An Inverse Unit of Time

Andrew Beck, Tyler Jackson & Jackie Jenkins, Clinton Watkins, Lauren Winstone, Mo H. Zareei

29 October 2023 – 25 February 2024

Time seems like the most natural thing in the world. It is the thread that runs through human life, allowing us to organise our experiences and thoughts into a past, present and future. However, on a fundamental level, time is only measurable by comparing one thing to another. Whether tracking the rhythm of our planet’s orbit around the sun or the minute hand’s sixty-notch journey across a watch’s face over an hour, time unspools itself only as a way of comparing one thing’s movement to another’s stability. In a completely static and unchanging universe, time itself would also cease to exist.

By comparing moving bodies to stationary backgrounds, we can not only measure the passage of time, but also the frequency of events. Frequency (which can be expressed as the multiplicative inverse of a measure of time) refers to how often a given thing happens in a given unit of time. In the case of light, it signifies how many wave crests pass any point in one second, determining the colours that we perceive; for sound, frequency represents the rate of the vibrations that make the sound waves we hear.

This exhibition brings together a group of artists whose works explore time and frequency, while also questioning how these ideas relate to the human mind’s actual, chronological lived experience. People who meditate will have probably noticed that, removed from external stimuli, the mind is very bad at accurately keeping track of time, but this can also be observed during sleep or even when engaged in an absorbing activity that occupies our attention. It seems that thought has a way of collapsing or expanding the rigid intervals that denote time’s passage, sending forth winding shoots and tendrils that prise apart the gaps between the seconds.

Mo H. Zareei’s Material Sequencer is an electromechanical sound-sculpture designed to emphasise the physical materiality of sound. The work re-investigates one of the most elemental tools of electronic music production, an 8-step rhythmic sequence, by removing the sequencing process from its black box and instead flaunting its materiality. All the interface components are presented on a custom-designed circuit board that is fully exposed, with a bank of eight small switches and an on-board dial for entering a rhythmic pattern and modifying its rate. Using a microcontroller, the patterns are converted into a series of electrical impulses that are then used to actuate a solenoid, which in turn strikes a block of solid matter to generate sound.

In LIGHT-HAUS, by Tyler Jackson and Jackie Jenkins, a monolithic screen bathes the room in swathes of ever-changing coloured light, while the industrial drones, hums and high-frequency vibrations of Jenkins’ soundtrack constantly threaten to push the experience over the edge into complete sensory overload. A response to the ideas set forth in Bauhaus designer Herbert Bayer’s 1924-5 work Design for a Cinema, LIGHT-HAUS is also a viscerally synaesthetic immersion in a thrumming pool of colour and soundwaves.

In Andrew Beck’s new works, iridescent titanium-coated glass panels glisten like the compound eyes of insects, their colour shifting as the viewer’s eye moves in relation to them. Insects’ eyes function as a series of independently operating light and colour sensors, giving them a wide field of view and the ability to perceive colours that lie outside the spectrum visible to humans and other mammals, such as ultraviolet frequencies. Beck’s work offers a twist on traditional abstraction, asking the viewer to consider the aesthetic qualities of light itself, and the tenuous, ephemeral visual effects created by its fleeting passage over the retina.

Lauren Winstone’s ceramics may seem an outlier in this group, but their regular, grooved and folded forms also reference the idea of frequency and repetition. The works have the feeling of physical manifestations of a rotational frequency, inanimate traces left behind by the intersection of some unknown oscillation and the potter’s hand. The ridges and folds of Winstone’s works also echo the peaks and valleys of an undulating waveform, their creamy solidity lending them the aspect of flotsam, shells cast ashore by the tides of light and sound found elsewhere in the exhibition.

In Clinton Watkins’ Frequency Colour, bands of flickering coloured light, crackling interference patterns and undulating, glitchy swathes of seemingly-random visual noise pass over the screen like capricious, technological weather. These visuals were generated emergently by feeding the work’s experimental electronic soundtrack into a bespoke analogue video hardware setup, lending a visual form to its spectral hums, clicks and auditory fuzz. This machine synaesthesia holds a crooked mirror to the way the human mind interprets the arbitrary sense data of the phenomenal world to stake a claim of meaning and coherence.

Warning: This exhibition contains some imagery that may cause discomfort and/or seizures for those with photosensitive epilepsy. Visitor discretion is advised.