proportions, the leaving of traces, and movement in what she has called ‘a strict system of displacement’ (Dóra Maurer, interview with Cassandra Edlefsen Lasch, unpublished manuscript, 27 May 2013, Vintage Galeria archive, Budapest). Repetition of activities, be it folding, overlapping, distortion or rotation, is a characteristic feature of Maurer’s practice, spanning all the media she uses. Her approach is underpinned by a systematic principle of tracing subtle differences and achieving complex results with basic means. In the case of Timing, the simplicity of the idea behind the film allowed the artist to prepare its script with rigorous precision. The durations and lengths of the movement sequences were carefully prescribed. The execution was so deliberate and focused that the footage required no editing. Experimenting with the process of art production and the challenging of perception form an important part of Maurer’s methodology.

Maurer frequently performs in her films and photographs, staging situations or conducting the documented actions (see Parallel Lines, Analyses 1977, Tate T14289). In doing so, she becomes simultaneously the active producer or spectator and the observed subject, exploring the relativity of individual perception. Maurer’s basic experiment with the structural features of the medium leads to a result which is at once transparent and logical, while challenging to the viewer’s understanding of the image. Commenting on Timing, the art historian and curator László Beke has written:

Timing … stands on the crossroad of all the works [Maurer] has produced. It is a ‘displacement’ like so many of her works, but this is only a modest aspect of the film. Here one is folding a canvas into two, into four … into thirty-two – until it becomes impossible to fold it. But we must not forget that this canvas is the same proportion of the cinema screen, and the metaphor ‘the canvas of the painter = the canvas of the filmmaker’ is emphasized by the fact that while the canvas is folded, the screen is also dividing itself (and shrinking).
(Quoted in Maurer 2011, p.47.)

Maurer, who trained as a graphic artist, initially worked mainly in printmaking (see, for example, Traces of a Circle 1974, Tate P77125). Since the late 1960s her practice has also incorporated photography and film (see Relative Swingings1973, Tate T14285, and Triolets 1981, Tate T14286). She has been a major figure in the Hungarian art scene since the 1970s, both through her art and her influence as a professor at the Hungarian Fine Arts Academy, where she began teaching in 1990.

Further reading
Dóra Maurer, Filmek/Films 1973–83, trans. Komárik Vera, Pécs Gallery, Pécs 1983, pp.12–13.
Dóra Maurer (ed.), Dóra Maurer: Traces 1970–1980, Krakow 2011.
Zoltán Prosek (ed.), Maurer Dóra: Folded Time – Film Retrospective, Rómer Flóris Art and History Museum, Gyor 2018, pp.104–7.

Kasia Redzisz
January 2014
Carly Whitefield
January 2019

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