Artists: Amanda Beech, Zach Blas, Rabih Mroué, Uriel Orlow and Ming Wong
Propositions for a stage: 24 frames of a beautiful heaven looks to the limits of time and the possibilities for time’s staging. Here the idea of ‘staging’ refers both to artists’ use of performance and questions of time as haunting, as stasis, as a looping repetition. This experience of time is most familiar to us through its presentation in forms of theatre and, most particularly, film, where the mechanical structure of analogue film suggests the idea of both continuous and discontinuous temporalities. The stage, set and scene provide us with a space-time apart from the everyday: a speculative world. If we think of the filmstrip as a series of discrete frames that might be chopped up, rearranged and layered then time might not always run forward but instead be characterised by stops and breaks where the past leaks into the present and the future.
Performance exists here as an experimental form that addresses the relationship between the body and various infrastructures including time, technology and other forms of control. Therefore forms of performance and theatricality are used throughout the exhibition to test out changing computations of time in the already interwoven relationships between time, bodies and technologies. Works by Uriel Orlow and Rabih Mroué use forms of performance to re-examine past events and to recalibrate these events into future possibilities. A new installation by Ming Wong experiments with science fiction narratives and their staging in order to explore thresholds between worlds and the spaces of performance. Zach Blas’s series of videos and sculptures, Face cages, draws upon biometrics to highlight the way that the body is irrevocably intertwined with contemporary technologies and their temporalities, in particular the way in which these technologies act to obscure difference. Amanda Beech’s colourful Cause and effect series of works on paper plays with forms of processing and repetition through the layering and replication of text, materials and processes to address the manner in which realism (and so-called ‘real time’) is bound up in the rhetorical devices and narratives associated with popular culture and philosophy alike.
The title of the exhibition is borrowed from the novel 24 ge mei miao tian tang, 2009, by the Chinese author of speculative fiction, Pan Haitian. Also translated as ‘24-second paradise’, the title announces the connection between time and the time of the filmstrip. In Haitian’s novel the protagonist is able to travel or jump through time at whim, and while this time-travel might not yet be possible for us today it signals to an important relationship between time and the way in which technology affects or mediates our experience of time.
Propositions for a stage: 24 frames of a beautiful heaven is curated by Dr Bridget Crone. Crone is a curator and writer based in London and working internationally. She is Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Visiting Scholar at the CalArts School of Critical Studies, 2017–18.
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Image: Ming Wong, Scenography for a Chinese science fiction opera, 2015, mixed media installation featuring a hand-painted theatre stage set (synthetic polymer paint on canvas, wood, steel, motors), dimensions variable. © Courtesy the artist.