What does your internal landscape of time look like? Is it an orderly chase over a metaphysical racetrack neatly labelled with Life Events? Or something less mappable, measurable and comparable? These are the questions behind my growing collection of life maps, beginning with the five pictured above.
The top image shows four versions of Life Map (Tristram Shandy). I made this work as a way of amplifying the most significant visual element of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1767) by Laurence Sterne: its marbled pages.
Tristram Shandy is a fictional autobiography published just at the moment that the timeline of history becomes dominant, overriding pre-industrial models of time. In mockery of this new idea that the lived experience of time can be mapped, divided up and measured against a kind of cosmic line-rule, the novel is a self-proclaimed knot that can't simply be untangled. This is also true of its physical qualities, at least in its original form. Most significantly the first imprint of Tristram Shandy included a hand-marbled page, meaning that every copy was different from the next. Shandy calls this page the 'motley emblem of my work'. I think of it as a life map. Two and a half centuries later, to me it still rebuffs our version of the industrial model of time. Set against the CV and the social media timeline, it offers us an alternative form, one which refuses to reduce a life to a line of measured units like the output of a machine.
When I look at the marbled papers in Life Map (Tristram Shandy), memories and ideas surface differently each time. I might see volcano plumes, river deltas, mountain ranges. Another time, fossil slices, microorganisms, Mandelbrot maps, snow storms, bubble gum, Pollock splatters, Kusama rooms, screen static, black holes ... No doubt you see other things too. In this form of time map, there is no key, no scale, no dominant reading. If it is an image of our internal landscape, then in it memories and ideas don't make a neat orderly queue from past to future, but seem to rise and sink in a sea that connects without order the old and new, the half-forgotten and the ever-present. To me this seems a far truer picture of our lived experience and perception of time.
The marbled papers are produced by experts using 18th-century processes to take a print from the surface of a moving sheet of water prepared with oil and watercolour. Each is therefore an image of an unrepeatable moment in time.
In a wink to the aura of uniqueness lost through mechanical reproduction, but arguably retained by the prints, each work's translucent red frame appears to emit a soft glow under ordinary room lighting. The frame's inner side is mirrored. This produces a Rorschach-test effect at the print's edges, adds to its unstable watery quality and leaves the dimensions it inhabits a little ambiguous.
The four versions of Life Map (Tristram Shandy) were shown at South Kiosk, London (15 May-20 June 2014). They were accompanied by another life map from my collection: a two-hundred-year-old gamesheet and an early example of the timeline as we know it now. Its rope-and-coin motif pictures history as a progressive, measurable sequence of steps along a line towards a highpoint in the figure of George III. It's the kind of life map that Tristram Shandy tries to divert at its source.
I wrote about Tristram Shandy and some of my other favourite books for South Kiosk's recommended reading feature, here.
1. Life Map (Tristram Shandy) I, II, III, IV, Cathy Haynes, 2014. (Marbled paper, Perspex, mirror tape. Each 30cm x 30cm).
2. Life Map (George III) © Cathy Haynes 2014
3. Installation shot of Chronovisor: Archive at South Kiosk showing works by Cathy Haynes (centre wall), Mirko Smerdel (left and right on wall), Rowena Harris (sculpture), Johann Arens (floor vinyl) and Patrick Hough (video). Photo: courtesy the artists and South Kiosk.
For high resolution images, click here.