In late 2011 I was on the phone with Morten explaining how I as grappling with this strange sensation that I had been catapulted through the year. Looking back at it, I could not quite understand how what felt like several years in emotional and mental time mapped onto such a short span of calendar time. As it happened, he was then working on his thesis about the relationships between time, art and society1, and my conjecture resonated with some of the concepts and thinking he had been ruminating. This was the beginning of a collaborative exploration based on our intuition that finding a new relationship with time is at the heart of coming to new ways of seeing that lie beyond mechanistic and progressive worldviews.
Since its beginning time culture has revolved around dialogue: it grew out of a lifelong conversation between Morten and I and has been nourished by plenty of other conversations along the way. A first impetus was provided by Dougald Hine’s invitation to write a piece for Despatches from to Invisible Revolution2 (this was the essay that became Repossessing the future) and it was sustained by further dialogue with friends and strangers both online and in first life.
Thank you to everyone who has pollinated this project whether through engaging with the ideas or helping us raise the little bit of money that was needed to produce this publication. It is our hope that this pamphlet, our online home (www.time-culture.net), and continuing dialogue go some way in providing a platform and a language for building a new time culture.
It has been a thoroughly rewarding process to edit this text. Revisiting the key ideas has brought out a new depth and clarified insights that I had previously glanced only sideways. A new time culture means (re)grounding our relationship with time. And this in turn asks us to find ways of comprehending the multiplicity of temporalities that unfold in our surroundings. Morten is discovering a set of effective conceptual tools which we can use as a stepping stone into new analytic and perceptual practices – a set of tools within the larger kit we need to reconnect with the time of nature and our planet.
Special thanks go to Peter Holm-Jensen3: it is out of his generosity and sublime feel for language that you are reading these words.
—Jeppe Graugaard, Norwich, 09/02/13
1 Morten Svenstrup (2012) Tid, kunst og samfund – Et bidrag til kompositionen af en ny tidskultur. MA thesis. See http://www.scribd.com/doc/101429895/Tid-Kunst-Og-Samfund-Morten-Svenstrup
2 D. Hine and K. Kahn-Harris (Eds) Despatches from to Invisible Revolution – New Public Thinking #1: Reflections on 2011. PediaPress, 2012
This pamphlet takes as its point of departure Michel Serres’ insight that the principal component of the ecological crisis is time. People have pondered the question of time throughout history, but the particular approach to the analysis of time that I make use of here is relatively recent. It deals with the relationship between humans, society and nature and, in short, suggests that human actions are taking place at such an accelerated pace that fundamental ecological balances are shifting. Beyond this descriptive goal, the analysis also has a more creative aim: to set out a path towards the foundation of a new time culture.
I have long been interested in the concept of time, particularly in relation to music. Through this interest I have become aware of the very different temporalities that exist in music and that might even be said to constitute the core of the art form. In the wider artistic field, I have often encountered strategies that unfold in modes of time that I have rarely seen outside the arts. I believe further study of these temporalities can prove very valuable in contexts that are not traditionally associated with art theory.
Against this background, my thesis is that art has a ’knowledge’ of time, and that this knowledge can form a kind of counterweight to the mechanistic temporalities that exist in society. This raises many questions. For one thing, how can we even talk about time? How can a society be said to have particular temporalities? And how do we distinguish between beneficial and harmful social temporalities? How is it possible to conceptualise the modes of time that exist in artworks? How can one get a hold of them when they are often based on distinctly subjective experiences? And finally, how can art’s temporalities be said to counteract other unfavourable temporalities? In this paper I attempt to outline some answers to these questions.
—Morten Svenstrup, Copenhagen, 17/11/12