Glenn Kaino’s Artpace project is centered around Quarter Mile (2007), a three-channel video installation that distorts the rhythm of several ambitious competitors whose renown in their respective professions is a function of their ability to perform at a distinct speed. Each is presented on a separate screen traveling the same physical distance—a quarter of a mile; however, at any one time, two are sped up or slowed down to match the tempo of the third. Kaino’s cameras follow jazz singer Olu Dara along an infamous stretch of 125th Street in Harlem, race car driver Kenji Yamanaka speeding past the site of a celebrated automobile wreck, and Olympic athlete Sinjin Smith sprinting away from where a destructive storm has hit. Each transcends the past, arriving at the finish line only to begin again. The film’s constant stretching, compressing, and replaying of time exemplifies the discrepancy between expectation and actuality.
Another component of Kaino’s project, entitled We Will Breathe Later (2007), keeps time from moving forward. The piece features three hourglasses spinning at a specific velocity that prevents their symbolically charged contents from sifting downward. One of the hourglasses is filled with sand from the explosive Middle East, another with soil from capitalist Texas, and the third with grains of black silicon (an element used to make computers). Kaino has channeled the dogged revolutionary spirit of the title, which is a phrase from the student riots of May 1968 in Paris, as the work metaphorically accomplishes the physically impossible: along with time, it arrests the acceleration of military imperialism, industrialism, and technology.
The gestures in Glenn Kaino’s Artpace installation are informed by his personal understanding of history, power, and science, but also by the work of urban theorist Paul Virilio, who has proposed that the logic of speed (dromology) is the foundation of technological society, and that the negative consequences (accidents) increase with society’s speed. Kaino’s works acknowledge the role of time in shaping our understanding of the world, while challenging time’s seemingly fixed nature. Thus, he empowers each of us, suggesting that we are, ultimately, agents of our own experience.
- Kate Green