Notes on Time
Random Ongoing Musings, 2020

How is our time governed? How is it constructed? How is it formed and enacted?
This ‘time’ measurement patriarchal man has created feels linear, repetitive and exacting. Rhythmic constructs which keeps order, and the 1-2-3-4 beat feels constantly suppressive, a structured immovable object, and the ultimate ‘set in stone’ system. ‘Stone’ as a geologically organic creation is surprisingly diverse and complex, radiating languages of a union between the ordered and chaotic. Though within general society ‘stone’ is symbol of strength, of dominance (male dominance?)…..Can one view ‘stone’ as being fragile, sensitive, empathetic; why does ‘order’ relay concepts of strength? Darwin famously wrote ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor  the most intelligent that survives. It is the one most adaptable to change.’ As we all spend time starring into the abstract morbid void the pandemic has generated, the Darwinian philosophy starts to floodlight the void, reminding us of how stuck we are as a species, the slaves we have all become, struggle with concepts of change. Am currently under-taking a large ‘time-lapse’ project, involving 5,500+ photos, taken over a 7-day period during the week I turned 40. Experimenting with randomising the photos and altering each individual time sequence, engaging with creating a piece which tries to move away, and question the linear systemic anthropomorphised time. Though to attempt to corrupt or attempt to alter time-systems whilst working with digital video you soon realise the inherent grounding human structures existing; ‘frame-rate’ being the illuminating factor. When launching a new project on Final Cut or Premiere you need to justify what frame rate and resolution you require, so going to compare this to entering Woolworths, going to the pick-n-mix and only being able to have one type of sweet, though you can still alter how you consume the sweet. To understand frame-rate’s one needs to delve into the history of film, and how the system was created, but it is impossible to create a timeline which jumps between frame rates, and even if you could when your piece is generated at the end you are again defining the frame-rate.

The Addiction of Repetition
by Tim Skinner, 2020 (MA dissertation, distinction); selected exerts.

The Covid-19 pandemic has swept across the globe, halting nations; a deathly saddening existentialist crisis. The majority of the country has gone into lockdown, and at the start for me every day felt like a Monday, stuck in a Groundhog Day loop; a week never getting going and never ending. Preconceived ideas surrounding the boundaries of constructed time started to fade, as reflections on lives lost, and fear of an unknown future, continued to evolve – a suspended stasis of amalgamated emotions, seeking and searching for an ending. Then one day that Monday feeling became Tuesday feeling, the week spluttering into some sort of organised structure, though still the construct of time seemed irrelevant. I can remember witnessing a high speed road accident on a dual carriageway, an accident that seconds prior was obviously forecastable. Unfolding in front of me cars were careering in various obtuse directions, an accident one was helpless to save, as time slowed. My subject of ‘repetition’ for these writings was decided before the virus materialised. Personally, it is a real privilege to be engaging with this subject during these adverse times, times filled with so much sacrifice and suffering.

Perched on the desk in front of me is a metronome, one of those classic wooden symmetrical pyramids with a centralised erect phallic pendulum that when operational swings hypnotically from side to side, expelling a regular tempo of audible clicks as the pendulum passes through the centre point. A metronome is a tool to maintain musical rhythm, often used as an accompaniment for composing music or during practicing. At this current moment in time I have no desire to create music, though as an object the metronome intrigues me, both in its operational state and in its resting state. As a functional tool, the metronome to me is imbued with certain symbolisms and commentaries, ones which can be reflected on our systemic patriarchal society. Like a turning wind turbine, a metronome in full rhythmic flight can be alluringly mesmeric, but residing in a metronome is a darker alternative conceptual personality. Cold fronts blow in when a metronome is aligned with words such as ‘controller’ or ‘dictator’. The Metronome radiates formatted mechanically-controlled ordered rhythms, that alternatively pertain to a possible coercive functionality. The metronome is the perfect perpetual object which will act as a companion throughout my repetitious discourse.

What do I mean by anthropomorphised time? This is a phrase of my own composition, relating to the semiotic organising (or characterising) of linear time, resulting in linguistic structures and constructed measurements to fit time into our humanised lives. These are constructs originally born out of human’s scientific understanding of the spinning of the earth, the orbit around the sun and so on, bringing complexity of the cosmos to a universal structured order. These linguistic structures create repetitive sequences, patterns, like the seasonal calendar Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, or the monthly calendar January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December13. The clock, the 60bpm time signature, also feeds into this discourse; ultimately it relates to time being organically cyclical and to human’s creation of rhythmic loops, mainly through linguistics.

The metronome is still swaying in front of me, still resonating a regular stream of uniform clicks. The clicks have been ringing at 60bpm (beats-per-minute); as highlighted earlier 60bpm is a recognisable ally. A change of tempo is needed, leaving 60bpm and welcoming 100bpm. Immediately as I alter the metronome the change in rhythm is distinct, a notable difference, tapping faster. This new gear exists outside of the previous recognisable time structure.
This chapter will explore my earlier acknowledgement of the existence of an alternate (tails side) emotional response to ‘repetition’, a response opposed to systemic ordered fatigue. This side of ‘repetition’ is imbued with abstracted complexities, complexities that speak of the organic and help when questioning the existence of the ‘euphoric’ through ‘repetition’. These complexities can be related to the creative output of the painter Bridget Riley.

