[NetBehaviour] A Matter of Time at Postmasters (NY).

info info at furtherfield.org
Fri Apr 10 16:39:52 CEST 2009

April 16 – May 16, 2009


A Matter of Time

Postmasters is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Wolfgang 

A Matter of Time is comprised of four real time projections of 
time-lapse photographic sequences and a premier video work of a Yanomami 
Village in the Brazilian rain forest. The show will be on view from 
April 16 until May 16, 2009. An opening reception is scheduled for 
Thursday, April 16, between 6 and 8 pm.

A Matter of Time draws upon mid-19th century painter Thomas Cole’s 
series The Course of Empire. Cole’s historically critical rumination 
views pastoralism as the ideal model for civilization, fearing that the 
ideal of Empire inevitably results in greed and decay.(*1) While A 
Matter of Time holds the mirror of this salient socio-political 
commentary up to our own time, it is one whose reflection is without 
indignation to the systems themselves. Perhaps, best encapsulated in the 
artist’s own 1989 work which avows, “Empires crumble, republics 
collapse, and idiots live on;” the posit follows that it is our own 
inordinate ability to destroy the sublimity of any civilization’s ideal 
that is put on the table.(*2)

However, Staehle’s work in no way relies upon homage to Cole’s series, a 
foray to pastoralism or political satire. Evident in his body of work, 
the form is always central; and previous works have underscored time—a 
one-to-one, linear time, a simulative "real time" or the contrivance of 
frozen time. In this exhibition, A Matter of Time broadly refers to the 
time lapse photographic sequences (approximately 15,000 photographs per 
day at 10 frames per minute) but presented here in real time—a rate so 
methodical that it denudes the image of its cinematographic aspect, 
while accentuating it pictorially. By allowing us to exact the 
machinations of nature, through figuratively arresting time, a 
perceptual shift is created that video does not pose, and thereby 
realigns our relationship with the real. Each contiguous moment 
pre-empts the prior, switching out the obsolete image for a perpetually 
updated “now.”(*3) Is it that the representation of an object’s stasis 
recalls the full force of its movement? Because ultimately, it is this 
indeterminate relation with time that drives our experience with these 
quietly unsettling works.

In the front gallery space, four projections surround the viewer with 
time-lapse photographs from Umbria, August 30, 2006; Manhattan, 
September 10, 2001; Palast der Republik, November 28, 2006;(*4) and 
Forum Romanum, September 15, 2007. Unlike Cole’s series of a single 
imaginary city, these disparate representations of questionably-modern 
civilization respond to each other like a meditative dialogue between 
empires, or within the “global empire.” Not only is time arrested by its 
form but heightened by the rise or fall of the imperialist ideal it 
might represent.

No truer than in the back gallery space, where a single large video 
projection illuminates the sites of Watoriki, a Yanomami Village within 
the Amazon rainforest. Out of the morning fog murmurs of the indigenous 
language become audible, parrots squeak and jungle vegetation rustles; 
throughout sleepy daytime banalities, the pitch of night is intercut, 
where from the village centre the gurgling Shaman orates. One of the 
last unsullied civilizations on the globe, the Yanomami village scene 
reminds us of an inescapable relativism. Itself, metaphorically, 
arrested in time, the scene asks us to slow our gaze and reconsider our 
perception of all civilization.

Staehle first appeared on the New York scene in the 1980s as a video 
artist, but he has since become world-renowned as a pioneer of the 
uncontrollable, loosely defined field of new media art. His recent work, 
most notably his 2001 “Untitled” real time projection of Lower 
Manhattan, has been distinguished for its silent grandeur, mundanity and 
simple conjuring of the ceaselessness of time, light and life. (*5) 
Since Wolfgang Staehle’s last 2004 exhibition at Postmasters, his work 
has been featured in "Time Zones," Tate Modern, London, "Closed 
Circuit," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and "The Cinema 
Effect," Hirshhorn Museum, Washington. An upcoming publication, “Net 
Pioneers,” by Sternberg Press, in conjunction with an exhibition at the 
Austrian Cultural Forum, New York, September 2009, will feature 
Staehle’s seminal media project “The Thing.”(*6)

Notes (*)

1 Thomas Cole, “The Course of Empire”, 1834-36, collection of New York 
Historical Society.

2 Jean-Luc Godard, “Bande à part” (Band of Outsiders), 1964

3 Kelly Gordon, “Projecting Dreams,” The Cinema Effect: Illusions, 
Reality, and the Moving Image, Hirshhorn Museum, exhibition publication, 

4 Demolition of the “Palast der Republik,” parliament of the GDR, in 
favour of the contentious Berlin Stadtschloss site.

5 Roberta Smith, “In New York´s Galleries, a New Context Seems to Remake 
the Art", New York Times, September 19, 2001

6 Organized by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, Media.Art.Research, 
Vienna, Linz.

Postmasters Gallery located at 459 west 19th Street is open Tuesday 
through Saturday between 11 and 6 pm. For further information, please 
contact Magdalena Sawon at 212 727 3323 or email postmasters at thing.net.

Magdalena Sawon
Postmasters Gallery
459 W 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
212 727 3323
postmasters at thing.net

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