The Indivisible Present is the first of a series of rolling exhibitions marking Modern Art Oxford’s 50th anniversary year.
The theme is time – slowed down, speeded up and frozen. In the case of the first exhibit – a mesmerizing film of 30 million year old insects trapped in amber – it seemed to include time travel, but this was only because I hadn’t read the notes and thought that it looked a bit like the opening sequence from a new Dr Who adventure.
I really Must Congratulate You on Your Attention to Detail by Viola Yeşilatiç also picks up the idea of frozen time in a series of clean, simple prints of paper sculptures photographed in the moment before they fall over.
Yoko Ono’s 1966 film Eyeblink, another video installation has echoes of some of Andy Warhol’s ”, currently showing at The Ashmolean. there is something quietly unnerving about this slow motion take on something so proverbially fleeting – especially as it has a knack of “catching your eye at odd moments as you move around the central gallery area.
Meanwhile, John Latham’s work around burnt or damaged books challenges our assumptions about the permanency of Western knowledge – apparently, there was practically a riot when this was first exhibited back in the sixties. Have we just become indifferent to book burning or has the rise of the internet given us a new sense of security about the indestructibility of knowledge?
My favourite piece of “slow art” was 24 Hour Psycho – Hitchcock’s legendary film slowed down so to give it a running time of 24 hours. Here, you find yourself in a dark, silent and largely empty room watching what has become a series of black and white stills. The effect is to heighten your sensitivity to what’s on screen – faces, fashion, cars – as well as to the enveloping silence interspersed by the intermittent creaking floor board as people move in and out of the exhibit.
There’s a lot of food for thought in The Indivisible Present and enough variety to ensure that something grabs your attention. And it’s free.