Time Itself is Otherwise is a 5 minute silent video made to be projected onto the Arts 2 building on the Mile End campus of Queen Mary University of London. Commissioned by the University’s Arts and Culture Department in partnership with Bow Arts and the Nunnery Gallery, the new film was made as part of exhibition Visions in the Nunnery. Visions celebrates innovative and recent moving image and performance through an international open call with works from invited artists, and runs at the Nunnery Gallery every other year.
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The script in Bauer’s video is in part based on physicist Carlo Rovelli’s book The Order of Time. The video makes the claim that even the most stable of objects, when observed from non-human scales are processes rather than things. It highlights the discrepancy between time as it functions in science and temporality as it is experienced by humans, explicitly stating they are not the same thing. The apparent directional flow of time is a result of our physiology rather than something inherent to time itself and while this does not justify claims of a block universe or mean that time is unreal, it does raise the question of how much our experience of temporality, and reality more generally, correlates with materiality outside of the human experience of it. The video concludes with the quote, attributed to both Arthur Eddington and geneticist J.B.S. Haldane, “Not only is the universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think”. The question this quote raises in the context of this work is about the human limits to both imagine and then comprehend the universe as it actually exists. It may well be stranger than we have the capacity to imagine.
The primacy of human phenomenological experience of time is no longer adequate for how we organise, inflect and orient the systems we have created. These systems function on scales beyond the experiential capacity of the human. Work done at CERN provides a good example of this. How time works outside of human scale betrays our experience of it as stubbornly directional. Our physiology confines us to a particular temporal experience, yet science enables us to ‘know’ reality beyond this experience.
Diann Bauer is an artist and writer based in London. She works independently and is also part of two ongoing collective projects: Laboria Cuboniks, a working group redefining a feminism adequate to a global 21st century and A.S.T. (the Alliance of the Southern Triangle), a collective of artists, architects and curators that use the art field as a platform to broaden interdisciplinary collaboration focusing on speculative urbanism and climate change. Bauer’s independent work focuses on questions of time, in particular the disjunction between our experience of it and how it appears to function (or not) at scales beyond the human, through a range of media including video, installation, drawing and sculpture.