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clock-watching

Interview with 7 Participating Artists

Clock-watching is an experimental group exhibition that subverts the measurement of time on a historic clock tower in downtown Denver. Rather than keep time in the traditional sense—by seconds, minutes, and hours—this exhibition explores tracking time by the day of the week through a series of newly commissioned nighttime video projections.

Inspired by the perception of time slowing down during the COVID-19 pandemic, the month-long exhibition features a 7-day rotation of videos by seven artists, which explore an array of subjects—from abstract, painterly landscapes that unveil a slow, organic passage of time to a longing reflection on pre-pandemic weekend partying.

We asked each of the seven artists to describe their concept and source of inspiration for their video work.

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WANG Chen, The Sin Park (excerpt), 2021, site-specific projection. Daniels & Fisher Tower, Denver, CO. Photo by Wes Magyar. Courtesy of the artist, Black Cube, and Night Lights Denver.


WANG Chen (Mondays): The Sin Park presents a landscape of entangled elements and pulsating layers that together present ways of considering possibilities of imagined worlds. The combination of dense and highly saturated mise-en-scènes display allegories of power in regard to sexual identities within heteronormative social constructs. It demonstrates numerous processes of making and breaking: drawings, uniforms, performances and sounds are built up into complex image structures only to lead to a collapsible, unsuccessful utopia.

My vibrant multidisciplinary work merges the performative with the animated, bringing together amorphous background elements with the mythological beings inhabiting super saturated settings. It is a means of escapism, scenes like playgrounds, natures, and nightmarish landscapes that are representations of the world and community as I experienced and influenced by the individualistic ideology with US visual culture and conventional Chinese family life in nationalism. Under this umbrella, through my artwork, I question traditional gender identities and present a space to awaken a new sense of possibility in our societal constructions of sex, gender and sexuality. The work in fact creates a dialogue between conventional, binary view of gender and my own personal understanding of gender and sexuality as multiple open and ever-changing constructions. As I work through my past, the compulsory gender binary construction imposed by my convention Chinese family and society begins to morph into a future expression of all possibilities.


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Sabrina Ratté, Radiances IV, 2021, site-specific projection. Daniels & Fisher Tower, Denver, CO. Photo by Wes Magyar. Courtesy of the artist, Black Cube, and Night Lights Denver.


Sabrina Ratté (Tuesdays): Radiances is a series of paintings in motion. Through a combination of 3D-animation, video synthesis, and digital manipulations, painterly textures and organic forms emerge to create animated landscapes.


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Michael Menchaca, A Cage Without Borders, 2021, site-specific projection. Daniels & Fisher Tower, Denver, CO. Photo by Wes Magyar. Courtesy of the artist, Black Cube, and Night Lights Denver.


Michael Menchaca (Wednesdays): A Human Rights nightmare is occurring on our watch. A Revolution of Guilty Masters have partnered with the U.S. military, U.S. intelligence Agencies, as well as local and state law enforcement to create a digital caste system. Machine Learning is applied to the criminalization and surveillance of Black and Brown communities, streamlining marginalization. Ask yourself, "What is happening behind the screens?"

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Stephan Herrera, Digby’s Daydream [Thursday Afternoon], 2021, site-specific projection. Daniels & Fisher Tower, Denver, CO. Photo by Wes Magyar. Courtesy of the artist, Black Cube, and Night Lights Denver.


Stephan Herrera (Thursdays): Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve felt that I lose track of what day it is and that all days blend together, so this made the prompt feel very open-ended. I worked pretty intuitively and wanted to make something that was eye-catching, serene, nature-oriented; something that embraces mundanity, but also has the potential for the unexpected, which in essence is what Thursday means to me. I’ve always wanted to make a video that featured a clown-like character falling down a flight of stairs, so this seemed like the perfect vehicle for that. I thought the stairway lent itself to the vertical facade composition of the clock-tower. I also listened to Brian Eno’s “Thursday Afternoon” album to gain some inspiration for the piece, and also drew inspiration from animations such as “The Pied-Piper” by Jiří Barta & “the thief and the cobbler” by Richard Williams.


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Esther Hz, History Repeating, 2021, site-specific projection. Daniels & Fisher Tower, Denver, CO. Photo by Wes Magyar. Courtesy of the artist, Black Cube, and Night Lights Denver.


Esther Hz (Fridays): My concept for this project takes a look at patterns in social dynamics, hence the title "history repeating." We can learn a lot from looking at patterns in history personally and collectively, which is tied up with how we think of time and mark time for ourselves. I’ve been thinking about what will happen after the pandemic in our social lives, everybody is talking about baby booms and parties similar to how the roaring twenties followed the Spanish Flu and I wanted to play on that theme. The idea of history repeating ties into my personal history too, which I relate to my relationship patterns. My significant relationships have always been markers of time in my life and looking back I notice patterns that repeat, such as dating the same type of person over and over. Taking a look at these patterns and self-reflecting has helped me grow past them.

I make a lot of artwork around relationships and when I learned that Friday was named after the Goddess Freya, associated with love and sex, it seemed like a good place to start digging for inspiration. I loved the association with Freya and Friday, since Friday is one of those nights when people typically go on dates and hook up. The worms in the animation are a hint of the onset of Spring which we are currently experiencing, when all creatures get “spring fever.” There are three short vignettes where pareidolic characters are sort of merging or conversing and the oceanic or underwater vibe of the second vignette is a reference to the saying “there are many fish in the sea.” I’ve been really having fun with drawing and animating pareidolia in everyday objects lately, which is just another form of pattern recognition and something I look for in my everyday life. Time will tell if the baby boom and party pattern repeats itself after the pandemic and personally, I think we could all use a bit of a lighter time.


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Thea Lazăr, Shadows of Saturdays Past, 2021, site-specific projection. Daniels & Fisher Tower, Denver, CO. Photo by Wes Magyar. Courtesy of the artist, Black Cube, and Night Lights Denver.


Thea Lazăr (Saturdays): Saturdays is the day of Saturn, the god of plenty and liberation. It is said that during his reign everybody was equal, and all was common. In his honor, the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a weeklong festivity in December, where social structures and hierarchy were overturned so slaves, freedmen and masters feasted, drank and partied together. They all wore colorful festive clothing and the freedman's felt cap to gamble and exchange gifts on equal footing. For my work, I wanted to combine this mythological story with astrological imagery of the planet Saturn and sprinkle it with a bit of nostalgia from the pre pandemic times when we could all go out, as find myself longing for a time when we all could have danced together.

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Jan Chan, Purring • HK-London, 2021, site-specific projection. Daniels & Fisher Tower, Denver, CO. Photo by Wes Magyar. Courtesy of the artist, Black Cube, and Night Lights Denver.


Jan Chan (Sundays): Cat purring has the function of healing. With the Covid-19 pandemic occurring around the world and the situation in Hong Kong over the past years, we hope purring can heal the world.  Having experienced the pandemic, to me the measurement unit of time is not objective anymore; it has become subjective to me—time passes quickly or slowly, but truly depends on the mood and attitude. No one knows when the pandemic will end or has any idea when the freedom in HK will end. While living in the same space, is there a way that some issues can pass quicker while some can pass slower?