David Lamelas, Segnalamento (Signaling), 2014, marble slabs, maple tree. Installation view.

David Lamelas, Segnalamento (Signaling), 2014, marble slabs, maple tree. Installation view.

David Lamelas

David Lamelas, Segnalamento (Signaling), 2014, marble slabs, maple tree. Installation view.

A common concern with the relationship between space and time imperceptibly unites the works that David Lamelas presented in this exhibition. Time as Activity, first created in Düsseldorf in 1969, gives the sense of a filmic machine in progress, one conceived as a staging of time. There have, in fact, been ten versions of the work created so far; the two in this exhibition, Time as Activity (Naples) and Time as Activity (Milan), both 2013–14, follow the format the artist established in Düsseldorf. They are video installations showing a series of urban scenes—seven in the case of Naples, six in Milan—shot with a stationary camera and introduced by captions that indicate the span of time that will elapse over the course of the scene, usually a few minutes. Because there are no cuts, the duration of each sequence corresponds to the real time of its shooting, with each scene treated in the manner of a temporal readymade extracted like a fragment from a flow of ongoing events. Since the action that haphazardly unfolds across the static framing—of people passing by, of everyday life taking place—does not produce meaning or narrative, it tends not to arouse the viewer’s interest in what comes before and after. The camera’s gaze is neutral with respect to what passes before it. Some of the scenes correspond to clichés about the locales that they represent (the cathedral and a fashionable clothing store in Milan, the sea and an example of Neapolitan Baroque architecture), but the videos are not urban portraits. Rather, the city is interpreted as an apparatus whose space is articulated by recurring temporal automatisms. The subject of Time as Activity is, in fact, real time in its naked objectivity and duration. One frame each from the Neapolitan and the Milanese sequences has been extracted to be presented as a still, inscribed with the precise hour of the isolated moment.

The theme of time also permeates Dos Espacios Modificados (Two Modified Spaces) in the 2014 version that Lamelas prepared for this show, reconfiguring a work presented at the 1967 São Paulo Bienal. Playing with relationships between two- and three-dimensionality, fullness and emptiness, outside and inside, this open aluminum structure marks out a dual space measured in relationship to its surroundings, allowing one to see the virtual passage of time through its form. Installed in the gallery, it projected a kind of materialized “shadow,” also aluminum, onto the stone tile flooring of the adjacent terrace. This perceptual valency was less marked in the 1967 work, in which the critique of the frame was fundamental and predominant. Here, the double and empty geometric space revealed itself, defining a container without content, to be the physical and conceptual boundary of the (exhibition) device within the context of a biennial exhibition organized around the representation of different nationalities.

The critical interrogation of the function of the framing context is also inherent to Segnalamento (Signaling), 2014, which reproposes the compositional scheme of Signaling of Three Objects, 1968. In this revision, twenty marble slabs surround a potted maple tree, identifying it as a “work of art.” While in 1968 the indicative gesture addressed three indifferent elements—two trees and a chair—the maple of Segnalamento is a solitary presence. Perhaps this subtle difference between the two works is yet another way for the artist to remind us that the production of space must always also make legible the passage of time.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.