Ernst Van Alphen's essay titled Time Saturation: The Photography of Awoiska Van Der Molen (2014) provides answers to questions I have about ways of visualising 'time'. I am specifically trying to visualise 'present' time. Van Alphen starts his essay discussing photography's problematic relationship with capturing spatial and temporal dynamics:'the temporal dimension of photography is minimal – the proverbial flash ... The moving images of film do exactly what photography is unable to do: to fixate the continuity of time.' However, Van Alphen suggests we end up in a different temporal dimension when looking at van der Molen's images - one of 'duration' as opposed to a chronological flash of 'eventhood'. He quotes Adrian Heartfield's distinction between 'extended duration' and 'eventhood' to explain photography is predominately used to fixate a 'temporality of events' or 'unique moments' from which its history is readable from that one given moment: "Extended duration lacks the distinction that separates the event from the mundane, the everyday: the bracketing off and casting out of experience into the domain of the “uneventful” through which the event, as heightened experience, must necessarily be constituted.' (Heartfield, 2009:22). So, 'eventless' photographs in the context of 'duration' signify 'present time'.
Van Alphen subscribes to Henri Bergson's concept of durée (duration) - an experience of time as opposed to a way of conceptualising it. Heartfield explains durée as: 'Duration deals in the confusion of temporal distinctions – between past, present and future – drawing the spectator into the thick braids of paradoxical times. […] One might say, then, that duration nearly always involves the collapse of objective measure. Whether it is short or long in ‘clock time’, its passage will be marked by a sense of the warping of time, an opening of regularity to other phenomena or inchoate orders. Duration will often be accompanied by the spatial sense of expansion, suspension or collapse or by reverential, chaotic or cosmic phenomena, as notions of temporal distinctions are undone. Time arises in the experience of duration, in its indivisibility and its incapacity to become an object of thought, analysis or representation.' (Heartfield, 2009:22). Durée is not concerned with what time is, rather the way it is experienced - Duration is a 'phenomenology of time'.
Wabi-Sabi metaphysics remind us all things are only ever and always emanating from, or in decline towards, 'nothingness'. We are only ever in an immeasurable spatial-temporal dynamic of the 'present'. Eventless images can be seen as an 'undoing' of time - they talk about what simply is, and what is being in their relation to time, as opposed to specific, unique, historical moments. Similar to Awoiska van der Molen's work, my images have no visual context and they are devoid of event. The lack of context and event dictates they have no affinity with the chronologically measured temporality of unique moments. They are only ever in the 'present'. I am visualising Impermanence by thinking of it in terms of 'nothingness in the 'present time'.
'None can deny that present time lacks any extension because it passes in a flash. Yet attention is continuous, and it is through this that what will be present progresses towards being absent. So the future, which does not exist, is not a long period of time. A long future is a long expectation of the future. And the past, which has no existence, is not a long period of time. A long past is a long memory of the past.' (Augustinus in Van Alphen, 2014).
Bergson, Henri. 1896. Matter and Memory, trans. N.M. Paul and W.S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1991.
Heartfield, Adrian. 2009. “Thought of Duration”, in Heathfield (ed.), Out of Now: The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
Tehching Hsieh. [online] Available at: https://www.tehchinghsieh.com/doing-time
Van Alphen, Ernst. 2014. Time Saturation: The Photography of Awoiska Van Der Molen. Published in ‘De Witte Raaf’, Belgium. March 2014. Awoiska Van Der Molen [online] Available at: https://www.awoiska.nl/var/upload/essay_alphen_nu.pdf [Accessed: 26.08.21]
Van Der Molen, Awoiska. [online] Available at: https://www.awoiska.nl