12 August 2011
Of all the benefits of human experience and accumulated knowledge, time is one of the trickiest to grasp. Sure, we can watch it pass with a clock’s hands. But what exactly are we experiencing and perceiving? We know; we surmise; we guess; we wonder; we theorize; we struggle: to comprehend the moving rhythms of the universe’s temporality. For me time is one of the more ethereal concepts to understand, yet it is measurable. It’s objectivity and subjectivity make it hard work to decipher its power over us.
Strangely, we measure time not just by the physical ticking or its constancy. Usually, we forage its passing through events in our lives, nostalgia, gains and pains experienced, the “here and now,” “in the moment” burst of ideas, magical times, traumatic ones, and lapses as well as unpredictability of memory.
Time can be charted and evaluated, revered and misunderstood. But it remains an essential part of the foundation for our passage into every movement, every destination, every attempt to grow and become. Some things in our lives can be explained by biology, chance, memory. Others are mysteriously received, because the conscious mind just cannot perceive the news.
The circadian rhythm is part of this formula to keep us guessing and playing with the cadence of time’s effect on every movement, even sleep. It wields its duty over the behavioral, mental and physical changes that occur in a day’s cycle–a cycle that is dependent on dark and light (and is reset each and every day). But the master of our internal clock is the brain.
In Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (2011) David M. Eagleman points out: “It is not only vision and hearing that are constructions of the brain. The perception of time is also a construction. When you snap your fingers, your eyes and ears register information about the snap, which is processed by the rest of the brain. But signals move fairly slowly in the brain, millions of times more slowly than electrons carrying signals in copper wire, so neural processing of the snap takes time. At the moment you perceive it, the snap has already come and gone. Your perceptual world always lags behind the real world. In other words, your perception of the world is like a ‘live’ television show (think Saturday Night Live), which is not actually live. Instead, these shows are aired with a delay of a few seconds… And so it is with your conscious life: it collects a lot of information before it airs it live.”
Wow, so I’ve passed my own actions, and I’m cast into the future. But wait, I’m seeing the past–eerie.
Maybe, that’s why I’m drawn to the photographic image as a means of self-expression, because it helps to define the blurred lines between time/space and past/present/future. It stops and resurrects what once existed, and keeps it present as though it still exists. The photograph gives me the ability to hold time’s breath. It’s an astonishing bit of innovation that changed art history, history and science. It’s also dramatically changed my life.
With camera in hand I search to fill the frame. I move toward Alpha state–feeling connected and disconnected in time. I’m traveling through a surreal space that helps me forage my own view of what is: my perception of an instant. Still, to complete the image taken and freeze what I see, I am sustaining time’s role in my life and the universe’s.
In that touch of my forefinger to record the “filled” frame, I am keeping that image alive: yet time is stilled, quieted and preserved.