“The work of memory collapses time.” Walter Benjamin
In keeping with the spirit of the gallery’s twentieth anniversary, Simple Present, Future Anterior presents works by all fifteen gallery artists that explore temporality and the nature of memory. With various approaches, each of the works in the exhibition interrogate the passing of time and consider objects as anchors for time and agents for its collapse.
Several of the works are decidedly nostalgic, and give form to memories through personal archives and accumulated objects—a gesture that points to the human impulse to hold on to keepsakes in an effort to deny time’s passing. Arnaud Maggs’ Scrapbook (2009) depicts page spreads of scrapbooks the artist began in 1975, but never completed. Revisiting these books thirty-six years later, Maggs’ photographs of this collected ephemera are construed as self-portraits. In a similar vein, Sandra Meigs’ Frame Pile (2012), as its title implies, depicts a pile of frames in the basement of a twentieth-century home. It is unclear as to whether these frames are being stored for future use, or if they play a more emotional role, perhaps as souvenirs preserved for self-recollection.
Other works rely on research to examine connections between past and present. Althea Thauberger’s Anatomie Artistique (2011), borrows its title from a seminal book of anatomy for artists from the late 19th-century. It is a platinum-print photograph from an in-camera double exposure of a model in two poses: a variation on the traditional yoga pose called the “wheel”, and another called “arc de cercle”. The latter was classified by the author of the book Anatomie Artistique as a posture of female hysteria, a once-common medical diagnosis that is no longer recognized by modern medicine. In a more abstract approach to the notion of temporality, Brian Groombridge’s 47 degrees 22 minutes 17 seconds N, 8 degrees 32 minutes 37 seconds E (2004) reimagines a pivotal moment of history. The title provides the coordinates for Speigelgasse no.1, the location of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, the primary origin of the Dada movement. Using dots from the Cabaret’s now-vanished floor plan as a starting point, Groombridge’s quiet, thoughtful composition pays homage to this legendary time and place whose influence is, and will arguably always be palpable.
Ideas around futurity are also explored here, such as in Scott Lyall’s new work based on the Claude Mirror. These dark-coloured mirrors were used by the likes of Claude Lorraine and Leonardo da Vinci as optical supplements to help visualize life models or landscapes in two dimensions. Here, Lyall explores the possible relation between Claude glass and computer monitors, and, in so doing, the relations between grammatical tenses: a reflection is very much a picture in the ‘simple present’ but the dark reflection—because it effects a ghostly image composed almost entirely of shadows—is already a photograph-like reminder pointing toward to the ‘future perfect’ (or ‘anterior’), an image of the spectator as that which has already been.