Critics’ Picks

Meekyoung Shin Translation Series, 2011, soap, pigment, fragrance, varnish. 33 1/2 x 15 x 15".

Meekyoung Shin Translation Series, 2011, soap, pigment, fragrance, varnish. 33 1/2 x 15 x 15".

Milton Keynes

“How To Construct A Time Machine”

MK Gallery
900 Midsummer Boulevard
January 23–March 22, 2015

Appropriately, “How To Construct A Time Machine” demands a few hours of its viewers. Also appropriately, these few hours seem to both occupy an eternity and whiz by in minutes. The twenty-five works on view span centuries, from the Lumière brothers’ one-minute film, Demolition of a Wall, 1896, to John Cage’s silence piece, 4'33", 1952, right up to Katie Paterson’s recast meteorite, more ancient than the earth itself, Field of the Sky, 2014.

The horological motif of the show runs deep: Not only is it present in the concept of the works, but it is inherent in the internal logic of material and method. Thomson & Craighead’s The Time Machine in Alphabetical Order, 2010, is particularly (im)memorable: By reordering an old film whose subject is time travel, they achieve a version that itself cuts back and forth through chronology. The speed of the clips and the fragmented sentences seem to project a kind of post-Internet future into which we are headed, while also implying that time has equal power to hold things together or tear them apart. Similarly, Catherine Yass’s Safety Last, 2011, utilizes a clip from Harold Lloyd’s 1923 silent film Safety Last!, in which the protagonist, falling from a building, holds on to a clock’s hands, turning time and his fate backward. Yass scratches and distorts the 16-mm clip, quipping on both the progression of narrative time and the loss of grain as a photographic negative ages. Nearby, Kris Martin’s brass ball, 100 years, 2004, lies inert till 2104, until time and oxygen corrodes it into its own destruction. With more time comes less time. The show’s own timeliness in the history of contemporary art is marked: Luminous and full of shadow, it is a daydreamer’s reverie and a clockmaker’s nightmare.