Time travelling

Mark Wallinger, Time and Relative Dimensions in Space, 2001

It was the title of George Shaw’s painting of a phone box – The Time Machine – that brought Mark Wallinger’s Time and Relative Dimensions in Space to mind. The work is a replica of a police box with a mirrored surface. Police boxes really don’t exist any more so we only really recognise them in the form of Dr Who’s TARDIS. The nature of the tardis is that is appears from nowhere and can disappear in an equally incomprehensible manner.  Whereas the tardis is either there or not there, Wallinger’s box seems to be simultaneously there and not there.

The box of course reflects its surroundings, but in a typical white cube gallery space it has the capacity to almost disappear into the space. In an earlier work, made as a result of a residency in Oxford, Wallinger placed replica tardises both inside and outside the Museum of Natural History in Oxford. Here of course the tardis is in two places at once, which confuses matters in a different way.

Time and Relative Dimensions in Space outside Museum of Natural History, Oxford, 2001

Museums such as this are, if not time machines, then time capsules perhaps. In a sense the result is the same: we are transported back to an unfamiliar time by the sight of fragments of dinosaur and relics from the distant past. In a sense perhaps, by alerting us to what has already changed, we may also glimpse a possible future.

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