Compression of time

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Radio City Music Hall (1978)

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Radio City Music Hall (1978)

In the past few months, I’ve come across a variety of work dealing, in one way or another, with compression of time as a method for visualization. Despite the wide range of work, there are particular generalizable attributes which I will identify.

The first few examples are time lapse renderings, in which the view remains fixed as all information gathered over a period of time is displayed simultaneously.

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Theaters (1966), shown above, is a series of long exposure photographs of film theaters, based on the idea of capturing an entire film in a single shot.

Aaron Koblin, Flight Patterns (2005)

Aaron Koblin, Flight Patterns (2005)

Flight Patterns (2005) by Aaron Koblin is a visualization of air traffic density, depicting the patterns that emerge from overlaying flight routes based on actual data from the US Federal Aviation Administration. See also: Flight Curves (2006)

Stamen Design, Cabspotting (2006)

Stamen Design, Cabspotting (2006)

Cabspotting (2006) is a similar visualization to Flight Patterns, created by Stamen Design for the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Cabspotting traces taxi routes in San Francisco over time using a variety of visualization methods, including a time lapse view depicting taxi speed (shown above).

Michael Koller, Seamless City

Michael Koller, Seamless City

Seamless City by Michael Koller and its conceptual predecessor, Every Building on Sunset Strip (1966) by Ed Ruscha (above), consist of photographs taken sequentially and merged to form a single image. Here time is not shown through layering, but instead through the sequence of image segments forming the full photograph. Both pieces reveal a tension between the time span of their creation, on the one hand, and on the other their perception as a single moment in time.

The next two examples reflect a primarily conceptual compression of time.

Douglas Levere, New York Changing (2004)

Douglas Levere, New York Changing (2004)

In New York Changing (2004) by Douglas Levere, compression of time is evident, conceptually, in the comparison between the the newer images and the original photographs by Berenice Abbott. The passage of time between the two sets of images is left to be constructed in the mind of the viewer.

On Kawara, JUNE 16, 1966, “Two Tankers and two tugboats crashed in a fiery disaster in Lower New York Bay (1966)

On Kawara, JUNE 16, 1966, “Two Tankers and two tugboats crashed in a fiery disaster in Lower New York Bay (1966)

When viewed side by side, On Kawara’s Date Paintings are both a conceptual and literal example of time compression. The artist would create one painting through the course of a day, destroying it if he was unable to finish it. Through the process of its creation, a single painting is a literal encapsulation of a very specific span of time.

Kim Levin, Notes and Itineraries, 1976—2004 (2006)

Kim Levin, Notes and Itineraries, 1976—2004 (2006)

Not without similarity to the work of On Kawara is New York reviewer Kim Levin’s Notes and Itineraries, 1976—2004, a record of his documentation of the New York art scene spanning almost 30 years. Like the former’s Date Paintings, the similarity in the form of each piece of documentation enables comparison, offset by the arbitrary intervals of time, which emphasize the human condition: compression of time around memorable events.

Michel Gondry’s recent music video, From LA to NY, takes time compression literally, as a recorded roadtrip from Los Angeles to New York is compressed to fit into several minutes.

1 Year Performance Video is an homage to Sam Hsieh, documenting a year in the life of the two artists forming the collective MTAA. The piece is a seamless recording of an entire year, available for viewing online. By allowing the viewer to select a specific interval of time, it creates an awareness of the recorded performance in relation to the selected segment—compression of time based on an interaction.

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