Closer by the Minute Introduction
Our life is a blur, a rush of sounds, a strafe of images bombarding our conscious and subconscious minds. Life today is accelerated by a click on a keyboard, a tap on a phone, a number on a digital clock falling second by second to the next and next minute—quickly turning to hours, to days, to years, and then a lifetime. Our lives in the twenty-first century have embraced speed, not just in the twentieth-century notion of glamorous, streamlined industry, but also in multi-tasking, scheduling down to the minute. We experience the nagging reminder of always having something to do next, without having time to digest or find closure in what has only just happened. Time devoted to contemplation or reflection is now strictly scheduled for many of us, as we carve out a few precious minutes in a busy day or week to reflect on the immediate past, present, or future. The question we must ask is, "How do we position ourselves in this time-turbulence, and through what means do we try to make sense of our lives?"
Filmmakers and visual artists David and Hi-Jin Hodge seek answers to this question as they confront issues of our psychological and physiological capabilities in understanding time. With the title of their exhibition and book, Closer by the Minute, the Hodges suggest that our human efforts are finite. The artists present an urgent call for all of us to examine our actions before the arrival of that final minute of our lives. The nine films that make up Closer by the Minute require us to slow down and ask what we want our individual and collective legacies to be.
Closer by the Minute comprises numerous sub-sets on the leitmotif of time. In their films, the Hodges pose insightful questions that explore individual hopes and resolutions. We listen to strangers speak of their aspirations for personal legacy or their attempts to better understand someone familiar who yet remains a stranger. We hear a global conversation of human beings striving for a comforting permanence in their lives, while recognizing that everything is constantly changing around them, and we consider one person's reconciliation of life and death and the truth that time and space continue with or without our physical presence. We are given a personal perspective by the artists on the city of Niagara Falls, New York, devastated by pollution and job loss.
In nature, the Hodges find the counterpoint to the hurriedness of life. Through the metaphor of the constancy of the ocean's tide or the annual cycles of planting and harvesting the land, we can understand the idea of change within permanence—the oceans continue, the land continues-and through the Hodges' exploration of our global dependence on petroleum, we can understand why it is so easy to rationalize it even though the commodity of oil is being steadily depleted.
I first met David and Hi-Jin Hodge when their work was included in the exhibition The Missing Peace (on view at LUMA from October 2006 to January 2007). In that exhibition, the Hodges' audio-visual installation, Impermanence, featured sixteen video iPods arranged in a circle, simultaneously displaying the images and playing the sounds of over a hundred people discussing the meaning of change. The voices, comingling, suddenly quiet, than starting up again, became both disorienting and hypnotic. One individual's words struck me as a bridge between Impermanence and Closer by the Minute and as the artists' original impetus to explore further our human relationship to time:
Coming to terms with the nature of time, the nature of something that is past and no longer retrievable and the future that is ahead of us and always forever unreachable demands some kind of attention to the present...
- David LaRocca, Impermanence, Snow Lion Publications, 2008, p.147
The material presented in Closer by the Minute conveys the artists' deep personal concerns and inspires us to discuss openly the enduring questions of life. The Hodges understand the nature of film and editing to speed up or slow down the approximation of real time. But, because many of the filmed interviews that are part of Closer by the Minute are presented to us fully, without edits, the viewer feels part of a real-time conversation of ten or twenty minutes. Ironically, the mediums of video and film, which so often compress time, here provide us the time for contemplation. The bombardment of the outside world slows down as we learn through these films how other people respond to the enduring questions of life. These lifelong questions, which are so much a part of our museum's mission, are addressed by the Hodges in a contemporary setting with media that has resonance and relevance in today's world.
Our lives are contained in the parentheses of birth and death, but the natural forces of this universe are a counterpoint to the short time we spend on earth. In many ways, Closer by the Minute is a collective mnemonic account of where we stand today, both as individuals and as a society, trying to live in the moment.
During the past four years, I have seen this project expand from a single work to nine interrelated videos and I am grateful to David and Hi-Jin Hodge and all those who participated in the interviews for allowing LUMA to bring this exhibition to Chicago.
It is with great pleasure that the Loyola University Museum of Art, its staff, and Loyola University Chicago present the online exhibition Closer by the Minute.
Pamela E. Ambrose
Director of Cultural Affairs