Time and Time Again

Denis Côté, Joy of Man’s Desiring, 2014, HD video, color, sound, 68 minutes.

NEW-TO–NEW YORK Museum of Arts and Design chief curator Shannon R. Stratton has put together an inspired, seductive sleeper of an exhibition that resets the potential for the long-fraught MAD. Stratton’s “In Time (The Rhythm of the Workshop),” unfolds as an essay, deploying three films focused on the act of making in the industrial workplace against the museum’s more typical celebration of high-end, handmade avant-garde objects.

The show brings together filmmakers Andreas Bunte, Denis Côté, and Daniel Eisenberg—of Berlin, Montreal, and Chicago, respectively—each of whom, in the well-crafted words of the curator, “turn their lens on manufacturing and the ways that material, bodies, and value are shaped by industry.” A related, equally absorbing series of feature-length films by each of the artists, titled “slow looking,” and programmed by Katerina Llanes and Carson Parish—two additional talented curators new to MAD—capitalized on the museum’s success with film programming and reinforced an emphasis on process over product and a relationship to work that takes into account everything from class to temperament to psychology to workplace and skill. The exhibition’s sole object-based work also played out “in time.” Collaborative artists Varvara & Mar set the seven metronomes of their The Speed of Markets to "follow and translate into rhythm the real-time trade volume” of the world’s seven dominant stock markets. Viewers were greeted by a long thin shelf on a blank wall on which the metronomes meted out the time again and within which the work described by the films transpired.

Stratton’s achievement exceeds simply shifting the MAD’s focus from noun to verb; it is also one of the most satisfying installations of time-based art in a gallery context I’ve seen anywhere, and a sophisticated meditation on three very distinct approaches to so-called “observational film.” Her exactingly choreographed presentation of the films proper and the mix of ambient sound, in an elegant array of darkened rooms, somehow manages to pace both the looking and the listening so that each work invites precisely the slow looking and listening “in time” that the very nuanced subject matter demands.

“In Time (The Rhythm of the Workshop”) runs through Sunday, May 22 at the Museum of Art and Design in New York. “slow looking” ran April 1 through 29.