Critics’ Picks

Sarah Sze, Timekeeper, 2016, mixed media, mirrors, wood, stainless steel, ink-jet prints, projectors, lamps, desks, stools, stone, dimensions variable. Installation view.


Sarah Sze

Copenhagen Contemporary
Refshalevej 173 A
March 10–September 3, 2017

American artist Sarah Sze’s immersive installation Timekeeper, 2016, renders time as a relative element that can be manipulated, layered, stalled, stretched, and compressed. You wander through what could be a mad scientist’s den, which takes the form of a three-dimensional collage incorporating a wildly higgledy-piggledy desk illuminated within a darkened room.

Countless scraps of ripped paper are layered upon a thin metal armature. They gently blow in the wind from fans as projectors throw images of natural and urban realms, and there are even plastic potted plants on which the light beams flicker. The varied landscapes weave together a portrait of modern existence, with the scenes’ intermittently enlarged pixels suggesting our digital experience of the world. A potent orange sunrise sits next to slowed footage of a building being demolished, plumes of dust expanding as dirty clouds; a fire burns while a river ripples; animals including cheetahs and ostriches run in videos so decelerated that they recall Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic motion studies. Amid this array, the neon green numerals of alarm clocks blink, a metronome ticks, and different time zones are delineated in further projections—as in life, time is inescapable but takes many forms.

Perhaps most poignant, the room is surrounded by projections that slowly circulate: Television static recalls a star-filled sky, interspersed with an owl flying, water flowing, and a bird resting on a branch. This conjures the complexity of the earth and the ever-expanding cosmos. The artist creates idiosyncratic systems of order and balance, giving structure to her own universe within which the viewer can ramble.