In Search Of A Lost (Space)- time Exerpt
- The works of M. Proust, H. Bergson and A. Einstein, these three important and related figures of the 20th century, revealed new, modern interrelationships between space and time.
Today’s visual arts, on the other hand, seem to solidify in an increasingly vacant (timeless-spaceless) subjectivity that would abandon the achievements of past eras in this regard, and the formal and substantive opportunities inherent in the linear, tectonic and structural timeliness, which were so abundantly exploited from the ancient era to the classic avant-garde.
Even a 20-minute lecture turned out to be insufficient to convincingly prove this somewhat depressing conclusion, which also runs counter to more recent prejudices. So I won’t even attempt to do so in the space of one or two pages, but instead will only try to set down the thoughts relating to the dual nature and classic application of space and time. A planar element placed in a parallelogram, just like the threedimensional volume sunk into the hexahedral space, necessarily exists in a space-time constellation, albeit a vulgar one. Because the ability to perceive the subject that pushes out and encompasses the REAL SPACE presupposes a consecutive probing with the eyes; that is, REAL TIME.
A higher – but still only the fi rst – step in the connection of space and time, from the material to the spiritual, is the LINEAR arrangement. Although the ancient sculptural works (Mesopotamian and Egyptian battle reliefs, the frieze at the Parthenon, Trajan’s Column, etc.) also recount events that took place in time, they seem to hold themselves to the classicist principle of the unit of space-time-action deduced by future successors, often despite their virtually infnite length.
It is only in the art of the middle ages that the deliberate arrangement of the various moments in chronological order emerges, the ordering of a lengthy story into a visual sequence which, although figuratively repetitive, is nevertheless consistent and threaded onto a single plot line (miniatures, murals, Biblia pauperum). The elementary degree of the relationship between the two principles (what is shown earlier also happened earlier) is surpassed by the extension of time into the spatial depth; this is more a spiritual than perspective third dimension. This pictorial mode of discussion, ordered into layers parallel with the frontal plane, is what I call the TECTONIC space-time constellation. Things that are farther away took place earlier, and vice-versa; in other words, the spatial planes of depth are also time planes. Interestingly, in relief sculpture the thread of the action – often with repetitive figures – matches the natural direction of the chisel; the unfolding of the work in real time also represents the progression in virtual time. We see such a story, enclosed between the frontal plane and the base plane, unfurling in layers, in two reliefs with the same title (Nativity) by the father and son Niccolo and Giovanni Pisano. And this treatment of time also has its advantages, because in this way the main turn of the plot is placed in the centre of the field of view; this was also recognised by sculptors who use a technique that is the opposite of stone carving, additive bronze modelling. A similar space-time context to that described above is used, for example, in the work of Brunelleschi and Ghiberti designed for the gate of the Battistero in Florence.
The CONSECUTIVE, LINEAR AND TECTONIC time treatment that is manifest in the subject and spreads in the various directions of space are actually the EPIC tools of the middle ages, and although such defi ning masters as Giotto and Michelangelo used them, they lost validity together with that era. They were replaced by a new, STRUCTURAL spacetime constellation, which condenses past and future, close and distant, into one. It was precisely Giotto who was the creator of this novel DRAMATISM, and Michelangelo its first zenith, and their main works are what keep the subordinated simultaneity, which prises apart the reduced space, and is fraught with antecedents and consequences, in constant motion.
The remainder of the talk was about the fertile – pregnant – Lessing moment that can be inferred from all Greek-Roman-Renaissance masterpieces. About sculpture as a DRAMATIC genre par excellence, the most material carrier of STRUCTURAL space-time. Rodin’s successful (Bronze Age) and less successful (St. John the Baptist Preaching) attempt at applying the above ideas. About Bergon’s duration, the virtual extension of real time into the past – memory – and, I might add, into the future – imagination. About the trend in 20th-century art to date, which, bored of the classic perfection of HOMEGENEOUS space-time STRUCTURE, sought to unfold in HETEREOGENEITY rather than in a primitivism that flowed into subjectivity. About the universe that separates Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” from his “Fountain”, about the gravity-less black hole that the constantly evolving space-time structure, once the bright giant of autonomous art, has ended up as today.
But there is neither time nor space to explore these here…
(Space and Processes. 6th RENÉE Symposium. Budapest, 2001, 25–47. (38–39.) In: Space and processes. Motives and contexts. 6th RENÉE Symposium, Budapest, 2003)