Newcall Gallery

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Sonya Lacey
In & Outsides

In one of Jorge Luis Borges' short stories, a prisoner condemned to death prays to God for one more year to put his thoughts into order. The following day, he is led out to the execution site, tied to the post, and as the firing squad raise their rifles, they slow down and appear to freeze – the prisoner has been granted his year, in the final moment before his execution...

Perception of time is subjective. Time and space, after all, do not belong to us; we surf them, as it were. When we measure clock time we are talking of arbitrary points on an artificial scale. How can you ever waste my time, if it was never mine to begin with? The British artist John Latham formulated an elaborate theory around 'event structure'; he believed this could be mapped by what he refered to as 'flat time' (a graduated scale of possible events), and that the basis for the universe was the 'least event' (the smallest possible movement from a state of nothing) rather than the molecule. Are we again being asked in this case to reflect on what constitutes an 'event'? Not a sudden, dramatic explosion necessarily, but a geological timescale, the current physical state being just one more permutation in the process.

The phrase 'in and outsides' brings to mind a Klein bottle, a geometric form with only one surface, a three dimensional development of the Moebius strip. Is the title pointing out the meaninglessness of such terms as 'in' and 'out', if we break things down to an atomic level, one in which everything is composed of the electrical forces and resistances among molecules? If that is the case, this show could be seen as an attempt to pinpoint a moment of transition. Lacey insists that in these works she is not privileging either the process or the outcome. Her most introspective works to date, the interest now is in the transition. The emphasis here is as much on the phenomenon of time and space itself, as in its manifestations.

Robert Smithson was another who worked with epic scales of time. He was particularly interested in capturing the elusive point at which the past and the future meet. Smithson is perhaps responsible for the specialised use of the term 'entropy' in the way that artists now use it; as a slow decay or dissipation of energy, and more recently (within art criticism at least), by extension a more psychological state of
progressive ennui – a great investment of energy and effort, with ever diminishing, unstable returns. There is no guarantee, as we now know, that any investment will deliver on its promise. And in physics 'entropy' can also refer to the unused potential energy in a system, expressed in randomness and chaos.

Matthew Crookes