Tara Donovan, Jyung Mee Park, Achim Mohné
De Tempore

“Time must never be thought of as pre-existing in any sense; it is a manufactured quantity.”1

“A God that can be measured has to be man-made. Revelation has no dimensions. If it did, it would be dead in space and time... The Fourth Dimension is Yahweh’s wrath upon a cursed humanity. ”2

The human experience of time, according to physicist Paul Davies in About Time, his recent popular survey of this dense topic, falls into three distinct categories: mystical or spiritual notions of time, Newtonian time, and relative time. Mystical time is, in essence, timelessness, a sense of time divorced from ordinary, waking human experience. It is the time we associate with heaven or the afterworld — God’s time — experienced on earth as the sense of time we have when we are engrossed in an activity, sleeping, or meditating. Next, Newtonian time or “common sense” time is the classic Western notion of time as linear and clearly divisible into past, present, and future. Finally, Einstein’s revolutionary notion of relative time, at the risk of oversimplifying a complicated theory, postulates that all time — past, present, and future — exists simultaneously.

Although most of us might instinctively describe time in Newtonian terms, our actual experience of time is very different today, at the dawn of the 21st century, than it was even a generation ago.3

The speed at which communication and travel now ordinarily take place has caused us to internalize a sense of time that is, in fact, relative. Our abilities to fly across time zones and converse via telephone or e-mail in “real time” with persons who are half a day away according to the clock literally allow us to move back and forth in time. This exhibition, De Tempore (Latin for of time), presents the work of three artists, Tara Donovan, Jyung Mee Park, and Achim Mohné, who move fluidly among these three vastly different notions of time in developing the form and content of their work.4

Tara Donovan builds large, laborintensive, and site-specific installations for which the bulk of the work occurs on site rather than in her studio. Her relationship to materials is restless and intense. Rarely does she create more than one or two works in any given substance; rather, she continually searches industrial or hardware sources for new materials to experience. Once she's chosen her medium, Donovan devotes her full attention and faculties to learning about and then pushing the limits of its inherent physical properties. Previous projects include: a nearly three-foot-square cube of densely packed toothpicks (Controlled Caging, 1997); a room-sized, black nappy pelt of roofing felt (Resonance, 1998); silvery threads of cut or unraveled electrical cable, tangled to form a weightless, air-filled mass (Hedge, 1998), and a carpet whose gentle berms recall ripples of loose skin or the topographic pattern of rodent burrows (Ripple, 1998); a chorus of gaping-mouthed hydrocal (synthetic clay) vessels (Gaggle, 1998); and white carpet fiber tufted to form a glistening foamy spiral in reflected tints of green and blue (Whorl, 1999). For De Tempore, Donovan has built a new, larger version of her 1999 piece Moiré, which uses a phenomenal quantity of adding machine paper, unrolled and then re-rolled into a number of large, floppy rounds. Laid over or against one another and covering the majority of the floor space in Grand Arts’ large gallery, they form a rippled sea of flaccid organic slices, creating both a visual and a physical field that is activated by the movement of the visitor within the space. The energy of these aggregated forms appears to be only coincidentally contained by the four walls of the gallery; in another location they might morph — shrinking or expanding — to accommodate the available space. At first glance monochromatic, the expanse of white is gradually revealed by our eyes to contain other shades, namely subtle hues of purple, yellow, and gray. The odd beauty and rich allusions of these languorous forms transcend any reference to their quotidian source. Time and ingenuity are partners in Donovan’s patient transformational methods of creation. Characterized by a perversity of quantity, the all encompassing, absorbing intensity of her work evokes a powerful synesthetic reaction; one’s senses are tugged to the surface, charged, and placed on high alert. The experience is riveting.

In their painstaking process, Jyung Mee Park’s installation sculptures, like Donovan’s, pay homage to the abstract notion of labor — its endless, sacrificial, and even sacramental nature. Their content alludes to the regenerative nature of life, with the appearance of round shapes and charred surfaces.5

Five years ago, when a prolonged illness rendered Park too weak to continue her artmaking as before, she began experimenting with folding the sheets of rice paper that she had previously thought of as merely a support for her drawings and paintings. The strength yet delicacy and beauty of the paper forms took on metaphorical implications for the artist as she convalesced and began to create sculpture through the accumulation of these simple diagonally folded sheets. Numerous variations resulted, from gentle peaks or volcanic forms with vertiginous central craters to gargantuan cones or a triangular mound of stalagmites. According to Park, these came into being intuitively, as if the physical nature of the folded paper itself was directing the formation of the sculpture. Remarkably, the natural affinity between the stacked individual units made having to actually adhere one element to another unnecessary.

