Exhibition | Screen Time: Photography and Video Art in the Internet Age

Featuring a global and intergenerational group of artists, Screen Time: Photography and Video Art in the Internet Age explores how digital media and the internet have transformed the ways we present ourselves, connect with others, and process the onslaught of information that characterizes our day-to-day lives. Curators Richard Rinehart and Philip Prodger bring together examples of lens-based practice spanning three decades, connecting prescient digital work of the 1990s with recent pieces by artists who have grown up in the era of apps and social media.

Christian Marclay (born 1955, San Rafael, CA; active New York, NY, and London), Still from Telephones, 1995. Single-channel video, duration: 7 minutes, 30 seconds. The EKARD Collection. © Christian Marclay Christian Marclay’s pioneering Telephones (1995), the earliest piece on view, depicts a montage of actors speaking on the telephone that the artist created using more than one hundred clips from classic films from the 1930s to the 1990s. The work playfully gestures to the convention of the jump cut—a technique used by filmmakers to transition between scenes in different locations or with different characters—for which telephone calls became a common narrative device. Marclay made this video from rented VHS tapes and movies he recorded from television. Today such compilations, known as supercuts, are common online and easily created using digital-editing software; in 1995, however, the piece required time-consuming taping and professional digital editing tools. Telephones raised questions about sampling and the creative use of material protected by copyright law that remain pressing concerns today as digital content incorporating such material proliferates online.

William Kentridge (born 1955, Johannesburg, South Africa; active Johannesburg), Still from Anti-Mercator, 2010–11. High-definition film transferred to video; duration: 9 minutes, 45 seconds. The EKARD Collection. © William Kentridge / Courtesy of the artistIn Anti-Mercator (2010–11), William Kentridge considers how systems for organizing and conveying complex information can shape, and potentially distort, the ways in which we perceive our surroundings. The work’s title refers to Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594), inventor of a schematic world map and chart that proved vital to navigators at a time when Europe was extending its territorial reach. The projection is still used to this day, though it distorts the size of landmasses, making areas above the equator (including Europe and the United States) appear significantly larger than their actual size. In the video, we see Kentridge’s hand as he leafs through a notebook, occasionally transcribing quotes, which include references to Isaac Newton’s description of linear, or consistent, time, developed in the 1680s, and Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity, published in 1905, which argues that speed changes our experience of time. Kentridge appears in miniature, walking forward through the notebook’s pages; the footage then reverses, with the artist propelled backward, running against the flipping pages as the information he has inscribed disappears. Through this visual metaphor, Kentridge cautions us to consider the fact that the lenses through which we choose to view information are likely to reinforce our preconceptions, an especially apt warning in the  era of online media.

Otobong Nkanga, Alterscape Stories: Spilling Waste, 2006–11. The EKARD Collection. © Otobong NkangaIn Alterscape Stories: Spilling Waste (2006–11), the Nigerian multimedia and performance artist Otobong Nkanga constructs an elaborate diorama that depicts the African archipelago of the Canary Islands. It is made from sculpted paper and adorned with materials that simulate a natural environment, including plastic trees, colored sand, photographic cutouts, clay, and glass. Part of a larger project in which Nkanga takes photographs of her interaction with dioramas of natural environments, Spilling Waste depicts the artist as a superhuman figure who towers over the landscape as she pours an ambiguous blue liquid. Her action alludes to the predicament in the Canary Islands, where potable water must now be imported since natural sources have been polluted by industrial production and the exploitation of the islands’ natural resources that began during the colonial period. Nkanga depicts herself with a bird’s-eye perspective that emulates the omniscient views available on Google Earth, as she looks down upon a landscape scarred by postcolonial legacies and threatened by environmental collapse.

Together, the works in the exhibition encompass a multiplicity of perspectives—at turns wry, playful, nostalgic, and critical—to explore the significance of art in a society in which the internet is omnipresent. Screen Time asks us to consider the ways in which our understanding of ourselves and our world continues to evolve in the age of the internet.

Beth Gollnick
Curatorial Associate, Photography and Modern and Contemporary Art

Screen Time was curated by Richard Rinehart, Director of the Samek Art Museum, Bucknell University, and Phillip Prodger, Executive Director, Curatorial Exhibitions. The works in this  exhibition have been generously loaned from The EKARD Collection. The exhibition is toured by Curatorial Exhibitions, Pasadena, California. 

Art on Hulfish is made possible by the leadership support of Annette Merle-Smith and by Princeton University. Generous support is also provided by William S. Fisher, Class of 1979, and Sakurako Fisher; J. Bryan King, Class of 1993; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; John Diekman, Class of 1965, and Susan Diekman; Christopher E. Olofson, Class of 1992; Barbara and Gerald Essig; the Curtis W. McGraw Foundation; Jim and Valerie McKinney; Tom Tuttle, Class of 1988, and Mila Tuttle; Nancy A. Nasher, Class of 1976, and David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976; H. Vincent Poor, Graduate School Class of 1977; and Palmer Square Management. Additional supporters include the Humanities Council, the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Department of English, the Center for Collaborative History, the Gender + Sexuality Resource Center, the Graduate School, and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative at Princeton (NAISIP).