In this past year and a half, we have lived a new experience of timea suspended time, infinitely dilated in its here-and-nowduring the pandemic that has profoundly changed our lives, both individually and collectively, the world over. Upon being invited to guest edit the present Critics Page, while reflecting on the contemporary condition that such a rupture has created, I was prompted to explore issues of temporality by posing a question that I felt could capture, and build on, the current moment of transformation: how long is now? It is a deliberately open-ended question in its possible outlines so as to allow the embrace of different approaches and perspectives.
In March 2020, the world began to close its doors, first in China, then in Italy Everywhere, uncertainty was growing. In France on March 15, 2020, the day before what would later be called the first confinement began, the front page of the newspaper Libération was headlined: "Coronavirus: Le jour davant (Coronavirus: The day before). This uneasy title is a reference to Nicholas Meyer's film The Day After. A question emerged from this mirroring game: when would be the day after? And, above all, what would that day be like?
Time is finite, or is indissolubly infinite. These are prisons of existences that, in fact, know very well that they are finite and that they dont have time. In order to try to find time, we give ourselves intermediate deadlines, we fill ourselves with time limits attempting to pretend that we don't have an inevitable one.
I had just returned to New York from a month traveling in India, where I had enjoyed rediscovering, among other things, the power of narration in visual arts (in the carvings in Hindu temples, in miniature paintings, etc.) and of a mythology and conception of time outside the Newtonian one. This was a couple of weeks before Covid-19 arrived in the US and I was working on one of the 180 ideas/projects that comprise Space Doubt, a work conceived as a ten-year expedition started thanks to a collaboration that I developed with NASA scientists and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C., exploring an idea enabling me to find the courage to use some dark humor about my aggressive and advanced cancer of a few years agoluckily and hopefully curedand cancer in general.
A sudden suspension of my inhabitancy gave birth to new relationships between space and time in a spasmodic search for the luogo dellanima (souls space). Enclosed in our homes, the walls of discovery became unprecedented spaces where we saw objects that reminded us of ancient journeys into the world and moments lived in the past. We rediscovered music records that we had not listened to in a long time, and we consumed books that, perhaps, we had read thirty years ago, or that we had never even browsed through.
The choral piece Miserere by the Italian composer Gregorio Allegri (1582, Rome1652, Rome) is assumed to have been written in the 1630s and was regularly performed in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It is a work for nine voices, divided between two choirs. The piece consists of six sections, which are basically repetitions, in each of which a different line of Psalm 51 is sung. Today, when I listen to this piece outside any religious context, I feel as if the piece could go on and on. Listening to it, there is no difference for me, for instance, between minute three and minute eight. I am in a state of supreme concentration during these 12 minutes or so, with no sense of now or later or before. The piece creates its own time, and in these repetitions, one loses the sense of time. It has the effect of a piercing Now.
In the past year, when most of us have been in some sort of lockdown, in shrunken space and crawling time, the present has been turned into an endless waiting, in which the previous normal has become unreal and the possible future seems forever postponed. While some countries and societies are rushing to celebrate the end of the lockdown of space and time, others are experiencing the deadly virus with renewed force and violence.
Time is a recurring protagonist and tool in my work to examine or try to understand the world around us. In approaching the understanding of Time, one needs to constantly shift perspective in all directionsnot just following a linear movement.
This is a condensed and edited version of a longer interview with the composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi that I conducted over the phone on June 7. Centered on his reflections on time, environmental issues, and the role of art, the conversation expanded to his formative experiences and his passion for photography.
Enlace Arquitectura, the architectural firm I established in Venezuela in 2007, was invited to be part of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at the Biennale di Venezia, curated by the Lebanese architect and dean of the MIT Faculty of Architecture, Hashim Sarkis, which examines the question How will we live together? The installation is part of the segment dedicated to emerging communities at Le Corderie of the Arsenale.
The relationship to time escapes me regularly, and vice versa, due to a chronic desynchronizationan incompatibility of cruising speeds, eventhat I experience in my ordinary quotidian life and in my artistic practice. Moreover, the gap between the measurement and the evaluation of time varies significantly according to cultures, eras, and perspectives, and is also reflected in elements of language and in current prejudices that consist, in particular, of praising the strong allure of the great powers as opposed to celebrating slowness.
The creation of the British Museum in the 1750s was never just about building a collection of exceptional objects, constructing beautiful galleries, or gathering brilliant curators. Our national museum project began as our nation took shape, as the constituent nations that came to represent the United Kingdom established an uneasy national modus operandi.