Monday, July 19, 2010

Time slips

I've been reading this book called, "A Painter's Life" by K.B. Dixon. The novel is a collection of biographical scraps of fictional painter, Christopher Freeze. There's no story, per se, but an odd mix of pieces of Freeze's life as seen through the title character's "unpublished journals", bits of exhibition reviews, and the narrative of the auther describing parts of Freeze's life.

I'm about 75% through the book and came across an interesting bit taken from the unpublished journals of Christopher Freeze where he's describing a local watering hole:

"A dingy, low-lit place filled with the unwashed, the uncommitted, and the unemployed, Arnold's is one of those existential hog-wallows that prides itself on a dubious set of bona fides. A sort of retro stage set, it paraphrases another place and time-a place and time we readily assume to be realer, more substantive than the one we now inhabit."

The latter part of that passage really caught my attention, about Arnold's being a place that recalled a time the we remember as being more authentic than the present. That's the rub about the present, we're always busy trying to figure out where we are because time just keeps marching on. The past provides us with a stage where we can stop time, relive or reconstruct moments in time and imbue them with whatever significance we want, all in the service of gettring away from the present. The present, where nothing is certain, aside from the standys-death and taxes. There isn't even a *now* since time is in perpetual movement and we can't even begin to decipher the meaning of the present until some time has past.

It's no wonder that human beings cling to memories, real or imagined, of times and events gone by. The present is filled with so much anxiety and uncertainty because we can barely wrap our minds around how fast the present becomes the past. Things are happening that may take years to understand. We have little understanding of whatever is going on in our lives or around the world. Situations change in the blink of an eye and we have to retune our minds to accomodate the new reality. It's no wonder we like to retreat to "a simpler, more innocdent time"-whatever that might be for us. Trying to imagine how rapidly tthe present is changing is like tyring to understand the vast distances that light travels from places in outer space to Earth. Mind-blwoing, really. The idea of the ungraspable aspect of the present is what inspired one of my exhibitions, which I titled, "When Is Now". There is no now. We say that there is because it's in our nature to categorize things and time is one of those mysterious things that we have a very tenuous grasp on.
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