Magazine article Artforum International

Darren Almond

Magazine article Artforum International

Darren Almond

Article excerpt

Snow falls from a gray sky, while a group of people waits for a bus that never comes. The black and-white film is so grainy that it's impossible to make out faces or details. On the other side of the street, another bus stop stands empty; traffic passes by intermittently. The anonymous crowd lingers; nothing happens. It's March in the small town of Oswiecim, Poland, also known as Auschwitz. British artist Darren Almond's installation Oswiecim, March 1997 consists of nothing more than two 8 mm films projected side by side, showing the two bus stops--one filled with visitors from the concentration-camp museum, the other for those few who wish to travel further into the country. (The bus stops themselves were recently moved to Berlin, where Almond exhibited them as an installation piece, Bus Stop, 1999.) The films have been slowed down considerably, making the hopeless wait more agonizing. Like many of Almond's works, this is a piece about duration, delay, and it affords an intensified experience of time. Where nothing happens, temporality makes itself felt, viscerally. Time hurts.

In Traction, 1999, an installation that recently premiered at the Renaissance Society in Chicago, temporality is manifest as a bodily phenomenon. Built around an on-camera interview that Almond conducted in an attempt to unearth his father's history as a construction worker, the piece uses the elder's scarred body to establish the chronology. "When was the first time you saw your blood?" is Almond's opening question. Moving from toes and ankles to head and crown, the inquiry reveals an incredible number of injuries, bearing witness to the harsh realities of a working life. "How big was the crack in your head?" Almond queries matter-of-factly. "You were choking on your own blood?" The tripartite installation shows the father giving his report, but the interrogator remains a disembodied voice; the viewer is made privy instead to the reactions of Almond's mother (projected on a third screen), who, sequestered alone in a room, sobs as she listens to the interview. The images of the artist's parents are separated by an additional projection, of an earthmover's mechanical arm overturning brick and rubble.

Almond's most explicitly autobiographical work so far, Traction approaches temporality in a brutal way. As a boy, Almond "train spotted" as a way of escaping the small English town of Wigan, where he was born, which introduced him to the world of timetables and clocks. In many of his works, several layers of temporality make themselves felt: the time measured by mechanical devices; the temporality of the human body; even cosmic time, marked each day by the rising and setting of the sun. In A Real Time Piece, 1995, a wall-size projection of the artist's London studio was transmitted via satellite to an abandoned shop (which viewers could enter) in another part of town. It's not a dramatic image in any way: You see a table, a chair, a fan, and a digital clock on the wall. No one enters the room; nothing happens--except, every sixty seconds the numbers flip over, causing a surprisingly loud crash. This goes on for twenty-four hours, and in the time it takes the room to get dark and then light again the crash oc curs 1,440 times. What we are taking part in, have become part of, is nothing but a huge clock, broadcast live a couple of miles across the great city. …

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