Separation and escapism surround the same passages of thought, thought processes aligned to drug usage for example. Escapism is a term which has a rich complex history within the Western visual arts. As an artist when I write this word it feels like theoretical society has placed a massive weight on my head. The word can be related to ‘White privilege’, ‘the romantic’, ‘the hedonistic’ and ‘the artist rebelling against general society’, though for someone who has experienced mental health issues escapism is to ‘hide’, which leads to ‘abstraction’. These are (for me) the fundamental principles which underlie the link which operates between abstraction and addiction; escapism as a means to hide, to hide from the capitalist drudgery, the melancholic media, the patriarchal swagger, and the 60bpm. The concept of ‘escapism’ can be viewed as a reflex action against the regimented, our natural biological selves trying to fight out of the suppressive loop. Alcohol, nicotine, amphetamine, etc, are easily viewable as vehicles through which one escapes, but where does online gambling fit into the concept of escapism?

Impressionism In a Digital Age: Tim Skinner
by Jen Loffman, 2016

Blink.

Blink blink blink blink blink blink blink blink blink

When you repeat something enough times, especially something quite mundane, its meaning seems to start drifting off somewhere, and the thing you were once familiar with becomes a bizarre sound or an abstract collection of lines and shapes. I’m not being Romantic about it. It’s an actual psychological phenomenon:Semantic satiation.

This repetition is an unusual process of abstraction if you consider what the verb ‘to abstract’ actually implies.

To abstract is to extract or remove something; to lose the excess; to take from, not to add to. So how can we make sense of this weird, backward logic? What are we abstracting when we are repeating? What are we left with?

Blink blink blink blink blink blink blink blink blink blink

Tim Skinner takes a visual approach to this ‘semantic satiation’, mapping the mutation of something recognisable to create these throbbing digital nebulae. As a familiar image or sound is repeated and layered, it becomes something that appears abstract. It no longer signifies meaning. So, what is abstracted is our experience of the image or sound in its purest form, outside of any web of language. It becomes meaningless. Purely experiential.

140 years ago, the Impressionist painters were looking for something similar:a way to record their experience, their impression, of light and life.

It was the beginnings of the technological revolution that we find ourselves caught up in today. Scientific and economic developments had provoked questions over religion and led more people to interrogate their presence in the physical world. Industrial advances meant paint was newly available in portable tubes and artists could finally stand outside and feel nature’s environment as they painted it en plein air.

The work had to be done quickly. That process of looking and recording and looking and recording, the constant movement of the hand and the eye, meant they were deeply engaged in what was happening at the present moment. They were absorbed in the world in constant flux, with Heraclitus on one shoulder reminding them that you can’t step in the same river twice. The art became about the process of recording the world around you; experiencing an exchange between a stimulus (the natural world) and you, the human receptor.

Tim brings this examination in to the discourse of contemporary visual culture, which, today, is largely experienced as digital images. As the role of art in society becomes broader, so does the role of technology in art. But for a surprising number of artists, the scope of digital art is still seen as a threat to authenticity or a struggle to engage with. Since digital technology has become something so deeply engrained in everyday life it can be difficult to see it as art.

Tim’s work inherently finds itself at the centre of this debate on the value of digital art. Fully embracing the convenience, materialism and structure of technology and its process, the resulting work is simultaneously systematic and aesthetically organic. He uses that same process of abstraction through repetition, layering video clips and soundbites thousands of times until what’s left is the abstracted form. Whereas the Impressionists were assembling collages of colourful brushstrokes, Tim arranges snippets of moving image. And the fact that it’s moving intensifies that vision of the world in constant flux.

Again, it’s that weird blurred line between repetition and abstraction; rigidity and flow; the blurred line representing the moment of human experience. Just like the Impressionists he utilises both technology and philosophy to delve deeper in to understanding self awareness. He asks what it feels like to be a human these days; how we situate ourselves in the world today; whether technology must always be seen as a barrier to authentic experience.

He told me a story.

In late Spring of 2012 I was out walking in the Essex countryside, I found myself standing in the middle of a very poetic, beautiful bluebell wood. This was different because the trees in the wood had been planted in rows, so there was this structured unity to my surroundings; natural corridors with bluebells as the carpet. So I took out my phone, the only recording device I had on me, and did a 180 pan round the vista…..here was the resulting video after only a couple of layers.

There’s something kaleidoscopic about the piece that captures the sensation of absorbing the natural environment and breathing with it. By making use of video, light goes beyond subject matter and becomes the medium. Digital projection, or the transcendence of physical mark-making, reiterates his pursuit to question the way we engage with the material world and the way we give it value. We don’t simply experience things through touch or sight or sound. Things are multi-sensory and, whether we’re aware of it or not, we apply our imagination. So, all physical entities are stimuli for experiences. And experiences are the source of our individual understanding of the world. Experiences form our ideas about life, through which we give it meaning. In the world we live in today, technology is a very appropriate means of sharing that.

The Impressionists were fascinated with creating texture with thick applications of paint. But Tim’s projections exude ‘textural resonance’ that becomes tangible only in our imagination. In more recent work he projects on to blank canvas. This is Impressionism in a digital age. Virtual Impressionism, conceived by an updated form of portable technology.

Whilst manipulating his footage of the bluebells on his computer, there was a final moment that brought together the significance of all of these ideas and a recording on a cameraphone became an important piece of art:

When working with this piece I was thinking about the texture and light structures within Monet’s Waterlillies… I then accidentally hit invert, where the software inverts all of the colours like a negative….and a Turneresque sky appeared….the resulting works that came out are what can be called a bluebell sky.

In his expedition beyond Impressionism he had simultaneously found himself moving backwards in time towards Turner. In which direction does this work move visual culture? Forwards? Backwards? Upwards? In to the realms of the Metasphere?