The Time Zone. Master Degree Thesis by Xinia Guan

Article  /  XiniaGuan   Research   CriticalThinking
Published: 10.12.2020
Xinia Guan Xinia Guan
Xinia Guan
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Xinia Guan. Brooch: Flatland II, 2020. Anodized sterling silver, stainless steel (pin).. 24 x 31 x 8 cm. Photo by: Xinia Guan. From series: Flatland. Xinia Guan
Brooch: Flatland II, 2020
Anodized sterling silver, stainless steel (pin).
24 x 31 x 8 cm
Photo by: Xinia Guan
From series: Flatland
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Time is the foundation for all great art, and it is a recurring theme found in the work of philosophers and poets throughout history. During three years of graduate study and practice, my works have gradually grown in static production and dynamic communication with the outside world. The thesis expounds the presentation of the flowing, linear time in the work and the contradiction and opposition of the nonlinear time. Combining with my graduation work collection, I use repetitive geometric design to express my different understandings of the concept of "time zone."
/ Xinia Guan
A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Jewelry in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design.

Keywords: Geometric, rhythmic, meticulous, time zone, geometric space, contemporary jewelry, process.

>> Read the complete Master Thesis.

Capture - the experience of photography

How do we capture the blooming of a flower? I am often reminded of a childhood memory: in order to complete the homework assigned from my teacher, I would sit in front of the windowsill all day and night and stare at the flowerpots at home. The slow blooming of the flowers transformed into the frame after frame in my mind. With technological innovations, time-lapse photography has become a portable technology that everyone can readily obtain. With this, the slow blooming process of a flower can be easily compressed in a few seconds. The change in the concept of time always affects how we understand the world, and even determines what time and space dimension we exist in. There are few artistic themes more enduring than time. Time dominates the emotions and has majestic power which finds itself so deeply rooted in life.

Throughout different time periods, people have used various technologies to explore time and interpret it in different ways. Time accepts everything but remains mysterious: just as a piece of glass cannot replace a kaleidoscope, a leaf cannot manifest a tree. Generations of people have dreamt of walking out of the labyrinth of time: starting with a fanatical desire for the future and ending with a gloomy sadness about the past. The exploration of time requires us to jump out of the current time zone every so often—to help understand time’s real meaning. Doing this provides a deviation from the standard way of thinking and offers a new perspective from another angle.

In my graduation work collection, I named one of the series Capture (Figs. 1-2). It was my intention to provide some understanding of time within photography. Before my graduate study, I was a freelance photographer for about two years. I went to every corner of China carrying my camera, and it quickly evolved from an interest to a career. During this time, I was able to feel such a variety of life experiences through the lens, sometimes noisy and silent and other times bright and gloomy. Behind the light and shadow, not only did I see the pleasure brought by color, structure, and the multifaceted nature of people, but also the thinking of time and record. Therefore, I put this idea of capture into my works.

Fig1, Xinia Guan, Brooch: Capture I, 2019 Sterling silver, stainless steel (pin), black patina. 7.5 x 7.6 x 2.1 cm.

Fig 2, Xinia Guan, Brooch: Capture III, 2020, Sterling silver, stainless steel (pin). 7.9 x 7.9 x 2.5 cm.

Nowadays, wondering about a lifetime, especially the tiny experience of individual life in the vast concept of space-time, is not new. What matters is that when the passing of time is presented in the form of photographic media, what kind of multi-level and complexity can a photo convey?

Photography, by capturing the fragments of the world instantaneously, endows it with nostalgic melancholy. Based on the real existence of photography, whether it is a spectacle once seen in a hundred years or a corner of daily life, the value of recording materials is high or low. When it is reproduced in the form of photos, those photographed noumenon, which is the absolute past, can never happen again.

The word photography means existed in Latin. For the subject, one second recorded by the camera means that this second will extract memories relying on the photo from the tens of thousands of lost lives, making it exist as evidence. As for the sound of the shutter, it happens so fast and exists so temporarily it is reminiscent of our existence. We can even say that photography is the art of time, and when photography deliberately shows the passage of time, things get interesting.

