TEMPORALITY & LIMINALITY IN CONTEMPORARY ART MAKING

Timescape Evolution - Digital collage 2020

A phenomenological exploration of time, space & rhythms in digital and hands-on art practices.

"Creative Alchemy and Mindful Art Practices" - A series of articles by Roseline de Thelin,
Multi Media Artist, Creativity Coach & Mentor, Expressive Arts Teacher & Art 
Therapist.

“Time does not exist without change” Aristotle

In our age of connective digital technologies opportunities for creative innovations are growing exponentially, yet our capacity to adapt and regulate is being challenged by the speed and quantity of the stimuli and information we receive.

One of the great potentials of artistic expression is that it offers a space where to mirror and integrate our reality, as well as a space where to play with and conduct experiments. I am interested to explore how combining traditional hands-on arts and crafts with digital creative tools in artistic processes could serve as an experimental ground to discover and develop mindful, healthy and sustainable ways to integrate digitality and virtuality into our lives.

 “The experimental is pervasive throughout culture, and, for many of us, life is increasingly an experimental process in which to a lesser or greater extent we need to reinvent our bodies, ourselves and our community – culture is the laboratory in which these experiments take place and our media are some of the principle tools we use.” says Charlie Gere Professor of media theory and history @ The Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts- In "Research as art"

Using artistic expression to bring together past and future into a con-temporary now, I wish to reveal the different temporal and liminal qualities we experience in hands-on and digital art media and how they might mirror our relationships to time, space and rhythms in our culture. This article will serve as a starting point for future art based research.

Homage to Name June Paik - Video collage 2020

Etymologically – to be contemporary is to be in a relationship with time – it is a particular way of being in, or with, or even out of time. Con comes from the Latin for being with and temporary from the Latin word tempus, for time. According to Boris Groys philosopher, art critic and media theorist “the modern projected itself towards the future, the postmodern looked back at the past through a deconstructive gaze, and only the contemporary steadfastly stared at the present”.

Kant, Husserl and Heidegger profess that it is through temporal synthesis that the contents of consciousness are unified in the experience of the now, in a temporality where “the now” is continuously interconnected with the past and future.

Temporality is the state of existing within or having some relationship with time. In ancient Greek Chronos refers to our linear, sequential or chronological quantitative perception of time. Meanwhile Kairos represents our qualitative/subjective numinous perception of time. The Kairotic quality of time can be experienced when we size the exact opportune moment for action, when time seams to slow-down or speed-up, when we encounter successive synchronicities or when time stops and we enter timelessness. The ultimate blessings of Kairos are the emergence of meaning in the form of insights and truly new gestalts.

Kairos opens a liminal space/time between past and future, between what was and what is to come... the space between the in breath and the out breath of the Cosmos... the edge line of the horizon between earth and sky, the twilights of dusk and dawn. Liminal spaces are thresholds or transitional/transformative spaces. They are the waiting areas between one point in time/space and the next.

There is now neurological evidence confirming that the awareness of linear time can become distorted when, during art making, artists experience the brain state referred to as flow, in which all psychic energy is focused on the unfolding present. Flow is a form of altered state of consciousness, with characteristics such as time distortions, heighten attention focus and perceptions, emergence of insights, synchronicity, imagery and fantasy. When in flow states artists enter a liminal space/time in which they experience the numinous quality of Kairos. Time speeding up or slowing down or time not existing at all, occur during states of flow usually to individuals who are able to step in and out of the here and now.

In her article “The restructuring of temporality in art making” Adriana Van Herden says “to develop the quality of ‘immanent awareness’ that is necessary to be a kairotic “hunter and maker of unique opportunities” we might need to find ways of becoming more open, porous, more sensitized to the different temporal possibilities of the present.”

Cities Timescapes - Past/Present - London/Paris/Cairo - Digital collages 2019 -2020

In my experience the Kairotic liminal and numinous quality of time – flow, right timing, synchronicity, timeliness and timelessness – can be cultivated in art making through mindful practices such as deepening our state of presence and connection, moving with what is alive, following random associations, ‘biding one’s time’, changing rhythms and gestures: slowing down/speeding up, deconstructing/re-constructing our work, or willfully leaning into the unknown, the void at the edge of time.

Now how artists experience states of flow and their relationship to time while creating with digital/virtual media? Is the experience different than with traditional hands-on art practices?

Tim Barker, writer and lecturer in Digital Media @ Glasgow University, introduces the topic of multi-temporal media and develops a process-oriented philosophy of time in digital culture. He says: “Since the earliest developments in electronic media a new form of temporal experience was discovered. Time itself has been processed, delayed and stored. Technologies have fragmented the world in order to measure and store time, and that resulted in a drastically new experience of time.”

We can wonder how civilizations using media that are durable to time, such as parchment, clay, or stone might develop different characteristics to those using ephemeral space-biased media such as papyrus, paper or digital?

Barker suggests that the kind of media a civilization is using produce temporalities and rhythms of life that in turn produced cultural phenomena. The impact of algorithmic structuring of our experiences today is affecting our perceptions of temporality and rhythms. We are metamorphosing into a new culture.

David Berry, professor of digital humanities @ University of Sussex, argues that digital media induce a kind of trance on users that orients them out of time, towards the future rather than the past or present. While Barker refers to multi-temporality: a phenomenological experience of being in multiple times: simultaneously in and out of time, in the present but also in the past and future.

