TIME LAPSE / March 17 - May 7, 2016
Ekho Gallery & Metales Pesados Visual. Santiago. Chile.
A woman lies on her side in an empty parking lot. It is impossible to tell if she is asleep, injured, or worse. We watch silently through an opening in a fence as several minutes pass with no other movement than a passing bird or scrap of paper nudged by a breeze. Two uniformed officers appear, wake her, ask a few questions, and, apparently satisfied with the answers, leave.
Nothing much takes place in Gianfranco Foschino’s videos, at least not in the sense of a co-synchronous narrative of events that we recognize as a plausible pattern of cause and effect unfolding in real time. There are rarely characters or plot, and he is clearly not trying to dazzle us with his camerawork or editing, since the camera never actually moves, and the scene is never cut. Usually there is a defined beginning and end to his videos, but nearly as often the two are so similar that it is tacitly left up to us when to start watching, or when to quit.
Of course, something of real significance is taking place in Foschino’s work, but its conditions are not immediately discernible within the form he’s chosen. What does the scene above, for instance, have to do with a video of fog rolling slowly across a country road, or another video of primeval coastal shore gliding endlessly by, seemingly unscarred by human habitation? In all these examples, the artist has framed his own gaze tightly through the lens, held it rigidly in place, and quite literally waited for something to happen. When other people are involved, the video is often shot clandestinely, with some ruse employed to mask the camera’s presence. It should also be assumed that countless hours are spent creating footage that will never be seen, in which the thing he is waiting for never happens, or it happens but it wasn’t quite right.
Before it can be an event of genuine significance, the reception of art requires a shaping and guiding of the quality of our attention, directing our focus in a way that enables us to better perceive the ostensible subject, while simultaneously sensitizing ourselves to the temporal process in which our perceptions are being employed. The longer we search the artwork in hopes of unlocking its secret, the more conscious we become of the multitude of ways that we constantly frame and adjust our own gaze. While we gaze expectantly, we also find ourselves more attuned to the effort involved in being attentive, watching for meaning to reveal itself, while half-wondering if the purpose of this search will not, in fact, reveal itself in the interstices of the very journey it provokes.
This meta-attention constitutes a more or less accurate description of the mental state that Foschino’s work beckons us toward, and it is not hard to imagine as well that to some degree it mirrors his ongoing exploration of the Chilean landscape, in search of a visual iconology of nature that can be transmitted by way of the popular imagination. As this exhibition suggests, however, the artist’s working definition of ‘nature’ as subject remains in a state of self-imposed flux. When we as humans gather in clusters, labor side by side, migrate in large groups, or perambulate unsteadily home after a long night on the town, we also inhabit our most natural, animal-like selves, in part because these are the moments when we are least engaged in imagining how we might be perceived by another, perhaps a stranger seated clandestinely at a window eight floors above. As challenging as it might sometimes be to perceive our own actions as occurring within the broader context of natural systems in dynamic interplay, our existence is just as much a part of nature as are waterfalls and mountains – a perspective that seems to be reflected in Foschino’s observations of his own species.
The lapse of time as perceived by our human senses is a profound illusion fueled by our hungers, desires, and whims, all of which cohere in the image of the hands of a clock advancing inexorably forward. To observe time passing, without placing demands on its shape or destination, is a luxury that few are granted, but for some reason visual art remains an area in which such possibilities do still exist. By paying close attention to the almost imperceptible motion of time passing, Foschino’s work ultimately suggests a simultaneity to all moments past and future, freeing us from our pernicious habit of perceiving time in linear terms, in favor of a framework that is at once spontaneous and infinitely patient.