Every Fall the Blackwood Gallery commissions an artist to produce a work for the Bernie Miller Lightbox, a billboard sized (268.0 cm x 176.5 cm, 108″ x 72″) venue installed on the outside of the William Davis Building (formerly known as South Building) where the two wings of the building meet at the end of “Five Minute Walk”. The commissioned work stays throughout the school year. In the summer, the Lightbox displays the original work by Bernie Miller, Five Minute Mirror (2001), which inaugurated the site.
Karen Henderson, Slow Pan 5pm to 9pm.
There is a delicate form of the empirical
which identifies itself so intimately with its
object that it thereby becomes theory.
Karen Henderson photographs time.
Henderson utilizes finely focused strategies to capture time’s passing. Her enterprise, as Goethe alludes above, is subtly yet resolutely empirical. Time, image, and location conflate here in a work rendered fully viewable only once the four hours it condenses have been factored in. The image functions as a scanner of time, from left to right, from 5pm to 9pm, from day to night. The instantaneous moment usually associated with a photographic image is stretched until it is able to effuse a duration considerably longer than an instant. Slow and enduring is the operating paradigm for this photographic method.
The complexity of the seemingly straightforward image lies in its layered shifts. The aforementioned temporal layer is adjoined by at least three additional plays. First, the self-referential image reduces the scale of what it represents in order to fit into itself. In other words, the framing enables the concrete wall surrounding the billboard to be absorbed into the image. Second, there’s a doubling where the fluorescents which produce the artificial light in this image now light the image of themselves. In fact, their unrelenting constancy (in contrast to the fading natural light which produces the pan referenced in the work’s title) produces a brightness that obliterates the image. The fluorescents therefore shine through a pure white series of pixeless horizontal strips of plexiglass; in short they constitute stripes of non-image within the image. Third, the 4-hour light shift arrested in the image coexists within a 24-hour cycle exterior context of shifting shadows and mirrored angles. During the day, the billboard clearly announces its self-referential specificity. At night the piece glows like a beacon, still in slow mode but commanding an undeniable presence. These three distorting effects operate akin to a mise en abyme—an infinite interplay of reflections which incite the passersby to become passersthrough. Through the surface lie the tubes and the wiring, and also an alternative absorption technique: one where slow inference and consideration is favored over rapid bite-sized tweets. Subtle seepage insinuating itself amidst the hurried ambulations provides the viewer with an excuse to stay stuck in place and let the days and nights pan across one’s timeline.
Slow Pan 5pm to 9pm is the Blackwood Gallery’s 2010 commission for the Bernie Miller Billboard/Lightbox. It is intended in part to be in dialogue with the work featured in the Gallery’s Fall 2010 exhibition, Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965 – 1980.