Wash and Sleep (Fig, 3) is the continuous work of photographer Guozhu Guo since 2008. This work uses an 8x10 inch pinhole camera to expose the subject's sleep all night and reflects the image of the subject on the bed as scattered as clouds, which contrasts with the clear image of indoor objects. It intends to use photography to illustrate the author's thinking about time and life: In the face of time, all life forms are equal passers-by; or even shorter than the material world we are chasing.[1]

Exposure up to 6-10 hours takes photography from the capture of an absolute accident into a long and patient observation. The camera crouches in a corner of a person's secret space, watching the unconscious movements of people in sleep. And the mental state of the subject is also worth pondering: he knows that he will spend the whole night under the camera's gaze, but his sleep eventually makes him lose the vigilant consciousness of being photographed, revealing his real and natural physical state. For the viewer, it takes only a second to see such a picture, but what happens in a few hours comes to their attention at the same time. Photography compresses time and shapes in time. In the end, the traces left by the human body in the passage of time are like the cocoon of time. The two-dimensional nature of the photo determines that it can’t keep the flowing image, and the overprint of time can only present the structure of nothingness.

Fig 3, Guozhu Guo, Wash and Sleep, 2008.

Sugimoto wrote lyrically: the human eyes, without shutter devices, must be able to adapt to long-term exposure. From the moment you open your eyes for the first time on the ground to the moment you close your eyes at the end of your bed, there is only one exposure time for human eyes.[2] In this way, human life seems to simulate the longtime of long exposure shooting, which just confirms Susan Sontag's sentence that Life is a film, death is a picture.[3]

If the scope of the lens is wide enough, the shutter time is long enough: from eight hours to eighty years. Then, our hard-working life will eventually be taken in by a photo (it can be expected that the photo will be a blank). Photography has become a kind of imagination changed from being to nothing, but people's memory can't be taken away by photos. We are immersed in the passing time of life, staring at how the past period of time is fixed, questioning each other between seeing and being seen, and questioning each other between photos and me. This constitutes two ways of disappearing: one is the disappearance itself, the other is disappearing in the thinking of disappearance.

Revive - The Psychology of Time
From the measurement of time, that is, in what way does time exist? Augustine said that people usually divide time into present, past and future,[4] and people teach children like this. If there is a future, then the future will become a present, whether it will stand out from a hidden place and become the present; if it is now a past, then whether it has now entered a hidden place and become a past; the future is there, but we can't see anything that doesn't exist.

Therefore, when we think about this problem carefully, we are also puzzled. In fact, we always say that the past, present and future are just memories, feelings and expectations of life. They are just a kind of scene or a story that we have experienced and all kinds of sentiment. These are not time itself. It is just an understanding of the vulgar time. The past, present and future are just the way of expressing time, and they are different from time. Time is an abstract logical concept. Time is only a relative measure because there is no absolute fixed time. Time is the basis for the existence of the psychological extension, and people perceive time itself through the flow of consciousness.[5]

Time is the language designers are best at. They seek out the natural details of the seasons and capture the moments between the minutes. Time has many forms of expression, and designers and artists are observant painters, allowing living time to reveal its traces. We don't seem to pay much attention to time itself and what it looks like as it passes by. A Stockholm studio adept at creating digital works of art with analog clocks poetically records the path of time with thousands of simple but consistent clocks and hands. A Million Times (Fig.4) is a large installation made up of 288 clocks and 576 independent motors. A white clock face and black hands gracefully dance as if to the Austrian waltz’s smooth melody and obvious rhythm. The movement of the hour and minute hand present the specific design, with the visual effect of the black and white to describe the correct time.

Fig 4, Humans, A Million Times installation Since 1982.

Whether the hands of the 288 clocks move rhythmically or are rearranged and rearranged, they are simple and serious. When the needle moves slowly into line, it is like a slow-motion domino, which not only locks the function of the clock to let time appear quietly, but also presents a wave-like effect, just like being hypnotized, simulating the natural characteristics of time with visual magic. When we sigh at the appearance of such beautiful pictures, it also seems to answer the question in our hearts.

This may be the appearance of time coming and going. Every minute and second is recorded by this installation art. From a daily perspective, time is a very mysterious abstract object, which can represent the past, the present and even the future, elusive and indescribable. However, after the transformation of the designer, like the stealth of time as if to put on a tangible coat, with graphics, with sound, with the state, with the smell to leave us after the mark.

