Contemplating the art (and meaning) of time

The Timewalkers, LEA15
The Timewalkers, LEA15

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.

These words from the opening of Burnt Norton, the first of T.S Eliot’s Four Quartets, were the first to enter my head while visiting LEA15 and Solkide Auer’s The Timewalkers, an installation which encourages you to contemplate time and its meaning, as you ride a pod up through the giant clock, and upwards into the wealth of colour, pattern and light, set against the backdrop of night.

The Timewalkers, LEA15
The Timewalkers, LEA15

Riding the pod up through the installation, I personally found a strong resonance between the piece and Eliot’s contemplation of time. Time is the one immutable force we cannot deny. It rules every aspect of our lives, past, present and future. It surrounds each of us as we live our lives of colour and light.

When contemplating time in reference to our own lives, we so often we look back; wondering what might have been, had a different path been taken. So even as we look back, we also catch a glimpse of a future that might have been. Thus our thoughts themselves  span the past, present and future, even as well continue to travel forward.

The Timewalkers, LEA15
The Timewalkers, LEA15

And yet, here lies a conundrum: to be conscious of time  is to be apart from our understanding of time, for consciousness implies a fixed perspective while time is characterised by a transient relativity focused on a fixed point in the present. Yet at the same time, the contemplation of time is also the contemplation of the eternal, as Eliot himself noted when he wrote:

Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

The Timewalkers, LEA15
The Timewalkers, LEA15

Wherever your thoughts take you, Solikide offers a stunning display, rich in colour while deeply evocative of the passage of time itself, be it through obvious elements such as the clock, the pendulum and the metronome, or in more subtle fashion through the slowly rotating circles which suggest the never-ending cycle of time, or the slow rocking of the bell-like objects hanging below them, or the colour terrible clefts which seem to fall like dying leaves, their time of growth now done, and which also carried more of Eliot’s evocative poem to my mind.

The Timewalkers, LEA15
The Timewalkers, LEA15

And what then of life and death? Time is all-encompassing, and a journey through it can hardly be devoid of thoughts on where we all are destined to travel. The symbolism here also seems apparent as one ascends up through the piece, rising towards the light, passing the “bells” tolling silently (and perhaps causing an echo of another writer’s words – those of John Donne), to arrive at a place of intricate beauty.

Wherever your own thoughts take you, do make sure you spend time – no pun intended – as a Timewalker. It’s a visually stunning installation, and one that stirs the grey matter. Recommended.

The Timewalkers, LEA15
The Timewalkers, LEA15

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