Spatial and temporal thresholds in installation art: Jan van der Merwe’s Eclipse
PDF

Keywords

Postclassical (visual) narratology
Installation art
Temporal thresholds
Spatial thresholds
Liminality
Eclipse

Abstract

The notion of thresholds and their potential to suggest liminality is usually associated with spatialities. However, I contend this notion can be extended to layered temporal thresholds and temporal liminalities. I present this argument, using postclassical narratological concepts as theoretical framework, with reference to the South African artist Jan van der Merwe’s installation artwork Eclipse (2002). In this work, various spatial thresholds can be distinguished that relate to issues of conflict, mourning, exclusion, surveillance and the suggestion of death. This is achieved by means of a no man’s land experienced when entering the artwork, where the viewer-participant finds him or herself compelled to follow a footpath surrounded by barbed wire on which clothes made of rusted metal are suspended. This journey culminates in a wall that presents three screens showing rose petals being dropped, as if into a grave. Various possible places suggest themselves: refugee camps, concentration camps, war zones and a cemetery. I argue that these spatialities are made possible by temporal thresholds that accompany them. Apart from the patina of the rusted material that suggest the passing of time, the moving flower petals in the screens repeat constantly to create not only liminal temporalities in terms of the artwork at large, but also an iterative sense of the ongoing culmination of these temporalities in death and mourning.

Opsomming
Die idee van drempels en hul potensiaal om die liminale te suggereer word tipies met ruimtelikhede geassosieer. Desnieteenstaande voer ek aan dat hierdie gedagte verbreed kan word na gelaagde tydmatige drempels en tydmatige liminaliteite. Ek bied hierdie argument vanuit die kader van postklassieke narratologie as teoretiese raamwerk en met verwysing na die Suid-Afrikaanse kunstenaar Jan van der Merwe se installasiekunswerk Eclipse (2002). In hierdie werk kan ʼn aantal tydmatige drumpels onderskei word wat telkens kwessies van konflik, bewening, uitsluiting, dophou en die suggestie van dood aan die hand doen. Dit word bewerkstelling deur die ervaring van ʼn niemandsland wanneer die kunswerk betree word, omdat die aanskouer-deelnemer noodgedwonge ʼn voetpaadjie moet volg wat deur doringdraad omhul is en waarop klere wat uit geroeste metaal gesuspendeer is. Hierdie reis kulmineer in ʼn muur waarop drie skerms gemonteer het wat roosblare toon, asof in ʼn graf. Daar word gesinspeel op verskeie moontlike plekke: vlugtelingkampe, konsentrasiekampe, oorloggebiede en ʼn begraafplaas. Ek voer aan dat hierdie ruimtelikhede moontlik gemaak word deur tydmatige drumpels wat hand aan hand met die ruimtes gesuggereer word. Benewens die patina van die geroeste materiaal wat verband hou met die verloop van tyd, stel die herhalende beweging van die blomblare in die skerms ook liminale tydsfere aan die orde binne die kunswerk as geheel, en dryf ook – op iteratiewe wyse – hierdie tydsfere op die spits om ʼn suggestie van die dood en rou aan die hand te doen.

https://doi.org/10.19108/KOERS.86.1.2513

https://doi.org/10.19108/KOERS.86.1.2513
PDF
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2021 Array