How can you materialize a concept like ‘time’? In previous posts I have often written about the function of art. In interviews with artists I always ask about their motivation and about a message they would like to send to the world, as a person and as an artist. It’s a personal thing, I like artists that have something to say. Artists that want something more than just an aesthetic quality. But other than sending out a message to the world, art can also be very useful in helping us understand the world around us. Let me explain by warping you to another subject by jumping through a wormhole at hyperspeed.
Stephen Hawking is a very, very intelligent man. Some would argue he might even be the greatest mind alive, but I am not in any position to make a comment on that. But besides ‘knowing a lot’ he is also capable of translating it in a way that even normal mortal souls like myself can understand a bit about stuff like ‘string theory’, ‘dark matter’ or ‘the expansion of the universe’. Even though this is all very ‘beta science’, all research takes place at a very abstract level. First you have to accept that there is much more going on around than that which we can observe ourselves. You have to accept that our eyes may be very complex, but what they can actually see is very limited indeed. However, we are all very used to the idea that dogs can smell more than we can, rabbits hear more, eagles see more, et cetera. But all this takes place in the safe three dimensions we know.
A very basic step you have to take to be able to appreciate the things that Stephen Hawking writes about is realise that ‘time’ is a fourth dimension we live our lives in. A lot of scientist think it is very probable that there are no less than eleven different dimensions (according to the so called M-theory which forms the basis for all five string theories). All dimensions other than the four we know -and love- are ‘curled up’. And this is the point where you lose me. A curled up fifth, sixth or even seventh dimension? A concept like that is just so far away from everyday life it’s no surprise that mankind came up with religion to explain ‘existence’. I’d like to take a step through a negative energy field in the universe which is needed for theoretical time travel, so we get back to the point where I mentioned how art can explain the world around us.
In 2002 I visited the contemporary art museum MuHKA in Antwerp. When I visited, there was an exhibition of Japanese born artist Suchan Kinoshita. There are some events in your life that you will carry with you all your life and for me, this was one of them. One of the things that had greatest impact on me was her installation ‘Hok 1′. It’s basically just a wooden box in which, on a table there are a couple of glass sculptures in which different coloured oils were running down at their own pace. If you just see the picture it probably doesn’t even look like something special at all. But art, like life, is not something you can experience by just looking at the pictures. The whole presentation of her work, starting with the way she had redesigned the entrance of the museum, prepared the visitor for the experiences she had designed. The most impressive one, for me, was ‘Hok 1′. It made me actually feel time. The different speeds at which the oils were running down in the different shaped glass canisters presented a strong visual representation of something that you are almost never aware of. For a moment I could feel myself moving through that fourth dimension, which was a very weird experience. It was a fraction of a second, but, especially in a posting like this one, I have to say that it could also have lasted an eternity… depending on the observer.
Hok 1 has had a great influence on my life, it has me rethink choices I had made about my professional career and personal ambitions. But it has also helped me in understanding what Stephen Hawking and all his colleagues are talking about. Suchan Kinoshita’s art has helped me understand the concept of time.