Julieta Aranda:

The Future was ceaselessly

By Octavio Zaya | November 23, 2012

Revisiting the paths followed by the speculative variability that has gradually shaped the ever-ongoing work of Julieta Aranda, I can anticipate that we would be lost in simplifications and end up misunderstanding her movement and her drive if we intended to inscribe this work into a moment, or tried to approach it as if it were an arrow that we could immobilize in the middle of its flight.

Julieta Aranda:

In other words, I do not consider it advisable to reach any definitive conclusions about this plural and dissonant work, situated midway between reality and fiction, not even with the aim of trying to understand its continuity. In the first place, because Aranda’s trajectory is not a single one, nor is it composed of linear moments; and its moments along one path do not correspond with those along another, according to either frequency or intention. In the second place, her works do not present themselves or behave as motionless strata. And I think that the main reason for postponing a final conclusion is the slippery nature that characterizes the struggle and the constant forking of paths in a practice animated by the effort to catch sight of what eludes us: time, circulation, and imagination.

A review of a group of works and projects performed by Aranda during the past five years might pretend, nevertheless, to “hold” momentarily an approach to the artist’s oeuvre insofar as she addresses those concepts, even if we run the risk of perceiving them as if they were a succession of points in time. At the same time, and in a different way, the work also allows us to assume that the absence of fixed “points” or “moments” in it opens up the chance or the possibility for interaction or play with it, which, in a certain way, helps us to continue or complete it.

The work There has been a miscalculation (Flattened Ammunition ), 2007-2011, may perhaps offer us a clue for opening the door to the ever-slipping and perceptibly incomplete meaning of Aranda’s oeuvre. This work consists in a transparent Plexiglas cube containing approximately 100 science-fiction novels with a story line taking place before 2007, the year in which the work was first produced, which have been shredded, almost pulverized. It also contains a hidden computerized air compressor that unexpectedly and violently blows the dust around at random intervals, recalling a sudden sandstorm. Aranda’s experiment on the functioning (or rather, the re-functioning) of time, and also of history, endlessly circulates and swirls shredded books, phrases, and words in an empty cube, incessantly suspended in a past future.

Other works, photographic series and installations have taken up again the concept of time, sometimes to consider alternative notions of the temporal experience, and other times to approach the arbitrariness of time and freedom from time. You Had No Ninth of May, 2006-2011, addresses the artificiality of the homogeneous construction of time through the case of Kiribati, an archipelago in the Pacific that, in 1995, changed the position of the International Date Line (IDL), calling into question concepts such as “today” or “tomorrow.” And in Aranda’s memorable and very beautiful intervention at the Guggenheim Museum—inaugurating the experimental series “Intervals,” which responds to the innovations and new developments emerging in contemporary art—the artist presented four works that addressed what she conceives as “subject formation” and the assertion of one’s dominion over one’s own time as a condition for individuation. In this exhibition, all the works were proposed to partially describe, in the artist’s words, “ a sense of time’s passage according to subjective experience, rather than subscribed to a strict system of measurement that assign fixed durations to any given event.” Thus, in Partially untitled (tell me if I am wrong), 2009, a piece placed in the interstitial space near the museum’s staircase, a peephole revealed the image of an hourglass, a traditional symbol of mortality, but, viewed through the refracting optical device of a camera obscura, the grains of sand appeared to flow upward, as if reversing the passage of time.

In another work included in this exhibit that Aranda titled Two shakes, a tick and a jiffy, 2009, the artist installed an oversized clock in which the day was divided into ten elongated hours. On the one hand, the clock referenced the decimal time introduced during the rationalizing trend of the French Revolution, which contained 100 minutes of 100 seconds each; but, on the other hand, the movement of the second hand corresponded directly to the fluctuating rate of the artist’s own heartbeat over the course of one day, so that the time it took for the clock to complete a revolution of 100 seconds varied according to Aranda’s behaviour. Once again, the artist proposed the possibility of claiming sovereignty over the experience of one’s own time, transcending its subjection to authority. With the same intention, in the exhibitions “In Search of Lost Time,” 2011, “the tale of the tiger is longer than the tiger´s tail,” 2011, and “Tiger, Tiger (The Institutionalized Revolution),” 2010, she goes back to the subject and expands it, politically, to encompass Mexico’s present historical moment, and metaphorically, to illustrate the omnipresence of media such as Televisa and the manipulation they exert.

It would be a mistake, however, to separate this whole complex and imaginative body of work from the multidisciplinary, versatile e-flux project, of which Aranda is co-founder and co-director together with Anton Vidokle, or to consider it independently from the rest of the projects carried out in collaboration with the latter artist. On the one hand, e-flux video rental, 2004-2008, and Pawnshop, 2007-2011, considered and promoted a tendency towards the reconfiguration of economic relationships in art, initiating and developing alternative and experimental models or formats for exchange and access between artists and the public, and restating institutional economic relationships in the context of what Aranda conceives as a “poetics of circulation,” which operates outside of the traditional exhibition spaces and of the condition of invisibility and passiveness that the production/consumption system demands from the viewer or the audience. On the other hand, Time/Bank, 2009-ongoing, which includes over three thousand participants in its diverse manifestations in different cities throughout the world, allows both groups and individuals collectively to trade their time and skills in the context of an alternative economic system that establishes an immaterial currency and a parallel micro-economy for the cultural community.

In any of the mentioned works or projects, we might dare say—venturing a conclusion already endlessly slippery and so folded, bent, stretched out, collapsed, poked through, and incommensurable as the instant—that Aranda claims a certain degree of control over our experience as a way of asserting our autonomy in the face of power.