Time is Out of Joint, MAK Center, Los Angeles, 2020

Time is out of Joint, Calarts 2020 MFA Postgraduate Exhibition, a show in 3 parts, Sept. 3- Oct. 31, 2020, MAK Center Mackey Apartments courtyard and garagetop

Alia Ali, Naama Attias, Karlis Bergs, Casey Baden, Claire Chambless, Woohee Cho, Sophia Daud, Jenny Eom, Tracy Fang, Ashu Gera, Holly Harrell, Sterling Hedges, stephanie mei huang, Erin Kapor, Vinhay Keo, Lucy Kerr, Mia Yao Meng, Morgan Ogilvie, Minga Opazo, Alexeis Reyes, Hannah Rubin, Freddy Ruiz, Michelle Sauer, Andrew Siedenburg, Lillian Liyuan Yang, Evelyn Hang Yin, Ken Yuen, Erica Zhang and Xiaoyun Zeng

Time is Out of Joint

 Sheltered-in-place has to be a radical Robinson Crusoe experience, an experience that allows one to construct a home out of nothing. To start anew. Or to remember.

Catherine Malabou, To Quarantine from Quarantine, 2020

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, following a visit from his father’s ghost, the shaken prince cries “The time is out of joint; O cursed spite!/That ever I was born to set it right!” Things are eventually ‘set right’ through Hamlet’s quest to unearth the truth of his father’s murder and Horatio’s promise to recount the story upon Hamlet’s death.

In her pandemic-penned essay, Catherine Malabou quotes a passage from Rousseau’s Confessions describing his approach to confinement in a barren hospital or Lazeretto in Genoa during an outbreak of plague:

I began to arrange myself for my one-and twenty days…I proceeded to furnish the chamber I had chosen. I made a good mattress with my waistcoats and shirts; my napkins I converted, by sewing them together, into sheets; my robe de chambre into a counterpane; and my cloak into a pillow. I made myself a seat with one of my trunks laid flat, and a table with the other. I took out some writing paper and an inkstand, and distributed, in the manner of a library, a dozen books which I had with me. In a word, I so well arranged my few movables, that except curtains and windows, I was almost as commodiously lodged in this Lazeretto, absolutely empty as it was, as I had been at the Tennis Court in the Rue Verdelet.

It is through this improvisatory creative process, a process of ‘remembering’ and refiguring elements of his life before isolation that Rousseau sets things right.

Philip K. Dick’s 1959 novel Time out of Joint follows protagonist Ragle Gumm’s dawning awareness that he is living in a false reality. The revelation that he is living in a sophisticated simulation of (what he thought was) his 1959 Middle American town begins with bizarre incident: a soft-drink stand is replaced with a slip of paper with the words SOFT-DRINK STAND written on it. Dick’s novel planted the seeds for many a science fiction plotline and arXiv white paper to follow.

Hamlet’s pursuit of the truth of his father’s death, Rousseau’s clever innovations for domestic well-being under quarantine, and the scales falling from the eyes of Ragle Gumm all suggest that a ‘time out of joint’ is not merely a time of anxiety, confusion, and loss but also of reflection, innovation, and the unveiling of truths not readily apparent in ‘normal’ times under ‘normal’ conditions. The process of ‘setting right’ is an individual as well as a collective endeavor, and per Malabou, can “allow one to construct a home out of nothing. To start anew. Or to remember.”

The artists participating in Time is out of Joint have spent the recent months ‘remembering’, ‘starting anew’, and ‘constructing homes’ for themselves and others, improvising solutions to the everyday problems of artmaking, and addressing the issues raised by the pandemic and the intensifying movement for racial and social justice.

Three consecutive exhibitions, each showcasing ten participating artists, will take place at the MAK Center’s Mackie Apartment garagetop, garage, and courtyard spaces beginning September 3, 2020. The exhibitions will be accompanied by livestreaming launch events featuring Calarts School of Art faculty and time-based works as well as an ‘unbound publication’ modeled on the Fluxus’ artists’ legendary Fluxkits and yearboxes and Marcel Duchamp’s ‘museum in a box’ Boîte-en-valise (de ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Selavy), 1935-41.

Scott Benzel