Curated by David Hunt
Jane Benson, Ian Cooper, David Kennedy Cutler, John Espinosa, Rashid Johnson, Rosy Keyser, Demetrius Oliver, Alyssa Pheobus, Jennifer Ruff, Marc Seguin and Siebren Versteeg.
“Space Age and Stone Age attitudes overlap to form the Zero-Zone, wherein the spaceman meets the brontosaurus in a Jurassic swamp on Mars.” -Robert Smithson
The exhibition Zero Zone takes Robert Smithson’s oft-cited reformulation of time as a crystal structure whose matrix expands rhizomatically as its launching point. Whether describing the planetarium as Pascal’s infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere as a theatrical stage for “vague disorders and contingencies,” or the practice of art as a “vast mining enterprise, with innumerable shafts, most of them closed down,” Smithson, in a language of willful confusion and hyperbolic prophecy, began his lifelong critique of Hegelian linear time and its attendant illusion of temporal development that has come to structure all of art history.
For Hegel, art was a succession of incremental styles, each object improving piecemeal upon its immediate predecessor through subtle cosmetic variations in a grand program of triumphal universal humanism. We can thank Hegel for our culture of “Nowness,” our obsession with cultural artifacts that draw an exact and unerring bead on the tools, materials, and general atmosphere of our immediate present. In short, zeitgeist art marketed, promoted and embraced by a custodial class employed by museums where a leisurely afternoon trip to the mausoleum is an exercise in moving from void to void “where anachronisms protrude from every angle,” and “themes without meaning press on the eye.”
Through feedback loops, eternal recurrence, endless spiralling and circularity, and above all, the notion that all great art carries within it the protocols of its own entropic dissolution, Smithson was able to conflate “remote pasts” and “remote futures” as an antidote to what he characterized as, “that massive deception, the art history of the recent past.”
In the Zero Zone’s ambient economy, where emotions and moods prevail over the resolutely immanent, control and schematics take a backseat to the conjuring of signature auras. Vapors abrade, then coalesce. The will to timelessness through statuesque transparency is held in abeyance. Boilerplate appropriations of textbook styles of the “recent past” are blown out in favor of deep compressions of the galactic and the prehistoric. Time dilates back and forth; styles are elided to better stoke an atomized seepage.
Smithson would have blushed with fraternal pride at the new “New Monuments” created by the eleven artists gathered together in Zero Zone. “Instead of causing us to remember the past like the old monuments, the new monuments seem to cause us to forget the future.”