Temporal Poetics in Thomson & Craighead’s The Time Machine in Alphabetical Order

Ruined Monument from George Pal’s 1960 film, The Time Machine

Published in “Time and Temporality” issue of Passepartout, Journal of Art Theory and History (2019) this article develops and uses new material-discursive theoretical frameworks that bring media archaeological analysis into conversation with art criticism. Through the detailed examination of an example of fine art practice—that of Thomson and Craighead’s The Time Machine in Alphabetical Order (2010)—the text undertakes the twin interrogation of the time-axis manipulation within this audiovisual work, and what this can tell us about the temporal complexity of the contemporary condition. It contributes new understanding to the work of Thomson and Craighead, the material-discursive infrastructures that articulate contemporaneity within network culture, and to the aesthetic experience of these conditions.

The first iteration of this research was selected for, and presentated at The Contemporary Contemporary conference, jointly organised by The Contemporary Condition research project based at Aarhus University, and the internationally renowned ARoS Kuntsmuseum in Aarhus, Denmark.

A much extended version of this paper was accepted for publication in “Time and Temporality” issue of Passepartout, Journal of Art Theory and History, published by Aarhus University Press. It underwent a double blind peer review process.

Additionally, the text draws on interviews by the author, with the artists, Thomson and Craighead.

The research grounds current discourses on contemporaneity, which have so far resided within art-criticism and philosophy, within material and processual methods of media archaeology. Conversely, it offers new ways to use and articulate media archaeology within a semiotic and aesthetic framework. Within a wider context it formulates perspectives on very recent temporal disturbances that characterise day-to-day experience of network culture, streaming, algorithmic and archival media. Moreover, the text contributes to a growing, but still small, body of art criticism around the work of Thomson and Craighead.