Rationale

An excerpt from my current Masters research proposal.

Title:
Past, Present, Future – Exploring possibilities in time from a finite position

Essentially the rationale for this research has not changed, however the practical exploration of my chosen medium, flowing glue, has taken a more prominent, maybe even dominant position. The more I experiment with flowing the glue and documenting it with digital video, the more possibilities seem to emerge. The actual material, its colour mix, its viscosity as affected by temperature, gravity, lighting effects, the way I pour or drip it, how long it is poured, from what it is poured, onto what it is poured, mark making into the flow, position of the camera, time lapse film settings, all these seem to give endless variations. Although my interest is largely just in the flow and movement of the glue, the way it dries and the resultant visual effects just add to this complex mix.

Despite the material alone leading to this vast landscape of discovery, I still remain conscious of my interest in time and the wider philosophical, scientific and theological issues raised. My increasing knowledge and understanding of scientific and theological understandings of time continue to give a broad context for my work.

Traditionally time measures the period between two events or during which something exists, happens or acts. The flow of moving glue seems to be held within the event of release and the event of drying. Einstein’s theory of relativity shows that no two observers who measure (or experience) time will find an exact correlation. The time we experience varies depending on the relative travelling speeds and the distance between the two observers. When this theory is added to a Platonic infatuation with the idea of an unchanging, timeless reality there seems to be no room for God, unless he is, as Aristotle called him, ‘the unmoved mover’, or, as in Plato’s description of this ‘being’, an impersonal principle.

Much of my work to date has been influenced by my religious beliefs. Again with this research, I find a developing theological understanding of time and God’s relationship to it, is giving a framework for my art. The traditional understanding of God as an utterly unchanging, timeless, impersonal reality suggests that possibilities, openness, change and contingency are ‘beneath’ God. We experience these things because we are ‘lower’, imperfect beings. However a more Biblical understanding, reveals a God who experiences possibilities, a God to whom the future is partly open, indeed a God who experiences and enjoys novelty, adventure, spontaneity, and creativity.

Once some coloured glue is poured or dripped, the possibilities seem enormous. The direction of movement, the colour interaction, the speed of drying all play a part in the complexity that follows. However, no matter what happens there is always a fascination, a novelty, a spontaneity that is captivating. I am interested in pursuing this spontaneity and exploring, capturing and manipulating the flow of time as revealed by moving glue.

A consistent theme through my work over the past 8 years has been a fascination with the unforeseen details, the unimagined patterns, reactions and results. When I stumbled across the amazing things that coloured PVA glue does when it is released and flows over a surface, it was a continuation of this journey. It appears that my role as the artist is not to be in complete control but to start things off and occasionally interact while observing the results. I am interested in using the source material of flowing glue and bringing that into a digital environment to see if the same unforeseen details occur there as well.

Jonathan Kearney September 2002 (revised march 2003)

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