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Time Forms: the Temporalities of Aesthetic Experience

Time Forms Workshop

Curated by Eric Lewis (Philosophy), Stephen McAdams (Music Research), and Alanna Thain (English and World Cinema) of McGill University.

18-21 September, 2013 | McGill University and the Phi Centre


“Time Forms: Temporalities of Aesthetic Experience” is a four-day major research-creation workshop that explores the ‘when’ of art today. Bringing together scholars, artists, curators and the public, this event investigates art events that intimately involve a temporal dimension, in order to explore different concepts, kinds and components of temporality in the experiencing of art.  In exploring such questions as: ‘what concepts of time are relevant to the experience of art?’; ‘what are the ways in which time plays a role in such experiences?’ and ‘what qualities are specific to time-based arts?’, Time Forms addresses art today as a critical site for resisting the homogenization of a modern “clock time” that subdivides duration into discrete and identical units.  Do aesthetic experiences give us unusual experiences of time, and if so, how and to what end?  How does art “make time felt”?

This event aims to explore forms in time and the ways time forms experience by bringing together scholars and creators of artistic media that intimately involve a temporal dimension in the experience they engender. Participants explore different concepts, kinds and components of experiential temporality as they are manifested in a variety of artistic forms. The event itself is designed to have a large-scale temporal structure that modulates the temporal experience of continuity, immersion and distraction over the whole event, within which are embedded smaller structures with an interleaving of thought-provoking scholarly presentations, performances or presentations of art forms, creative workshops, and moments of repose, reflection and nourishment or other modes of distraction such as moving around space to get to different events, thereby discovering spaces in between the events.

Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2011), the winner of 2011 Venice Biennale, is one of the most significant artworks of the new century.  Marclay’s film is 24-hours long, bound to the clock time of lived experience. If you arrive at the film at noon, it is noon on screen, and so it goes for every moment. A remix artist, Marclay pillaged and resorted the cinematic archive of found footage from already existing movies (actually inscribed in hundreds of films and virtually distributed across spectatorial  memories), to create a compilation that draws on and deviates the source material in the search for something new.  In this case, he searched for cinematic images that spoke of time—clocks, watches, references, bodily postures, hourglasses, rhythms of life personal and collective.  A film without end, Marclay’s The Clock undoes the tyranny of a regularized schedule that divides the time of art from the time of life.  A playful and ironic mediation on “time-based art”, Marclay’s work resists the homogenous availability of contemporary media. Housed in gallery space, there are vast swaths of his film that will only rarely play before spectator’s eyes. Marclay’s film not only proposes time itself as an artistic medium, but demands that the spectator consider the temporal dimension of their aesthetic experience. Today, with the importance of time-based media in art, new sites and zones of “reception” uncoupled from the delimited hours of art institutions (museums, movie theatres, live performance), and the increasing indiscernibility of work time and leisure time characteristic of “affective labour”, the “when” of art is as much in question as the “what” of art was when Marcel Duchamp signed a urinal, displayed it in a gallery and declared it art. We need new critical paradigms for thinking the temporalities of aesthetic experience and the “eventness” of art itself.

Our participants are drawn from both academic and artistic practices, exploring arts such as dance, music, cinema, digital media, installation art, as well as research practices that take innovative approaches to the analytical challenges of time forms in art. As befits a research-creation event on aesthetic experience, participation will not only involve the presentation of artworks or research findings, but participation in and reflection on aesthetic experience itself. Part of the event’s research program, then, will be to develop a dialogue across discrete events around to determine how time works in aesthetic experience, to develop new research and pedagogical models for exploring these questions, and for understanding how art works on the bodies and experiences of spectators/ participants over time.

Innovative in both form and content, this event asks participants (presenters and the audience) to give careful consideration to the time of presentation and performance itself. Each presenter has proposed a “time form” for sharing their work, to make the event itself a site of creative experimentation and heterogeneous experiences of time.  The organizers have curated these proposals into an event that will dynamically enact the key issues arising from the temporalities of aesthetic experience itself, outside of the traditional structure of a research-conference. We will alternate condensed and discrete experiences, such as roundtables on the body in time as artistic medium, with durational and mobile temporal events, such as an Acceleration running tour of public art and interactive citywalks, as well as looped and discrete presentations of new media installations, video, sculptures, live performances and more.  Thus the event simultaneously addresses both the “time forms” of contemporary art and research (i.e. what forms of aesthetic expression foreground their temporal dimension, and to what end?), and also the question of how time forms (i.e. how time itself is a force giving shape and content to aesthetic experience that is different from everyday time, work time and clock time). 

"Turning Research on its head"

Presented by the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (IPLAI), Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT), the Schulich School of Music and ICASP (Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice), in collaboration with the McGill Sustainability Fund, Media@McGill, the McGill Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, the Moving Image Research Laboratory, The Urban Night as Interdisciplinary Object Project, Immediations: Art, Media and Event, the Dean of Arts Development Fund and the Music Perception and Cognition Laboratory.