In photographing the immaterial, Whelan shares subjects with Vikram Divecha’s exhibition at Gallery IVDE earlier this year. ‘Towards Opacity’ documented the various failures, human or technological, in interpreting light. Divecha compares apparatuses of capture and display, from the smartphone to the museum, engaging with a larger narrative on exhibition-making, ruin and preservation. ‘While the museum is this massive, powerful institution, the phone is this pervasive, palm-sized mode of accessing the world today,’ he says, attuned to the fact that both ways of receiving information are inherently lawed. Lazy Loading is a painterly body of work composed of images taken before they are downloaded in a visual scroll. These solid, textural blocks become colour-coded placeholders of Google image searches, displacing an already digitised reality into a series of abstract glyphs. If Whelan translates duration through the consolidation of moving light, Divecha decelerates time through mediated intervals. Divecha’s Galley 354 is an installation that remakes a photographic darkroom, but where blank pieces of photo paper loat in developing trays, seemingly as evidence of failed exposure. In an accompanying audio track, Divecha interprets darkness as an excavational experience, exploring fugitive objects, historical images which evade capture and William Henry Fox Talbot’s camera obscura; he also mentions a debate between two scholars about time-travel and timelessness. These expanded forms of ‘looking’ against an expanded understanding of temporality are also put under consideration in the latest audio composition by Soundwalk Collective at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. We Are Not Alone describes the imminent world of AI, interstellar travel and the potentialities of technology to rewrite what we might observe. While wandering around the museum’s holdings of ancient artefacts we listen to actor William Dafoe narrate: ‘When no conscious being observes them [light particles], then they have no reason to manifest and can evolve in an inde inite state. That indetermination is called the cosmos’s emptiness. As the universe’s expansion is accelerating, all currently observable light particles will eventually appear to be frozen in time.’ At the other end of town in Jameel Arts Centre is Larissa Sansour’s latest sci- i dystopia, In Vitro, 2019, where an avalanche of oil-black luid obfuscates an ancient city. Set in an underground bunker a er Bethlehem has experienced this mysterious ecocatastrophe, scientists are replanting heirloom seeds to build anew. The ilm forms a critical comment on our global climate crisis in a politically volatile country. The younger protagonist in the ilm, a clone, who was born underground and whose recollections are inherited by those who experienced the disaster, argues that the only imagined future in its a ermath is one without memory. In Ben Mauk’s 2016 text Distant Hammers: Notes on Art and the Apocalypse, the author points out that, in the past, artists and writers were tasked with bearing witness to apocalypse, but that apocalypse is no longer an event that can be perceived. ‘The apocalypse is no longer a visual object,’ he writes. ‘The apocalyptic narrative was reinvented as a spectacle of our own disastrous velocity. Our speed outstripped our self-knowledge … From there it didn’t take long to arrive at the notion that we might destroy ourselves without even realising it.’ Mauk observes, echoing Kanwar, that as the world becomes increasingly uninhabitable, an apocalyptic moment is something we seek to measure rather than see. I would argue otherwise. Whether in archival or speculative forms of art, it is artists who are taking on the responsibility of apprehending the apocalyptic by tackling the impossibility of ‘seeing’ in itself. Nadine Khalil is deputy editor of Canvas.
Amar Kanwar, Such a Morning, 2017
Art Monthly no. 442, December 2020 – January 2021
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