Temporal Change

‘Temporal Change‘: an installation which has been made as a response to the space of the Dougles Hyde Gallery in Dublin. A composition that balances constructed order and autouched stillness, it suggests a journey of discovery from man-made confinements to expansive openness. The passage takes place in the ambivalence of darkness. We are first shown images of fig-trees in the rain, ripe and full, briefly captured at night by a momentary flash of memory; we are left in an underworld, a place of fear and fresh possibilities. Nothing is fixed; there is an interflow between here and there, now and then. This installation is about borders; it is a netherland, a kind of limbo.

Gaston Bacheland, in The Poetics of Reverie writes about the necessity of giving memories an ‘atmosphere of images’. ‘Values‘, he says, must be rediscovered beyond the facts. In order to relive the values of the past, one must dream, must accept the great dilation of the psyche known as reverie. Memory and imagination then rival each other in giving us back the images which pertain to our lives’. This, too, is a form of flux, just as it is a descent into the darkness of our souls, where we are compelled to pay special attention to uncanny pools of sadness and mourning. In ‘Temporal Change‘ this dark fluidity is evoked by the water in the image-tanks, by the rising and falling of light levels, and by the soundtrack – of falling rain and thunder – that accompanies the lightboxes.
There is nobody, no body, in ‘Temporal Change‘ – expcept glimpsed reflectiond of ourselves. The foyers and halls in the photograph are deserted, devoid of human presence, although we know that people have been there, that they have passed through and disappeared. It is night, a time
Temporal Change

of rest. And, as Bachelard remarks,in nocturnal life ‘there are depths where we bury ourselves, where we have the will to live no longer. In these depths we brush intimately against nothingness, our nothingness’.

But water cleanses, revivifies. Rain waters the earth, it evaporates and rises to the clouds, it flows in rivers back to the sea. These processes and transformations are suggested here by the photographs of nature, beginning with the rain-drenched figs and ending with the dissolved spaces of oceans and sky. They are memory images, but they are also projections of hope – the end of a journey and the beginning of an unrevealed future.

‘Temporal Change‘, while not without its moments of optimism, does not allow us much ease, for unknown passages and paths have to be negotiated before we can experience rebirth or renewal. The figure that comes to mind at this point, his presence implied but never revealed, is that of Orpheus, who descended into Hades to fetch back the dead Eurydice. Orpheus, of course, was bound by the terms of his pact not to look back, not to seek confirmation of renewal until the journey was done. He had to trust, to let go of fear. Unable to do so, however, he lost his beloved. In ‘Temporal Change‘ we are not told who is missing and being mourned, but we are made aware of absence and of the hope that loss can be made good in the underworld, where we ‘brush intimately against nothingness’.

The block of photographs of fig-trees links the upper gallery space to its lower level. The tree, which has often been used to symbolize the cosmos, inexhaustible life, and immortality,

also represents the relationship between the underworld, earth, and the heaven. So, from the fruit-filled trees we move downwards to tree-trunks that are bare and cut short: images of truncation, between the upper and lower worlds is suggested by the plaster casts – reminiscent both of garden ornaments and funerary urns – which are affixed to the black boxes containing the photographs of the fig trees, and which are also placed, in a block of sixty, on the wall.

Lit internally and controlled by a sensor, the strength of their luminosity varies according to the brightness of the day. Along the other walls in the main gallery space are white plaster shapes, rather like elongated biers or tombs, illuminated from below by a cooler, more clinical light. We are left in little doubt that, in the underworld, we are in the presence of death.

It is here that renewal, which depends on the abandonment of fear, take place somewhere in the incessant play between reality and illusion, memory and hope, we must discover that the past is not stable, that it does not return to us in the same form or in the samelight as it left us. And in the perception, as Bachelard tells us, we also discern a bond between the world and the human soul: ‘Then there lives within us not a memory of history but a memory of the cosmos – times when nothing happened come back‘. And in those times when nothing was happening, the world was truly beautiful.

John Hutchinson
April, 1994