an interview from Olaf Pfeiffer
What does the word "time” mean to you?
tatjana: For me, time is a multilevel concept that determines all our being, thinking, and action. I am fascinated by the inevitability of its course and our inability to escape its predetermined path. I see time as a matrix, a universal structure within which I move as a human being. But for me, time is also an individual experience, a construct of our subjective perception. This, for me, is the most interesting idea, this is where I am trying to forge a path through my artwork.
nina: For me, time is the thread upon which I find myself balancing.
Why are you involved with this theme?
nina: I experience it as stress in society where the tempo is continuously increasing around me. This stress mutates time after time and becomes normality, moving society into a direction I do not want it to. Early education, coaching, additional offers, refresher courses are offered - emptiness and slowness appear to be dangerous terms.
tatjana:I am interested in the subjective perception of time, in mechanisms of structuring and sequencing time and the conscious and subconscious decision-making processes linked to it, which are used to delineate time and to make it graspable in the processes of generating and adopting terms of judgement tied to these placed perceptions of time and its effects, foreign and self determination, chaos and order, overflow and emptiness.
How did you conceptualize the exhibition together? What part of the things on view did you produce together?
tatjana: Lisa Glauer connected us. She knew of our earlier work in which we both focused on researching dust, each in a different way.
nina: It was important for us not only to show older work, but also something which could grow, something that connects us.
tatjana: First off, we exchanged our individual ideas regarding time. Starting from there, yes, even while we were writing, we realized how essentially interconnected something produced is in relation to time, and so, the idea of the knitting project developed ...
nina: ... which, in the end, consists more of other people‘s work than our own. We asked the people to knit something for us, something not useful, sensible, or functional ...
tatjana: ... but rather, knitting was to be used solely as an instrument to measure the production of time. This led to a few complaints. An interesting phenomenon which quickly became clear was the knitters’ desires for their production to have meaning.
nina: It was very exciting to talk to the people, to explain why it was important to us that they help us, that they should do something senseless for us.
The aspect of wasting time was often discussed, what was experienced as the right thing to do, and why one does anything at all. We did not discuss crafts as something typically feminine. We focused on the aspect of time, the use of time. How do we use our time, what do we do with it? "Co-knitters” described what they did and how they experienced the making of something useless.
tatjana: While we conceptualized the exhibition for the space, we developed a spatial color concept and new audio work intended to make accessible
additional perceptual levels.
How did you arrive at the idea that it is important to place a collaborative work in the space, instead of an exhibition wherein each artist finds his or her place in their respective, clearly delineated areas?
nina: Since we were interested in similar themes, there was, from the beginning, an interest in conceptualizing one part of the work together. It was not only important that it be a collaborative work, it was just as important to us to involve many people, in order to overcome the myth of the artist necessarily working alone in a studio, and to enter into contact with non-artists.
tatjana: A platform of collaboration offers an infinite number of new insights into the work of others as well as one’s own. New questions arise and there are criticisms, but new synergies develop, too.
The desire grew to create a dialogue between our different artworks and to open up space for the visitors to find links into the work in various places that is, to break open the idea of an "artwork” viewed from the outside, and to become part of the creative process.
Vlad Morarius’ text uses as entry and final point Michael Ende’s Momo and the thrust towards time presented therein.
Was the book important for both of you?
nina: This is funny! This book was not consciously on my mind when we worked together on the exhibition, but it was actually one of my favorite books as a child, and also one of the few that I possess through today and reread again and again.
The older I become, the more important I consider this book to be. The realization that one cannot save time and preserve it is so intelligent. When I try to do everything faster, it does not help in the end, I am not left with more time. I do not want to permit others to believe they know what might be important to me. Nobody gives me time for myself; this is something I must hold on to for myself, and use it.
tatjana: Yes, of course this book was one that was not to be missed in the bibliography while researching one’s own existence. I like the metaphor that still holds true as a contemporary interpretation of time.
What additional points or departure did the exhibition have?
nina: I had already dealt with questions concerning time during my studies in Oslo.
My work with dust has its roots there, for one semester I made dust in my studio and collected it, but I did not know yet how to produce an artwork from it. I found the solution only two years later, when I was living in Weimar.
I really worked with the concept of time and expectations for the first time while I was working on my thesis (1999). My thesis work (the video "Locken” and the series of drawings "Shadow of Dust”) was a protest against expectations placed on myself and on my work, a reaction against the fast-paced environment and what was considered important. In the drawings, I placed dust on a overhead projector and over several weeks I drew its shadows. A drawing required up to six weeks’ time. The video runs for over 20 minutes without a cut, in a single set ting. I sit in front of the window and make curls out of gift ribbons until they slowly cover my body, a time-consuming work, with references to fairy tales and feminism, female roles, and beauty ideals.
To what extent are ways of dealing with time a cultural, or rather a supra-cultural phenomenon? To what extent does your exhibition discuss
nina: For me, time is a supra-cultural phenomenon, but how we deal with it is ultimately determined by our environment. When I say environment, I mean not only what country we live in, but also who the people are we surround ourselves with, in relation to whom we measure ourselves. This is very difficult for me sometimes as an artist. An artist takes on the role of an outsider nowadays, in a society measured by careers, progress, and the accumulation of money.
tatjana: Time is essentially culturally connoted. Problems resulting from the West’s way of dealing with time are not necessarily congruent with the way it is handled within other cultures and social structures. This is observable in art, of course. The handling of time production within a capitalist society, for example: visibilities, hierarchies of values, determining processes.