Dreamscape - Time stops - Hands-on & digital mix media 2019

Art making is a natural liminal space/state where artists experience flow, and access an altered or “restructured” perception of time with a “porous” open Kairotic texture. For humans art is a practice that helps them process/integrate/transform the past, mirrors the present and pushes the boundaries of the future.

While working with my hands in the studio I enter a timeless space. I deeply connect to the time/rhythms of matter through the use of paint, water, glue, paper and canvas, clay, threads... I work with the time of the earth and the  rhythm of my body. The process of art making must attune to the intrinsic characteristics of the medium I use and its relationship to time. When creating with hands-on medium my body/mind/nervous system come into coherence. I enter a flow state in which I naturally retrieve timeless human gestures practiced since the beginning of our time, just like the first shaman painting the walls of a sacred cave.

I am in fact deeply connected to the past through collective unconscious practices, which I process into the now when producing new works. I might experience moments of slowing down or speeding up, random association and deconstruction, synchronicities and emergences, yet my creative experience is conditioned by a temporal historical relationship between my body and the medium I use.

When creating with digital tools I experience a totally different temporality, every thing is speeding up and my sense of flow is accelerating.  It is rather exhilarating, just like driving a car with all windows open and music on after walking barefoot on the side of the road for hours. Options and possibilities are multiplied while effects are happening within seconds or minutes and exploration constantly extends towards new territories. Experiments, random associations, compositions, deconstructions and re-constructions can be endlessly replayed, which in turn multiplies exponentially the potentials for new emergences. Once one masters the tools there is so much playfulness and fun in the exploration. In this space/time I am processing the future into the now, I am a hunter of new possibilities running after myriads of inspirational waiting to be born butterflies.

While my mind is surfing at full speed I have more or less disconnected from my body, time as disappeared, and my nervous system is probably highly activated by the intense flow of data unfolding on the screen in front of my eyes. I am in a kind of trance, a playful state of flow in which I surf wave after wave of future possibilities. I have entered a rabbit whole in which each new discovery opens many doors to many more discoveries … I am hooked. Long hours of joyful digital play often ends up in burning out of circuits, volatile sleep and what I call a state of hyper activation/inspiration. When the future downloads to fast, the cup starts to overflow …

If our mind process the waves of innovation at great speed, our body/structure has taken 100000 years to evolve and has difficulty adjusting to the pace of continuous data and digital flow. Long hours of digital use get our body out of synch. We become fragmented and disconnected from natural physical functions and emotions while the mind is hyper active. The nervous system has difficulty to regulate and get back into a state of relaxation. There seam to be a collective perceived difficulty in finding coherence and attunement between digital/virtual time speeding up, and the time of our body whose structure is still functioning and regulating according to the clock of our planet, sun light, moon cycles, seasons …

This difficulty seams to be experienced also on a collective level. Despite the incredible progress new technologies are offering, their actual implementations are being slowed down by the “heaviness” of old social structures, from administrations to corporations, as if our old collective body could not adjust so fast to the evolution of our global brain.

I am interested to explore in my art making, and in my teaching, if there is a liminal temporality where past, present and future can be processed and integrated in a balance sustainable way. Conscious movements between digital and hands-on “time zones”, moving from the brush to the screen, seam to support a better regulation of my whole being, a rhythm that allows me to integrate the new and rapidly evolve without burning my circuits or getting lost in to many options.

Hands-on work, like an out breath, brings me back to myself, to my body, to my grounding, while digital media, like an in breath, open a door to the excitement of the future and our collective evolutionary pull. Moving back and forth between hands-on to digital, I intent to pull both past and future into the now. I create hybrid works born out of multi-temporalities and rhythms, in search for a liminal space/time in between timelessness and timeliness. Harvesting emergences from both sides enriches my creative process and produces works that reflect on our con-temporary tension between past/present/future.

In cultivating a mindful Kairotic numinous relationship to time in combined digital and hands-on practices could we support a process of adaptation/integration of our "contemporary multi-temporalities", and explore ways to resolve our collective tension between body/structure/past and mind/data/future?

To be continued ….

Below you can read a description of the art works I feature in this article and their creative process.

Timescape Evolution - Digital collage 2020

A digital collage combining a photo from one of my optic fibre spiral sculpture and web images into a digital collage on Photoshop.

Homage to Name June Paik - Video collage 2020

I made this video collage in homage to #NamJunePaik prophetic artist, visionary of global connectivity, father of video art, member of the fluxux movement. 

I filmed with my phone’s camera  while dancing in one of his major installation pieces the #SistineChapell made in 1993 now featured @ #tategallery London.

The installation is an immersive kaleidoscopic audio-visual collage featuring many of Paik’s friends and collaborators, alongside art, film, music and dance including John Cage, David Bowie, Alvin Ailey, Keith Haring and Janis Joplin.

I glitched and pixeled my footages with apps and collaged them with nature footages on Premiere in a “#fluxus” playful flow of distorted #kaleidoscope layers.

Cities Timescapes - Past/Present - London/Paris/Cairo - Digital collages 2019 -2020

These 3 collages were entirely created on my phone with photos I took while visiting these cities and using different phone apps. Combining photos of ancient art and tradition (17th century paintings from Le louvre, Egyptian gods, the Queen of England ...) with contemporary art and city landscapes photos to reflect on Past/Present and evolution.

Dreamscape - Time stops - Hands-on & digital mix media 2019

In this Dreamscape I combine photography, hands-on painting and digital collage ... combining moment of my life to capture the atmosphere of Kairotic moments when Time stops, when present reality opens into other realities ...