Creative Global Network for the Visual Arts

The incessancy of time is one that looms over our modern society. The pressure to always be somewhere, the thought that I might be late or could be using time more wisely is both blessing and curse. The opportunity to take time to stop and consider becomes difficult.

Kris Martin’s ‘What’s the Time’ is an empty room embellished with only two small speakers hung on adjacent walls in one corner. The first asks ‘what’s the time?’, the other replies ‘sssh’. It is simple, and seemingly understated. A simple question easily ignored. The barrenness of the room becomes apparent in the gaps between the statements, the sound of the office below and of cars passing in the street outside, even the view from the windows onto Hoxton Square itself. I have stepped into what feels like a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the streets of Islington, into a place where Martin allows me to stop and rest.

Except he doesn’t. That small question echoes, not literally, but within the mind. I want to sssh it myself, but the voice is persistent, repeating every thirty seconds, not long enough to forget it entirely, not long enough to focus on anything else. Much like the fast music in supermarkets or the sound of footsteps on the underground, the sonic effects your actions. The quiet is persistently broken by this nagging question, until it begins to play on my mind. ‘I wonder how long I’ve been here, have I got time to see another show, when was I meant to meet Dave?’. Martin is now playing with my mind. Maybe it is the repetition; maybe it is the words themselves.

Martin considers “every single piece as an invitation for the viewer to reflect”. So why would he disturb the space? Perhaps then, he is not trying to keep people moving, or create unease, but to let that question play on your mind long enough to ask how the pressure of time affects yourself. He shatters the perception that you must be peaceful in order to reflect, and although he presents an empty room, that you must be without distraction. It is precisely the way the viewer ends up reacting that forms the basis of consideration, something he will relinquish control of, unpredictable and unrecordable.

I leave, forgetting to view the rest of the show, distracted instead by the lack of time.

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The idea behind the piece is definitely timely. Your reaction to it is analytically sound, based on your experience there in the room, rather than some historical or theoretical discourse that might support the work. I have this feeling that sound art leads us to be personal about it, at least more than visual art. Sound enters ears, body and mind, it envelops and overwhelms the listener who tends to react more viscerally to it, even when confronted to a conceptual piece. I am not sure about this. You may simply have a personal style of reviewing art that I happen to find attractively... appropriate. Do you write regularly?

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