James Clar: Cosmic Time Versus Capitalist Time
Working at the juncture of art and technology James Clar's multifaceted global studio practice creates space for an investigation into ideas inspired by the digital and human lived experience. Born in 1979 in United States, and of Filipino heritage, Clar studied for a BA in Film and Animation at New York University and went onto pursue his MA at the New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program, which established the foundation for his experimental art practice. Clar has held studios in multiple cities, which have sometimes overlapped, and have included Dubai, New York, Tokyo, and now predominantly Manila, where the artist is based. Having lived and worked across diverse cultural topographies, traversing both the Global North and South, Clar's artworks map out alternative transcultural and transnational connections, which transcend geographical borders, and engage with a fluid dialogue between the migration of art and ideas.
Through his art practice Clar combines popular cultural tropes that are anchored in consumerism and capitalism's long held obsession with 'functional' labor practices, alongside an avid interest in science fiction and ideas relating to the cosmos. His works often set up a complex critique of competing value systems by way of employing the language of technology rooted in accessible and quotidian reality. Clar's works readily invite audience participation to explore technological innovation as a poetic tool and in this context his multifaceted art moves beyond the argument of "technology for technology sake" and "art for art's sake," to highlight the union of art and technology, which can not be divorced from the contemporary practices of daily life. Subsequently, the confluence of these ideas form the basis for the following discussion which explores a brand new body of work that the artist created between New York and Manila during the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Experimenting with the language of sculpture and the readymade Clar's new works are grouped under the rubric of Share Location which is ordinarily understood as a digital request for locating physical space and connectivity, which happens in real time and pinpoints a real geographical location. Ironically, Clar subverts the idea of connecting in the physical sense to explore ideas related to celestial or cosmic space, which is quantifiable by its own unique lunar cycle and rhythm. In the work 'A New Day/ A New Night' (2021) a multipart installation composed of television monitors, mini computers and custom software, Clar presents a clock that depicts a city in the globe where the Sun is either rising or conversely setting for every minute of the day. By employing the use of customized software the clock is able to accurately relay in actual time the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. As the Sun is emblematic of the ultimate source of intellectual faculty ruling the cosmos, 'A New Day/ A New Night' puts forward an alternative way of thinking about the governance of social, cultural and political conditions on Earth, which are heavily dictated by the opening times of global financial markets and centers of commerce. In a similar vein the work 'Stellar Rotation' (2021) a mechanical large scale conveyor belt that measures celestial navigation of stars at night offers another opportunity for poetic contemplation of ideas that shift and surf between themes of time, space and motion and offer a possible different set of navigational principles to live and be guided by.
Clar's other works offer a unique site specific and site responsive perspective upon his recent relocation to Manila, a densely populated urban environment, with a widening wealth gap. In the video work 'Run Dog Wild' (2021) a hypnotic moving image of a neon purple cut out virtual animated dog is seen running without inhibition across roads, buildings, pedestrians and motor vehicles. The piece was achieved by attaching a laser scanner to a car and driven throughout downtown Manila and alludes to the speed of the city. The dog is also symbolic to the idea of an 'underdog' as it relates to the conditions of fast track globalization and the disparity of monetary wealth and resources within an increasing capitalist infrastructure. By contrast, the video 'Hey I'm Walking Here' (2020), which was produced a year earlier, shows a truncated frame featuring only a pair of sneaker clad feet walking, running and being dragged across the streets, and in the air, leaving behind a trail of water. The water is a reference the Philippines' topography which is composed of an archipelago of islands in the Pacific Ocean that are rich in biodiversity and largely reliant on a regional and international tourist economy. Conversely, it acts a reminder of the Filipino guest worker population, who are part of the remittance economy, and have been caught in a limbo overseas due to the challenges of the pandemic. Through these two interconnected works Clar questions the capitalist frameworks that set up these dynamics of social inequality, ranging from the country's former European colonial history and its modern day extractive institutions.
Through a constellation of works presented within Share Location Clar contends with the liminal pandemic environment, the polarization of truths, disparities in wealth, and the impact of globalization. His works create an astute commentary on variable social conditions via an analysis into symbol and abstraction, the celestial and terrestrial, and history and discontinuity, employing technology and the digital realm as an oscillating space that is sandwiched between the local and the global.
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