Cologne

“Ökonomien der Zeit”

Museum Ludwig

Given that theorists like Michel Foucault, Fredric Jameson, Henri Lefebvre, and their followers have explained societal phenomena convincingly in spatial terms, an exhibition titled “Ökonomien der Zeit” (Economies of time) tends to stand out. Curators Astrid Wege and Hans-Chstian Dany have articulated the theme by contesting the so-called New Economy, in which timeis characterized by efficiency: As much work as possible must be completed in as short a time as possible; flexibility and mobility become the watchwords for success. Whoever thinks of time differently, as a social value for instance, or worse yet, anyone who wastes it, is leading a life that is potentially subversive. As one might expect given such a premise, this exhibition focused on artists incompatible with the market; it also included self-organized initiatives and independent publishing ventures.

Hamburg artists Jelka Plate and Malte Wilms invited the SSM (Socialistic Self-Help of Mülheim) to present their organization. In a critique of the architecture firm OMA’s proposed redesign of the Museum Ludwig’s foyer, which resembles a shopping mall, Plate, Wilms, and the SSM sited an economic counterproposal there: a branch of the SSM’s secondhand shop, with videos of heated discussions in the alternative group’s communal kitchen and a sofa corner where the public was invited to converse with members of the group. Edson Barrus’s yard-long rosary, woven from half-inch-wide strips of cigarette packs and attached to a ball made of the rolled-together butts of smoked joints, seems to be about the discovery of slowness. The work unites the fragile visualization of a period in a life with documentation of the self-determined acceleration of bodily decay and also juxtaposes legal (tobacco) and illegal (marijuana) economies.

Another branch of the exhibition thematized historical and narrative dimensions of time. Interarchiv, 1999, a collaboration between Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Hans-Peter Feldmann at the University of Lüneburg, portrays a collection of documents of contemporary art. The photography magazine Ohio uses extant photo archives as the basis for artistic interventions. Andrea Fraser’s complex double video projection Soldadera, 1998-2002, interrogates the manner in which images and stories influence the writing of history. It deals with the filming of Eisenstein’s Que Viva México! (1931) and contrasts this with a form of art criticism that denies any possibility of real political revolution.

But the theme of the exhibition failed to account for the powerful visuality of a work like Fraser’s. Wege and Dany seem to have consciously avoided focusing on this problem. And yet artists are formulating critical positions with regard to visuality and to issues like privacy, consumption, and marketing—themes that until recently were generally the subject of affirmative or nondiscourse-oriented positions. Thus “Economies of Time” missed the opportunity to create a thesis-driven reordering of discursive premises, which in turn would have allowed the viewer room for his or her own associations on the theme. Lygia Clark’s Caminhando (Walking), 1963, seems paradigmatic of the exhibition’s surplus value: Viewers are asked to assemble a paper Mobius strip—an endless loop with its own ordering of time and space.

Nina Möntmann

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.