My focus is more on the subjective experience of time, so that would be, if you will, supra-cultural. I see therein a quality, a skill of selfdetermination that must be rediscovered and made present, so that everyone can be conscious of it and use it in a beneficial way.
All of your otherwise rather diverse works use white in a striking way. What does the color white mean to you?
nina: The color white does not mean much to me it is more a question of visibility/invisibility. White approaches neutrality. It is possible to start from there. I have always tended to make black and white or colorless work. I find the limit between the perceptible and the non-perceptible fascinating.
tatjana: In general, I work a lot with gray, as a non-color, so to speak, for pre-defining a position and as a carrier. In the installation "Perpetual Shifting” I am using the pre-found white as blank space, which can be transmitted as a variable and a possibility of a new occupation, but not as a demarcation of time.
Tatjana, where did you get the idea to paint the white wall, in a seemingly senseless act, white all over again?
tatjana: This connects to my interest in researching visibility and invisibility, latency and potentiality, the relationship of the partial to the whole. Time in and of itself is not visible as such, not tangible.
A double application of color, what does that mean? For me it indicates a compressive process, doubling, a partial interconnection and overlapping, a coexistence of various layers. There are only a few spaces on the wall that I painted, so there was a selection that took place. The surfaces were placed within a whole made of interconnectivities.
If you look very closely, you can see that the white color is not exactly the same; it is barely perceptible; it has a different surface quality; light breaks in a different way on it.
What kind of reflections were involved in the creation of the wood installation that structures the tangible part of your work in the show, Tatjana?
tatjana: I see the perception of time as a construct, as a more or less stable connection, and wood is a building material, similar to time. Some parts I put together and new levels grow from this, spaces within space. Others remain loose, as unused singular parts, as material. The wood I selected has a white surface veneer, which is smooth, and interacts optically within the space. The cut edges remain visible, a sign of separateness from the whole.
Tatjana, the pattern of the tape creates a type of geo metry, a higher, more complex order in the space. Is that a reflex or does it stand for a type of dealing with too much or too little time?
tatjana: Yes, I must admit, I am a friend of order in the sense of giving structure, which has a lot to do with orientation. You ask for hierarchies, for level gradations, for an obvious status of the absolute and thereby closed within.
Time is relative. Creating order means for me a process of awareness and decision making. The tape is flexible. It presents, first and foremost, an order given me, but one can take it off, too, which has been done by a few of the visitors. Then, a shift occurs, something new ensues.
Nina, considering the exhibition title "At the Bottom of Time”, to me it becomes apparent that your work explicitly avoids contact with the ground, or at least seeks to minimize it (except for the bedding and precisely here it seems, of course, uncomfortable and strange). Does losing contact with the pulse of time always mean to lose sense of reality?
Is time better experienced on your knees? Or, asked in a different way, would you say that for you, the perception of time is a matter of bodily perception?
nina: In "Dust to Dust”, there really is a separation from the ground. I wanted to achieve a "between” situation, just like time for me is neither grounded nor free-floating. The woman in the video floats between the sky and the earth, does not belong, so to speak, to either of these. What she is doing is very much connected to life on earth - dust explicitly belongs to life on Earth. If one thinks of what lies beyond, one does not think of dust, but still there is this "senseless” activity which does not take place in everyday life, that creates a free space for thinking, that gains time.
The passivity is active. Time has very much become an experience of the body. I find the connection of the body and activity very important. One can do a lot and think a lot, but when one really does something, carries it through physically, one attains a knowledge unattainable otherwise. I would know nothing about making dust, had I not made it for a long time. By just thinking about it, it would have become a completely different thing.
And yes, time is experienced more intensively when squatting. We become more conscious of ourselves when we squat; we feel the body, its tiredness, its kinks, and its small cramps. When we squat, less can be pushed between ourselves and the experience; we are more open, more vulnerable; and we perceive more and observe more closely without always involving the intellect in the process.
Nina, your work conveys in some places the impression of an apparent lightness or simplicity - is that necessary for this particular theme or does it characterize your general style of working? Is time ‘easy’ or difficult, lightweight or ‘heavy’ (to have and deal with)?
nina: This apparent lightness is surely one part of my mode of working. I often make my videos more than once in order to achieve a situation where the lightness becomes apparent. I discover what really interests me about the concept by working on the raw material. Only by doing can I attain what ensues, the process of thinking something through is not sufficient; I understand by experiencing. By viewing my own material, I discover details. These I then try to develop further and to make them more visible, while all that is non-essential is taken away. It looks like a reduction: I sieve out and hold onto that which interests me. This one thing I want to have in there. If the result appears "light”, I am happy.
The work of attaining that is a part of my artistic process: I strive to show this "lightness”. To have time is easy; to fill time is very difficult.
Tatjana, in contrast to Nina’s part of the exhibition, your wood installation appears to work intensively, and almost strained, at least construction-wise, with the existing space, its limits, dimensions, and its spatiality.
What does "high up there” in the space mean to you?
tatjana: An essential approach in my work is to make the pre-found space work as part of my installations, to visualize dimensions, to shift them, to give them a new order. Without taking into account space, the work does not function. It reflects my understanding of time but at the same time the viewer is thrown onto him or herself, he or she can discover, observe, move, find a position. In this way it appeared obvious to investigate the space and to structure the walls, floors and windows and to build in porousness, to check out limits, to insert new modules, to expand the space, to set smooth links to more distant places in the space.
"High up” there is not a symbol for hierarchical order, it is an additional possibility for movement.