Free Wheels: On Michèle Graf and Selina Grüter’s “More Clock Work” at Fanta-MLN, Milan

By Last Updated: May 31, 2023Views: 418

The philosophy of time might be instructed as a narrative of two fashions: line and circle. On the one hand, the notion of the succession of previous, current, and future, the linearity of eschatological narratives of the tip, and the utopian thought of progress; on the opposite, the round motion of the times and seasons, the eternal-return-of-the-same, and circulation within the economic system. Since early capitalism, the clock has united these two fashions: the circle in its look and performance, but additionally the concept of figuring out time as an actual time, performing in accordance with it, and thus “linearly pursuing” a purpose in its directionality and use.

In Extra Clock Work, Michèle Graf and Selina Grüter take aside these fashions and mechanisms, and reassemble them into new, destitutive (i.e., “non-constitutive,” “non-productive,” “non-goal-oriented”) machines. Put in on white pedestals, 5 small sculptures in clear, shiny black enamel at first recall archaic archetypes of industrialization—for instance, transmission towers supporting overhead energy traces. The title, Extra Clock Work, suggests a connection between not less than three ideas of labor: that of the artwork work, the mechanical clock work, and the archetypical energy works modeled by the machines. An “archaic distinction” of this type is emphasised by Martin Heidegger in his essay “The Query Regarding Expertise,” when he distinguishes the basic distinction between the wood bridge over the river and the hydroelectric plant within the river: “The hydroelectric plant [Wasserkraftwerk] is just not constructed into the Rhine River as was the previous wood bridge that joined financial institution with financial institution for lots of of years. Somewhat the river is dammed up into the ability plant [Kraftwerk]. What the river is now, particularly, a water energy provider, derives from out of the essence of the ability station [Wesen des Kraftwerks].”1

After all, the “extra” in Extra Clock Work signifies that Graf and Grüter are much less curious about a return to the “previous wood bridge” than in a suspension, a désœuvrement of the financial, political, and social dynamics behind the ability station. This may be understood if we take a look at their “Clock Works” by way of their destitutive stability of energy: the small, pedestal-mounted machines carry out no duties and produce nothing. The jolt of trains passing by way of Milan, a social but additionally nameless outside-without-essence, gives the impetus that drives the machines. The brute power of the trains is picked up by a hidden sensor and transmitted through mobile community to SIM playing cards inside the fragile machines at Fanta-MLN’s gallery area. Solely then do the machines start to maneuver collectively, earlier than resting once more, one after the other. In Extra Clock Work, this acceleration runs in useless. The motion turns into airtight. It turns into sculpture, however in its parody of the machine, it substitutes the signal system of the clock. The clock face disappears together with the clock time.2

The Full Handbook of Evacuation (2010), by Japanese director Akira Takayama, gives an attention-grabbing parallel to the critique of linear and round fashions of time in Extra Clock Work. Takayama interprets the Yamanote Line, which runs in a loop round downtown Tokyo, as an absolute metaphor for the tempo of the town. Trains in Japan are delayed by a mean of 1 minute. Even immediately they symbolize the precision and optimization of the hypermodernity for which Tokyo first grew to become recognized. In line with Takayama, there are two figures who escape of the time mannequin of the Yamanote Line: the unemployed and the unhoused, who keep stopped towards the push hour in an invisible inside time, so to talk; and the suicidal, who throw themselves in entrance of the trains, virtually at all times because of stress and strain from work—their acts of desperation bringing, for a short while, the Yamanote Line to a halt. In Extra Clock Work, too, one senses a latent consideration to the harmful mechanisms of capitalism, to anguished processes of disruption, and in a sure approach, to a want for sabotage, despite the fact that the sculptures themselves seem speechless, airtight and contemplative within the gallery area.

“Motion” is a time period used to explain the rotating mechanical components in a clockwork, however for the reason that late nineteenth century, it has additionally referred to new visions of communities and collectives. Sigmund Freud spoke explicitly of the “psychoanalytic motion” in 1914, and the time period has recurred in artwork historical past ever since. In Extra Clock Work, this motion is concentrated in wheels, loops, spirals, ribbons, and a string from contained in the clockwork, whose uncontrolled actions—although incapable of topological description—likewise come up from rotation. Within the chapter “The Free Wheel” from his late essay “Voyous,” Jacques Derrida deconstructed these “workings or turnings of a round machine.”3 Ranging from the concept of the motor because the “first mover,” which has decided the philosophy of life since Aristotle, Derrida engages the time mannequin of the ellipse, which has a couple of point of interest, towards these of the road and the circle. The ellipse additionally presents a counter-model to the remoted self-presence of time in linear and round fashions. On this respect, it factors to the basic drawback that sure utopias, reminiscent of “democracy” and “group,” might not be achievable as recurrent, stabilized temporal varieties or goals, however comply with an aporetic logic as an alternative. Derrida feedback: 

