Marc OilvierWahier — What was the last book you read?
Adam McEwen – Right now I’m reading The Inverted World by Christopher Priest, a sci-fi novel from the mid-70s. Its central plot device is that a city called Earth, post- some kind of apocalypse, must be hauled by ropes along tracks in order to keep as close as possible to the “Optimum,” a moving point which turns out to be a kind of analogy for the Present. It’s a very good metaphor for the way the present endlessly rolls over into the past, and the way we surf the roll.
Marc-Olivier Wahler – In this book, the gravity specific to the past and the future visually change the elements (the past compresses forms, the future stretches them). I’ve always thought that one of the differences between an artwork and a common object lies in the difference of gravity. When you see a pallet by Fischli and Weiss for example, it looks like an ordinary object but you can easily feel that the gravity is totally different. How does this story of The Inverted World affect you as an artist? How do you look at the past, could the past be affected by an artist’s gaze?
Adam McEwen — There is a density to great art works that seems to take them out of time, to make them look as if they’ve been around forever when they’re brand new and vice versa. It’s as if they’re able to hold a position of stillness. The visual conceit in The Inverted World, of the past physically compressing its inhabitants, is staggering; you first read it. The most affecting part of the book for me, though, is the sense of the city’s having to be in constant motion, of it endlessly having to pursue the future and escape the past, or face annihilation. That relates to art in the sense that art can be about pursuing a goal which is constantly moving. It’s uncatchable, which forces this relentless motion. But in terms of thinking about the past, for artists it’s exactly the opposite of that book’s compression: all of history is simultaneously present and available, and in some a sense, equal. There, is no time. History is the interior of a sphere, and for each artist sitting there thinking or daydreaming, their head is in the centre of that sphere.”
Text: ‘Adam McEwen in Conversation with Marc-Olivier Wahler’Palais, 13:10,2010. 6.
Image: Symmes’s Hole, via Museum of Hoaxes.