Saturday, 7 February 2015

How to Construct a Time Machine, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes (23 January-22 March 2015)

We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted To Be (2011) Ruth Ewan

A New Year and a resolution to re-establish more regular posts to Laughing Torso.  Last summer was sadly consumed with caring for my ailing ninety-nine year old grandmother who passed away in July after a very slow and sad decline.  

The first exhibition of 2015 at MK Gallery has thankfully got the resolution off to a great start.  Located in my home town (or City, depending on your loyalties), I am very spoilt to have this wonderful gallery on my door step and must confess that during the five years I have lived in Milton Keynes have, due to being limited to weekends for gallery visiting, mostly overlooked it in favour of visiting London exhibitions.  Shameful, especially as this summer the gallery will close for two years due to an exciting multi-million pound expansion!  So I have resolved to reconnect with MK Gallery much more proactively – now and after its redevelopment.

Time and Relative Dimensions in Space (2001) Mark Wallinger
I attended the exhibition on its preview night when its curator, Dr Marquard Smith held an ‘in conversation’ talk along with two artists featured in the exhibition, Mark Wallinger and Ruth Ewan.  I love events like these - they always give real insights into an exhibition as only the curator him/herself can and I love listening to people discussing art articulately and with passion and conviction.  How to Construct a Time Machine features work by artists interested in notions of time and how art can be used as a machine or device for exploring how time is perceived, presented and manipulated.

The Time Machine in Alphabetical Order (2010) Thomson & Craighead

Perhaps unsurprisingly, film features heavily within the exhibition as it is media which lends itself well to the manipulation of time.  Thomson & Craighead’s film “The Time Machine in Alphabetical Order” (2010) a re-presentation of the cult 1960 film re-edited into alphabetical order, Elizabeth Price’s “Sleep” (2014) and Tehching Hsieh’s “One Year Performance 1980-81”, where he freeze frame recorded himself punching a worker’s time clock every hour on the hour, were stand out pieces.  Alongside these, Marquard’s placing of historical works such as Georges Méliès’ “A Trip to the Moon” (1902) and John Cage’s “4’33” (1952) cleverly demonstrated the fascination time has had on artists and filmmakers for many years.

One Year Performance 1980-81, Tehching Hsieh
Among the film work, sculptural pieces ranging from Mark Wallinger’s massive “Time and Relative Dimensions in Space” (2001) - a full scale aluminium version of Dr Who’s tardis, to the 20cm diameter “100 Years” (2004) from Kris Martin - a small brass sphere set to explode in 2104, added contrast.  The mechanics of the projectors and audios from the films, along with the kinetics from Mat Collishaw’s “Magic Lantern Small” (2010) make this a very noisy exhibition.  It also fell foul to technical issues on both my visits.  On the preview night, “Sleep” had no audio and on my second visit Catherine Yass’s “Safety Last” (2011), a manipulation of the iconic clip of Harold Lloyd clinging onto a clock on the front of a skyscraper from his 1923 film, wasn’t working and Katie Paterson’s “Field of Sky (91.800g)” (2014), a found meteorite, cast melted and re-cast into a new version, was missing completely.  This was a real shame and let down Marquard’s curatorial vision.  Despite this, however, How to Construct a Time Machine is a strong and sophisticatedly curated and deserves more than one visit to fully appreciate all the subtleties of the works on display as well as their interactions with each other.