Thursday, May 3, 2007

Soon Is the New Now


"When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 2000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium."

This observation, by computer scientist Daniel Hillis, led to the creation of the Long Now Foundation (http://www.longnow.org) in 1996. Named after a term coined by Brian Eno (a founding board member) the organization hopes to not only build (and maintain!) such a clock, but also generally foster an environment of slower, better thinking.

Thérèse Mastroiacovo's drawing series Art Now, currently on display in the front gallery, documents 48 art publications that use the word NOW in their title. The format of the work (oversized drawings made with pencil and graphite) serves to slow down the Now in question, while investigating the measurement of the lifespan of the word.

The series spans over 50 years of publishing history, but I'm reminded most of the slew of publications from the turn of the last century that so desperately wanted to proclaim their finger on the pulse that they were titled with a series of oneupmanships that is embarrassing in retrospect: Art Now, Art Today, Art at the Turn of the Century, Art of the New Millennium, Everything That's Interesting is New, etc. etc.

The last title, taken from one of Jenny Holzer's truisms, placed the avant garde strangely in sync with the then corporate world, where executives were getting younger and younger and "cutting edge" was key. Everything had to be New. (Now I suppose everything has to be Extreme - from sports to chewing gum to deodorant.)

Laurie Anderson remembers a press conference in Israel where journalists began by asking "What's so good about new?”:

“— Well, new is… interesting.
— And what, they would say, is so good about interesting?
— Well, interesting is, you know… it’s… interesting. It’s like… being awake, you know, (I’m treading water now.)
— And what is so good about being awake? they’d say."

She eventually learned that she was better off answering all questions with another question.

Art Now is on display at Mercer Union until May 26th. A framed Polaroid multiple by Mastroiacovo ($40, a bargain if ever there was one) documenting the deflating of her silver balloon sculpture of the word NOW is available throughout the duration of the exhibition.


image: Maurizio Nannucci

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