This text is a reflection on the time spent in the course of very real time. I have found it hard to pinpoint how this time was actually spent, as it is a constant transience between the mundane and the extraordinary, the generic and specific. Therefore I will describe three instances that divide the text in three sections. This is the first section.
The Expansion of the Universe during A Very Real Time
On the drive back from our visit to the Karoo region in Sutherland, Leonids commitment to constant activity led him to hang his iPhone off the rear view mirror of our Volkswagen Chico. He turned on the video function of the phone, which then recorded a weird and wobbly panoramic view. At this point music was playing and there was something humorous about the shaky phone, the music (retro and cheesy at times) and the passing scenic views. Inspired by rubber bands, Leonid and road boredom, I got pretty involved. We devised a plan to attach two iPhones together with the lenses in opposing directions (back to back) and then hang them off the roof of taxis in Cape Town that would drive to a random destination. I guess there was something intriguing about the point of view of lenses that look in opposing directions, like having eyes in the back of your head. That together with the elasticity of the rubber bands that record every bump and turn in the road, makes for a spinning and shaking image, abstract and unclear, chaotic as it is in constant and unpredictable motion. The iPhones would become a part of an apparatus that captures the city from strange and otherwise impossible angles. There is perhaps some kind of romantic correlation to be made with our artistic exploration of an exotic land, but I won’t go into that. At the time it was more about engaging with people in a different way and I cannot explain why we thought we needed rubber bands and iPhones for that.
The next day we got everything we needed: rubber bands, iphones and a bungee cord. But the taxi thing never happened.
Instead, I (reluctantly) found myself on another road trip. This time the destination was Betties Bay. Sutherland and the botanical gardens in the centre of Cape Town had inspired Milena. She wanted to make a video and Ludwig, our trusty guide, knew a location that could be perfect for her needs. And it turned out the spot was near Ludwigs family cottage where we could crash overnight.
I was somewhat grumpy and disappointed for letting herd instincts get the better of me. I wanted solitude; instead I would later find myself in a spider infested house that apparently gets broken into by macho male baboons. Luckily I didn’t have to deal with the baboons and Milena and Leonid kindly took care of the spiders (horrible flat creatures they call ‘fly catchers’). Although I was reluctant and perhaps a cynical bastard to everyone, the drive to the spot was actually a lot of fun. Leonid’s energy had again energized me.
Ludwigs Volkswagen Chico became scene to an elaborate network of hanging Iphones and digital cameras. We (Leonid and I) decided not to abandon our taxi idea and do something similar in the Volkswagen. So we hung our two iPhones back to back off the roof, using the bungee cord that was stretched between the two windows. We took it a step further. For this we needed Milena and Claires cameras, which they kindly donated. Using a web of rubber bands we then suspended all four devices (2 iPhones and 2 digital cameras). It was done in such a way that they were all interconnected. Once the setup was finished, we counted down and pressed the record button on all the devices. And there we had it, a strange vibrating, shaking thing that recorded and accompanied our journey for a brief entertaining period of time.
Some time has now passed since the visit to Betty’s Bay. Unfortunately the location Ludwig had in mind was not suitable for Milenas purposes as it was overgrown with vegetation since he was last there. As for the rubber band project, we’ve yet to download the footage onto a laptop. In fact, I’m not even that curious about the footage. I think the camera’s, or the elastic web captured something that we can’t see anyway. For me the apparatus we made represents the impossibility to truly capture or represent any point of view. I probably need to explain that in more detail, but for now, let’s go back to the cameras and the rubber bands.
Because of the way we suspended the cameras, they each influenced one another’s footage as they moved, pulling and shaking in different manners, to make for one elaborate motion, a motion that in turn was induced by our journey, or the car. For each camera, the scene constantly changed as we traversed dramatic landscapes between Cape Town and Betties Bay. On top of that, you had cars that needed overtaking, breaks and all sorts of outside factors and movements that in the end boiled down to one wobbly elastic movement. Even if we were to project the footage in a synchronized manner on a random set of surfaces, it would be impossible to recreate or capture such a motion in video. And not just because it is complicated, because I’m sure a high enough budget and something with computers and robotic arms could get close. But because the problem is in capturing the interdependent relationship between the rubber bands, the cameras and the road. This relationship is something I can just imagine. I can probably envision it more when I see the mesh of rubber bands left over from our adventure, more than when I review the collective footage off the cameras. This footage becomes something else altogether, it mutates into a visceral thing, totally abstracted away from what made it possible in the first place. I guess, in ways the mesh of rubber bands represent a past potential, an impossible image and to a degree our collective will to do something interesting in between, in waiting. You can’t get it back. We almost set it up to be this way. For me, rubber bands will never be the same again.
It might have been the heat, exhaustion or just a private moment in my head in which I was trying to make sense of it all, but I started thinking big. I was reminded of rubber bands as an analogy used in science to describe or illustrate the expansion of the universe. Apparently space is being pulled apart and the world is growing. Scientists describe this growing universe as a place with no center, origin or edges. It is just expanding. Here is the analogy. It is straight from a book:
“The rubber band universe is really homogenous: no dot occupies a special position, there is no natural central dot on the band. (The circle encapsulated by the band does have a center, but that is not part of the band. In our one-dimensional universe, only points along the band are part of the universe. Because every dot is like every other one, all dots see the same…Every observer attached to a dot sees the universe expanding away from the “home” dot”…no beginning or end in sight..
I find this all hard to grasp, but it bares semblance to my experience of Very Real Time. I wonder what role coming here has and what really changes? Should I expect change or simply accept the fact that things remain the same?
Cape Town certainly raises questions in my mind, but to what degree do these questions come from Cape Town, and not from the same mind that was in Amsterdam almost a month ago? And again, what changes? It might be just me, or the reality of this residency but it seems paradoxical and problematic to speak of projects and works (in progress) in this place. Sitting at my desk in the apartment in Long Street, working on a project or pursuing my interests, seems like denying that there in front of me lies Table Mountain.
It feels insincere to say ‘I am being influenced by this rich and alien environment, my thinking and process is being challenged by it’. The opposite seems more accurate, certainly more sincere: ‘I am seeing this context through my work and my interests. What is being challenged or perhaps limited is my capacity to understand and distinguish where I stand and recognize what makes my journey interesting or different. In this case nothing really changes, just my work getting the flavor of a new place, getting an injection of something I probably already liked or wanted prior to coming here. Like for observers standing anywhere in the universe, things might end up looking the same everywhere, as we move away from one place to another with no real distinction in sight.
For who is to say my works would have even existed (in any form) if I had grown up here? I bet they wouldn’t have. That would have been a real influence. And perhaps that leads to some kind of a strategy. The ultimate influence for and through a project in a completely new place is perhaps for it not to exist in the first place or to not even happen.