At the Milan exhibition in 2017, French design company Servaire & Co. cooperated with fragrance brand Diptyque to expand the essence of Diptyque 2017 (Fig. 5). Time left traces for life in the form of fragrance and condensed the good time into precious memories through fragrance.

Fig, 5 Diptyque 2017, Servaire & Co.

Although we can't go back to the past, we can create classic memories through smell. Using a circle and mirror, Diptyque expands fragrance and sound, which can trigger memories, to show the beauty of the invisible world. The six circles that use the lens to reflect the image are nestled together, allowing the fragrance to permeate scent in the space. The combination of works of art, the architectural aesthetics of the palace, the writing on the walls, the changing colors and different languages make the fragrance blend with the passing time and people's imagination. It is not so much an essence as a work of art in close contact with time.

One of my graduation works was named One Year (Fig. 6). This is a handmade wooden structure hourglass. The content is compared with the sand of a traditional hourglass. My hourglass contains the silver powder accumulated from a year's work at my daily practice bench. Just as time is a tool that cannot be touched or perceived by the public outside of the work, I carefully collected silver powder, connecting it to the process of my work and present it in an understandable way. Therefore, time and my works are connected through the concreteness of time.

Nietzsche developed the concept of eternal return in Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None. He stated in the theory, everything will return forever, and we are included.[6] We used to be a process that has existed and died countless times. All the things around us have existed and died with us. Nietzsche’s theory explains that there is no so-called immortality in this world. The soul will die instantly at the end of life, but both man and the world will return. The relationship between man and the world is also returning, recreating, and returning to this cyclical process. This great philosopher's concept of time broke the shackles that people have held on the supremacy of religion for centuries. In his opinion, there is no such thing as past, present, or future. The present is the return of the past, and the future is the return of the present.

Time is infinite, but the power and the combination of power in the world are limited. The finite power is constantly moving and combining in infinite time. This method will inevitably be repeated, which is the core of Nietzsche's time concept-eternal return.

Fig. 6, Xinia Guan, Object: One Year, 2020, Wood, Glass, Brass, Silver powder.

To act as an individual, the most important thing is to act boldly and decisively in the moment. Only when we act in the moment can our actions penetrate into the future and accept and affirm all the past. I have learned a lot from Nietzsche's philosophical theory, and I have begun aspiring to incorporate his philosophy more into my daily life, to continue learning and creating. I believe that every moment is eternal, eternal reincarnation. Every moment is meaningful and a creative opportunity. While in the process of creating works, I was in the moment, and the cycle of collaborating moments helped subdue the dullness, breaking through the emotions and the body itself. It created a space where my mind can swim in its own time zone, enjoying the throbbing and vitality endowed by this calmness. How to perceive time itself is determined by the length, width and dimensions that we can perceive. In many cases, this big ruler of time is no longer a unit of measurement and actually helps create a gleaming door. This door leads me to more possibilities and richer pictures.

[1] Guo,Guozhu. Wash and sleep,2008.
[2] Hiroshi Sugimoto, Nature of Light (Shizuoka, Japan: Koko Okano, 2009).
[3] Sontag, Susan. A Susan Sontag Reader. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1982. Print.
[4] Augustine, Confessions, trans. Vernon J. Bourke (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1966). eBook Collection (EBSCOhost).
[5] Augustine, “Introduction,” Confessions and Enchiridion, ed. and trans. Albert C. Outler, Library of Christian Classics, vol. 7 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955).
[6] Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None. Modern Library. 1995.

>> Read the complete Master Thesis.


About the author

Xinia Guan was born and raised in Inner Mongolia, China. She has Dual B.A. Degree in Literature and Economics from Inner Mongolia University. She studied for an M.F.A. in jewelry at Savannah College of Art and Design. She has achieved several exhibitions in the USA, Europe, and China, participated in JOYA Barcelona 2019, Munich Jewelry week 2020, and Athens Jewelry week 2020.

​During three years of graduate study and practice, her works have gradually grown in static production and dynamic communication with the outside world. The combination of time and space has become everything in her current works. The meaning of creation is both construction and deconstruction. What is created in time will also be slowly deconstructed in time. But the process of learning and practicing has become an irreplaceable core on this road.