More Time

Last night I attended a panel at the local museum on the subject of time. The participants were writer Sheila Heti, composer Peter Hatch and Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute. I’ve alluded to Lee’s views, with which I am in complete sympathy, elsewhere on this blog. What interested me about both the artists on the panel was that time, for them, had a certain elasticity, and I think that is probably true for most artists of whatever kind. Neuroscientists or psychologists might be able to explain why we have the subjective impression that time is passing slowly or quickly, but artists know that it really does move at different rates in different contexts. Probably years of practice build up a specialized area in the brain with memories and skills related to one’s practice. Then one can drop a work for an interval and come back to it with the feeling that one has never left, or that one is re-entering the stream at the exact moment of interruption. The distinction between the time of art and the normal time of everyday life is a very important matter, in my view, and is probably close to the core of whatever could be called a politics of art. Or an economics.

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