ICA#039;s clockwork finds meaning and confusion in time

by Beacon Staff • January 28, 2009

,Upon looking through the glass entrance to the Institute of Contemporary Art, curious viewers are beckoned by the Technicolor looking glasses of Ugo Rondinone's iclockwork for oracles/i. The Swiss artist's installation graces the Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall, and greets visitors in the foyer of the ICA.

Mounted to it are 52 rectangular mirrors, each framed and divided by thin wooden panels and made to look like brightly tinted windows. Reflections of popping pink, electric indigo and highlighter yellow accent their mesmerizing surfaces. Each mirror varies in size and placement, lending a transcendent, hippie feel to a nearly over-stimulating visual.

The backdrop for his "windows" is seamlessly constructed wallpaper sectioned together by hundreds of whitewashed pages taken straight out of iThe Boston Globe/i.

Boasting just as many ads as articles and following no chronology, it seems the artist chose pages that would provide an appealing condition for the frames.

Overall, the newspaper spread gives an artistically monotonous vibe to the passage of time underlying his glassy panes, and it tones down its hypnotic qualities. Instead of looking like bizarre hallucinations, they are transformed into a series of imaginative, introspective portals, reminiscent of a child's kaleidoscope.

As the title suggests, Rondinone uses this opportunity to explore the mystical nature of time in the spatial practices of art. As implied by the placard description, he attempts to combine the precision of the past, the perplexity of the present and the wonder of the future into one stupefying space.

Unfortunately, pensive as it may be, the artwork's supposed meaning doesn't always shine through.

Each window is meant to represent a week in the transpiring of a year. The wall is designed to simply reproduce a makeshift calendar of perception.

Clarifications aside, his attempt is unlikely to be recognized en masse. If not for the daily print history behind it, no simple spectator would guess at Rondinone's intention; and even with iThe Globe/i as a constant reminder of the past, his desired effect is still puzzlingly elusive.

Even so, his end product is so fascinating it hardly matters whether his true intentions surface successfully. The beautiful mystery of time is immeasurably, or measureably, maintained.

The title, iclockwork for oracles/i, is a line from the poetry of Edmond Jabes, a Parisian, post-World War II poet known for his literary illustrations of Judaism and exile.

According to the ICA's biographical description of Rondinone, the artist wrote an e-mail to Nicholas Baume, chief curator at the museum, expressing that he admires Jabes's poetry because it reveals "a mystical attention to religious experience coupled with a real engagement with daily human conditions."

Through this lens, one can appreciate Rondinone's radical mirrors; they uncover the human relationship to time, felt interpersonally and spiritually.

In that sense, the wall of art invites its audience to stop, reflect and intake the amazing sight, whether cognizant of the ticking clock or not.

iThe Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall installation/i clockwork for oracles iwill remain on display until November 1. /i