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The Time It Takes to Experience Time

RE:VOIR LA COLLABORATION Hooykaas/Stansfield, Espace Vidéographe, Montréal 2005


The recent video Deep Looking, (2003) by Madelon Hooykaas and Elsa Stansfield shows images of a simple cabin facing a pond. We are reminded of the rustic cabin in the bucolic setting in Thoreau's Walden. Thoreau wrote of the time it takes to work the soil and sow the seeds and the time it takes for the plants to grow and produce fruit. Deep Looking reflects upon these processes employing a slow contemplative temporal structure which allows the viewer to experience the kind of natural time the nineteenth-century author was writing about.

Time in Hooykaas and Stansfield's video work is always present and tangible. Beyond showing the immediacy of real time or the weight of duration, the artists' work presents the time it takes to experience time. In an earlier video, In the Eye of the Storm (1992), we see a storm blowing through palm trees we watch it long enough to sense the fluctuations of the wind and the movements of the palm leaves responding to the gale. We do not just see the storm; like the palm trees we experience its rhythm and sense its duration. In Vanishing Point (1993) we look for a long time at a herd of goats eating in the grass and as we watch them we begin to share the rhythm of their movements and their attention to their rumination; we begin to feel we might understand an animal's experience of time. In Do You See what I See? (1994)The temporality evoked is human time. Like with Deep Looking, we experience the time of human labour. We look at a hand as it carefully transplants young plants in the soil. We take the time to watch each seedling placed in the soil and follow the repetition as they are dug into a row.

The time of Hooykaas and Stansfield's videos is felt time, Bergson's écoulement, time that flows continually, replacing the past with the present. It is the time we sense passing, the time it takes to hoe a garden, but it can also be time that is almost stopped, geological time, the time it takes for a tree to grow, for a rock to form, the time it takes for something to become.


Paul Landon, 2005

Originally published in the pamphlet RE:VOIR LA COLLABORATION Hooykaas/Stansfield, Espace Vidéographe, Montréal, 2005


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