It appears troublesome to suppose the will for or the naming of any democratic area with out what known as in Latin a rota, that’s, with out rotation or rolling, with out the roundness or rotating rondure of one thing that turns spherical in circles, with out the circularity, be it pretechnical, premechanical, or pregeometrical, of some automobilic and autonomic flip or, moderately, return to self, towards the self and upon the self; certainly, it appears troublesome to suppose such a want for or naming of democratic area with out the rotary movement of some quasi-circular return or rotation towards the self, towards the origin itself, towards and upon the self of the origin, each time it’s a query, for instance, of sovereign self-determination, of the autonomy of the self, of the ipse, particularly, of the one-self that offers itself its personal legislation, of autofinality, autotely, self-relation as being in view of the self, starting by the self with the tip of self in view—so many figures and actions that I’ll name to any extent further, to save lots of time and communicate rapidly, to talk in spherical phrases, ipseity normally.4

In distinction to this self-centeredness and self-assurance, which he calls “ipseity,” Derrida asks concerning the “dwelling collectively” of a future yet-to-come (or democracy). That is notable within the context of Extra Clock Work not least as a result of the concept for the work took place throughout one of many earliest encounters between Graf and Grüter, when, throughout their research in Zurich, they acknowledged a shared want to “construct a machine collectively.”5  Derrida once more: “On the horizon with out horizon of this semantic disturbance or turbulence, the query of the democracy to come back may take the next type, amongst others: what’s ‘dwelling collectively?’ And particularly: ‘what’s a like, a compeer [semblable],’ ‘somebody comparable or semblable as a human being, a neighbor, a fellow citizen, a fellow creature, a fellow girl,’ and so forth? And even: should one reside collectively solely with one’s like, with somebody semblable?”6

Extra Clock Work carries the mannequin of an elliptical time. The work not solely revokes widespread notions of how issues must be but additionally juxtaposes widespread pictures: the helpful machine and the ineffective one, the approaching democracy and the sabotage of its current distorted picture, sculpture and dwelling collectively, stasis and motion. Seen in isolation, these opposing poles are merely the static foci of the ellipse. However in the midst of elliptical time, the phrases themselves rework: the technique of return are deserted, the aim of artwork is already achieved, and “the dream of one thing” has not less than been symbolized by it.

at Fanta-MLN, Milan
till June 1, 2023

Michèle Graf and Selina Grüter are an artist duo dwelling in New York.
They studied media arts at Zurich College of the Arts and took part within the Whitney Unbiased Examine Program. Latest exhibitions and performances embody Kevin Area, Vienna; the Whitney Museum of American Artwork; Kunsthalle Fribourg; and the Emily Harvey Basis New York.
Toni Hildebrandt is a author based mostly in Bern. He teaches artwork historical past and philosophy on the Division of Fashionable and Up to date Artwork Historical past and the Walter Benjamin Kolleg on the College of Bern, and is visitor professor within the Maumaus Unbiased Examine Programme in Lisbon. Most lately, he printed the anthology PPPP: Pier Paolo Pasolini Thinker (with Giovanbattista Tusa).

1    Martin Heidegger, The Query Regarding Expertise and Different Essays (1954), trans. William Lovitt(London: Garland, 1977), 16.
2    Additionally destitutive on this sense: “as a result of each clock should be an indication to meet its process . . . The which means of a clock is the time.” Lambert Wiesing, Die Uhr: Eine semiotische Betrachtung (Saarbrücken: Verlag St. Johann, 1998), 4.
3    Jacques Derrida, Rogues: Two Essays on Purpose (Stanford, CA: Stanford College Press, 2005), 23.
4    Ibid., 27. On this essay, Derrida speaks explicitly of the “coming democracy,” however he additionally locations his reflections decidedly within the context of his philosophy of the time or future yet-to-come, “l’avenir.”
5    From an e-mail change between the artists and the creator, Might 2023.
6    Derrida, Rogues, 27.


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