Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s (MIT Press)

Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s (MIT Press)

Pamela M. Lee

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 0262622033

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In the 1960s art fell out of time; both artists and critics lost their temporal bearings in response to what E. M. Cioran called "not being entitled to time." This anxiety and uneasiness about time, which Pamela Lee calls "chronophobia," cut across movements, media, and genres, and was figured in works ranging from kinetic sculptures to Andy Warhol films. Despite its pervasiveness, the subject of time and 1960s art has gone largely unexamined in historical accounts of the period. Chronophobia is the first critical attempt to define this obsession and analyze it in relation to art and technology.Lee discusses the chronophobia of art relative to the emergence of the Information Age in postwar culture. The accompanying rapid technological transformations, including the advent of computers and automation processes, produced for many an acute sense of historical unknowing; the seemingly accelerated pace of life began to outstrip any attempts to make sense of the present. Lee sees the attitude of 1960s art to time as a historical prelude to our current fixation on time and speed within digital culture. Reflecting upon the 1960s cultural anxiety about temporality, she argues, helps us historicize our current relation to technology and time.After an introductory framing of terms, Lee discusses such topics as "presentness" with repect to the interest in systems theory in 1960s art; kinetic sculpture and new forms of global media; the temporality of the body and the spatialization of the visual image in the paintings of Bridget Riley and the performance art of Carolee Schneemann; Robert Smithson's interest in seriality and futurity, considered in light of his reading of George Kubler's important work The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things and Norbert Wiener's discussion of cybernetics; and the endless belaboring of the present in sixties art, as seen in Warhol's Empire and the work of On Kawara.

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know about the psychology of reflexes in New York City when faced with a police car?”20 Instead of pursuing such topics, Chamberlain saw the use value of exploiting humor in his “collaboration,” tweaking the rituals of bureaucratic culture in the process. For three days he screened his film The Secret Life of Hernando Cortez during the company’s lunch hour. With Warhol “Superstar” Ultraviolet and poet Taylor Mead romping about in trees in various states of undress, the movie seemed to confirm for

Marcuse acknowledged that alienation is not the sole characteristic of advanced art. Nevertheless, he insisted upon how historically art had represented “the Great Refusal—the protest against that which is.”50 But technological rationality was now closing the gap between this “great refusal” and social reality, the result of which is a newly emerging form of aesthetics under the One-Dimensional Society. It is what he called the aesthetics and language of “total domination” or “total

emblematic, or visual power, or even the casings of the various media themselves, as with that home appliance called television which articulates nothing but rather implodes, carrying its flattened image surface within itself. Such machines are indeed machines of reproduction rather than of production, and they make very diKerent demands on our capacity for aesthetic representation than did the relatively mimetic idolatry of the older machinery of the futurist moment, of some older

converge.”78 In another context, he put it in these terms: “scientific progress always reveals a break, or better, perpetual breaks, between ordering knowledge and scientific knowledge.”79 I want to suggest that Bachelard’s rethinking of duration, coupled with rupture, found its artistic analogue in the micromovements of Bury’s slowly moving objects, which internalize discontinuity and even randomness as their structural mechanism. Bury’s movement reveals that what appears to be without

come to stand as among the most profound in the history of technology, offering a view of the 1960s buoyed by the Enlightenment platforms of reason and progress. A utopian vision, perhaps, it is a vision of unflagging optimism, of limitless horizons, and the can-do ethos of American invention. Yet this is only a partial vision of the technological landscape. It is partial because, in turning its gaze to the stars, it is blind to the decidedly worldly technology of everyday life, the mundane stuff

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