A Fine Line: Anachronism

From my notes:

Anachronism describes the relationship between the physical archive—stored in ordered, dated folders—and the digital archive, in which it all gets slammed together. It’s about the website [icaphila.org] as a whole: thematic rather than driven by chronology.

Tamarin made her work, A Fine Line, with ICA’s website in mind. I’ve been working on ICA’s new website since the museum hired me on 9/12/2013 (ICA’s design and development process with Other Means has been significantly longer). Like many museum websites, this one makes significant portions of the institute’s archive available online—but the special thing about ICA’s website is that it does so anachronistically and in a fairly in-your-face way. There’s no escaping the archival materials and pre-1990 installation slides that appear each time you scroll.

From the About This Website copy:

As you scroll down any page, archival images and information appear, the past pushing forward into the present in a special space called a reveal.

In addition, when you scroll down any page, related pages appear next in the “infinite scroll” queue (think Tumblr, but less monotonous). Relationships between related pages are made through connected artists, exhibitions, curators, programs, and publications, not through corresponding chronologies.

This underscores something important about ICA and about the ways work encountered on the website could be received. The “contemporary” is at the core of ICA—it’s the museum’s middle initial. The contemporary, in ICA’s timeline, stretches at least as far back as the museum’s first exhibition, Clyfford Still, 1963. Agnes Martin is certainly contemporary in ICA’s frame. The contemporary is ever changing: what was contemporary in the 1960s feeds into what is contemporary now. The scroll/reveal proposes a version of the contemporary in which past and present are endlessly interrelated and superimposed.

The word “anachronism” reminded me of the book Compelling Visuality: The Work of Art In and Out of History, which is themed around “the interpretive role played by the historian’s personal experience with the work of art, situated in his or her own cultural milieu… the inevitability of anachronism” (Claire Farago). In particular, Mieke Bal’s essay in that book, “Ecstatic Aesthetics: Metaphoring Bernini,” is about two chronologically separate works, where one “translates” the other, translation here meaning that which serves “the liberation and release of its potential.”

This feels like it has something to do with a) the interpretive role of Tamarin’s personal experience with the Martin archive, situated in her cultural and aesthetic milieu, and b) the interpretive role of my personal experience with Martin’s and Tamarin’s work. Bal self-consciously works with her understanding of Louise Bourgeois’s modern sculpture to think through Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa and, again in Compelling Visuality, Georges Didi-Huberman notices that his descriptions of frescoes at San Marco are grounded in detailed knowledge of Jackson Pollock’s paintings.

It’s clear that A Fine Line is grounded in Tamarin’s knowledge, particularly of her current PhD project. Is A Fine Line then a translation of Agnes Martin—a sort of art historical text that pulls out the potential of works like Desert, 1961, and Galleries, 1961?

I’ll definitely think about this stuff more.