After concentrating on folded paper sculptures and installations for the past four years, Park’s work recently took a different turn. During a residency this summer at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, in Omaha, Nebraska, she began experimenting with harnessing the power of the sun to create markings on various wooden objects. Working outdoors on sunny days with a magnifying glass, she burned patterns onto wooden disks and bowls of various sizes and shapes (the process of burning itself a speeding up of the much slower natural oxidation of organic materials). Park achieves a remarkable emotional and allusive range in these markings — from lyrical (if not also ironical), suggesting rain or teardrops, to sinister, in their erratic implication of some sort of pox. Several of these new works are premiered in De Tempore in Grand Arts’ small gallery. In one, small concave disks perched upon wire brackets projecting from the wall invite comparison, their irregular patterns suggesting the results of a laboratory trial. In another, charred wooden bowls with flesh-colored interiors displaying the age rings of the parent tree randomly dotted with burn spots are perched on burnt and blackened tree stumps, suggesting acid-rain-dappled toadstools. Throughout these works, as in Park’s folded paper pieces, process, form, and content are united. The subtle charred odor of these mysterious markings is a vestige of the diligent effort that brought them into being, just as the round surfaces upon which they lie speak to a cyclical notion of time.

More conceptual in nature than that of Donovan or Park, Achim Mohné’s work frequently involves a situation of controlled chance. A sequence of events is set in motion, and the passage of time in combination with natural forces — rather than the hand of the artist — literally forges the work of art. His works are ephemeral; they exist primarily in documentation or memory, like the spoken word after leaving the speaker’s lips. Mohné’s prodigious body of work has dealt with notions of surveillance/voyeurism (index:/love and Nonplusultra), chance (Cine Corpse), the experience of simultaneous yet different notions of time (Der Hase undderIgel and 1642 Selbstbestating-ungen), or in the case of his more recent work, capturing and enlarging often over-looked or not easily observable natural phenomena .6

Light Column, an installation Mohné developed during his residency this past summer at Villa Aurora, in Pacific Palisades, California, is a light projection and video work employing a searchlight that projects a 90-foot-long beam, 25 inches in diameter, the end of which is swallowed by a black parabolic bowl. In darkness, the only thing visible is the projected beam of light that appears to be suspended in space. A video camera is set to record the dust made visible in the projected light, and still photographs have been created from these images. The swirling specks, streaking lines, web-like patterns, and dust storms docu-mented in these photographs range in activity from calm to fervent. Mohné’s contribution to De Tempore is another exploration based upon the capturing of dust. Eins zum Anderen (in English One to Another) involves a turntable and unrecorded record disk that “plays” in endless repetition over the course of the six-week-long exhibition. Each play gradually produces more and more static, the result of the accumulation of dust particles (Mohné calls them “tiny meteors”) on the record. After about 200 plays, the sound begins to recall the cracking and popping of a fire burning, and the piece becomes an audible metonym for the “passage” of time.

Stationed near the entrance, it serves as a touchstone for this concept, one shared by all of the works in the exhibition. Time stands still. Time passes quickly by. Time speeds up, slows down, moves forward and backward. Davies’ three categories of time are less three separate ideas and more nuances of a single concept . Although time may feel to be more one or another, depending on our state of mind or current activity, it is in fact all three. The work of these three artists captures the complex reality of time and allows us to contemplate this experientially, rather than merely intellectually.

Neuroscientist and humanist Antonio Damasio has long struggled to uncover greater scientific evidence to support his belief in the significant role that emotions play in determining how humans think and function. His latest book, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, uses the term “wordless knowledge” to describe all of the sub-rational information our body absorbs that then presents itself mentally as “the feeling of knowing.”sup>7

Damasio’s research makes an argument for placing this emotional knowledge, long subjugated to the “inferior” realm of intuition (not surprisingly, traditionally associated with the “lesser” sex), as being at the very core of consciousness — arguing that it is in fact consciousness, rather than rational thought, which separates us from less evolved organisms.

Artists spend much of their energy mining this realm of wordless knowledge in the act of creation. When we experience their artwork we are offered insight far more nuanced than a rational or scientific treatise alone can yield. The work featured in De Tempore invites us to engage more deeply in a fully sensory dialogue — not excluding the intellect — on a subject which is so complex yet so familiar that the knowledge of it already permeates our spirit (mystical time), body (Newtonian time), and mind (relative time). In their approach to artmaking, Donovan and Park derive inspiration largely through a deepening rapport with a particular material, learning more and more about its physical properties and allowing this knowledge to inform the development of the work. Mohné tends to work more conceptually and less intuitively but similarly yields to the forces of chance and discovery in forming his artworks. Not surprisingly, the circle — a symbol of continuity and eternity — appears again and again throughout all of the work in this show. Donovan, Park, and Mohné are restless experimenters who produce works of profound beauty and reflection through the transformation of ordinary materials in synchronicity with the flow of time — mystical, Newtonian, and relative — as experienced by our spirit, body, and mind.

Angela Anderson Adams
Guest Curator
Arlington, Virginia
October 2000

Angela Adams is the Director of Community and Public Art for the Arlington County Cultural Affairs Division, Arlington , Virginia.

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