Time {𝜏} and Eternal Life

Cromwell Place

5 October – 22 November 2020

Time {𝜏} and Eternal Life, at Cromwell Place, 5 October – 22 November 2020

Please read A Preview of Time {𝜏}  and Eternal Life, a Millennia-Long Exhibition at Cromwell Place

The exhibition, promoted by The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation and Flat Time House, in collaboration with Bowman Sculpture,  Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Lisson Gallery, Robilant + Voena and  Royal Museums Turin, spans over five millennia, exploring the concept of Time and of Eternal life from Antiquity to the Modern Era. This immense period is divided into three chapters, each a chronological step forward.

The concept of “Time” in the exhibition is expressed by the Tau {𝜏}  symbol which is present in the title.  The Tau sums up several meanings related to the concept of time. In Christianity, as a symbol of the cross, it is redemptive; in physics, Tau is an elementary particle; in astronomy it is a measure of optical depth; while in the theory of relativity, it symbolizes Time itself. The exhibition aims to give voice to some concepts related to the theory of eternity and the concept of time in art.

The first chapter spans from Ancient Egypt to sixteenth-century Italy, with many works generously lent by the Galleria Sabauda and the Musei Reali in Turin. An Old Kingdom statuary group (4th Dynasty, 2640-2520 BC) is the exhibition’s earliest representation of art and eternal life. In the detailed carving of precious limestone, the family unit is committed to memory. Thousands of years later, a bust of Julius Caesar portrays a different kind of immortality, more realistic and precisely human than the idealised Egyptian figures. The first room continues this theme of palpable representations of permanence with a further collection of stone and ceramic artefacts lent from an important Italian collection, exhibited in the UK for the first time.

The second chapter focuses on two remarkable artists from the twentieth-century, Alberto Burri (1915-1995) and John Latham (1921-2006), and their engagements with time and landscape. In 1968 an earthquake struck the Belice Valley in Sicily and left the town of Gibellina in ruins. Twenty years later, Alberto Burri unveiled his immense work of land art, Il Grande Cretto. He covered an entire hillside in undulating monolithic slabs of concrete, preserving the memory of the landscape in all its fragmentation. The major loan of a Cretto Bianco from the Burri Foundation offers this second room a physical index of the spectacular Gibellina work of Land Art.

Around the same time in Scotland, John Latham was also transforming landscape into artwork. To the Scottish Development Agency, a collection of ‘bings’ were no more than an eyesore, huge industrial mounds of shale waste in rural Scotland, a residue from nineteenth-century extraction. To John Latham, these landmasses would become the foundation for a new strand of work. Whilst on a placement at the Scottish Office, he advocated for the preservation of these mountains, made by thousands of hands over generations, designating them ‘Derelict Land Art’. He proposed monumental sculptures of books to sit atop their summits for visitors to observe these peaks from above, a record of the passing of Time through decades of deposition.

Time is intrinsic to Latham’s work; he developed his own cosmology, a theory of Time known as ‘Event Structure’ and later ‘Flat Time’, proposing that the most irreducible component of reality is not the particle but the ‘least event’. He believed that Time was all, that objects exist only as traces of events.

The third chapter explores variations of the eternal which are represented in contemporary art. At one end is the playful intricacy of Gaetano Muratore’s Time Machine: a colourful panoply of electronic and metallic devices that come together in an ironic reflection on the myth of the time machine. At the other end is the work of Emily Young, considered “Britain’s greatest living stone sculptor”. Her huge, chiselled heads bring the contemporary back to the antique. Humanity is lodged in the ancient, immoveable surface of stone.

A fully illustrated catalogue documents the exhibition with many scholarly essays and complete entries of the works. The catalogue is designed and edited by The Burlington Magazine, and published  by Ugo Bozzi Editore.

A number of events and lectures will also enrich the project, drawing out the relationship between art and science in Time {𝜏} and Eternal Life.