Mark Justiniani’s recently opened exhibition Orbit through 23rd May at the Finale Video Room.
Mark Justiniani extends his forays into depth and time in Orbit, through works that continuously tread the course of his expansive interest in the configurations of space, the nature of vision and their ever vacillating relationship with time. From cavern to chamber, Justiniani troubles our perceptual field through perplexing dismantling of pictorial space. Track leads into a tunnel on a slightly skewed trail, a ‘slice of an orbit’ as the artist calls it, signifying transit or destination. However, neither semblance nor echo of a stop is within our frame. As in Mimefield’s shaft, the terminal stop is elusive, even illusory. Indeed, if the sojourn is through an orbit we dare conjure terminus. Orbit strongly evokes the unknown, as chance prefigures enchanting discovery or morbid tragedy.
Traversals in both Entangled and Track remind one closely of a ‘fly by’, the path a spacecraft takes so closely hewn to that of a planet or celestial body. Meticulously engineered and arduously planned, the spacecraft avoids being derailed into the orbit of the body being observed and must make the most of the close encounter by recording information. These will be sent right away to base on Earth. A fly by also figures prominently in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, wherein the anticipated encounter with the planet so named, spurs life changing decisions for two sisters. The planet defies the hard calculations of science and crashes into earth, fulfilling anxieties of the event ultimately becoming a ‘dance of death’.
Justiniani captures two facets of time in this exhibition – the suspended moment eloquently illustrated in the turn the track makes in the installation and cyclical time evident in the unending rotations of two circular plates as well as the coin rotating on their surface. Halted time is discerned in Arrest, a make-shift clock ticking to stalled rhythm. Underlying the awry minute hand is resistance against the tide of time or insistence for time to unravel. These temporal frames, the moment and the cycle prompt providence and foreboding. Yet the pieces demand that we be ‘caught in the moment’, the same illusion harboured by the speedily rotating discs and the coin’s reverse rotation. To be suspended in time I must imagine, can be likened to inhabiting timelessness, the way colloids float in shafts of light, like the chance recordings of a fly by or encounters with catastrophe.
The disquiet and quandary evinced by Justiniani’s pieces somehow equal the blur as seen in Richter’s works. In Donald Kuspit’s terms, the blur is a temporal marker more than a spatial one “a trace of time rather than a measure of space”. In a world ordered by the exchange of abstract goods and shrunk more so by cybernetic frames, existence through time and within space can be understood through an ‘aesthetic of suddenness’, explained by Fredric Jameson as the “emergence of a new temporal form beyond history”. This existence relies on speed that can only be experienced through the body’s confinement. It is not surprising then that the works’ deft presentation in enclosed frames (the boxed enclosure, the filmic frame, the unflinching face of a malfunctioning hour piece) allude to inhabiting temporal movement in a present strongly implored by Jameson’s analysis.
These provocative evocations of time do not reside exclusively in the realm of theory or art. Consider the headlong plunge of the bullet train that plied the Harmony Express trail between Beijing and Fuzhou. Vertiginous obsession with speed and relentless change led to the December 2011 tragedy and eventually exposed an intricate web of scandal and corruption. Closer to home, the haphazard links of train lines and the throngs packed in the meagre space of our coaches illustrate irresolute modernity, eternally eliding fruition. These metropolitan contraptions whether in Beijing or Manila, heighten our awareness of how it is to reside time wherein space has become one of the numerous abstract goods traded in a world of threateningly and deceptively transparent borders. And if the limits of earthly space have been chartered enough, what to make of Virgin Atlantic’s preparations for its first commercial space flight, a triumph of engineering and science or folly that stems from compulsion to relentlessly construct time and conquer cosmos.