Autopsy of an Artwork, French artist DAVIDE BALULA


“From Christian Marclay to Davide Balula: Where time leads? or Artwork Autopsy of “Humeurs”, a piece by Davide Balula”
by Beatrice Chassepot

Christian Marclay won the Golden Lion’s prize at the Venice Biennale with “The Clock”, an art installation piece that uses snippets from films and television to keep real 24-hour time“.  I should have been focus to the reading of the article about “one of the most important artist of the decade” as it is said, when automatically and unconsciously it recalled me a piece I saw by French artist, Davide Balula* at Frank Elbaz gallery for its first solo exhibition in Paris in 2007.

“Humeurs” Courtesy the artist and Frank Elbaz Gallery


The piece is called “Humeurs/Moods”. It is a set of twelve clocks with different gears one per clock- that indicate other possible speeds for the passage of time.  The small hand of one clock goes round fast when another other clock on its side goes round slowly and another below goes really really fast and so on for each one.

That rhythm brings a strange mood to each clock, the kind of sensitivity we associate to human people, like a bad mood, a stress, happiness or sadness. It could be seen like a crowd of people in which each clock/person responds to “her” next door neighbor, from below or above. One like out of breath seems to say “- I’m in a hurry”; another appears desperate and seems to say “no rush please we have time”; another desperate says like in her last breath “no way, leave me alone I’m going to stop this”, another one “next door” goes round regularly. “She” seems to move proudly in her life.

With that brilliant installation from the artist the notion of time switches to a different meaning. It is not a universal time anymore that we all can trust and refer to. Time becomes totally subjective in itself because the time is never the same, and by the interpretation a viewer can have.

Since this installation has been created in 2007, the purpose of Balula’s entire work is about the notion of time and its different approaches. In addition to the rhythm already mentioned in “Humeurs” the artist shows to us that time can pass in different ways: we can “see” it for example when we see a color getting less shiny because of the test of time as we see in the piece titled “Accelerated Aging of a Blue Paper” from 2010. We can ?hear? the time when we listen to a music time is passing by, and Balula is also a composer and a singer.

I interviewed him about these different approaches of the time he shows in his work:

Davide Balula: “Time has naturally joined my work from the very beginning. Not only as a subject for representation but also as a component in the making of the pieces. A large part of my production has to do with the fact that organic elements present in many materials you can use in contemporary sculpture evolve with time and that it is vain to try to entirely freeze the natural chemical mechanisms. Therefore, the form and your relation to the objects or situations depend on the environment that indubitably has joined the process as well. From an ink that vanishes among the yellowing of a paper, from personal clock in which you can choose your own pace by tuning the speed of the passage of its time, from an ice sculpture representing an explosion that melts in slow motion, to a mushroom, mould, insect, pigeon or algae farming, or to solids and liquids which interact with your body like for instance during an ingestion and the release of it once filtered by your body… everything you want to share your experience with (esthetic or not) has to be considered as part of a larger space and timeframe. That time window of the experience is what interests me the most. Even when you are looking for your own recollections, your memory has transformed time into space, that time you shared with the world has been compressed into that emotional space you cannot entirely share but with the core of yourself”.

Besides the genuine interest I took in watching again Balula’s artwork I thought that art is obviously very interesting. When your attention is focused on a specific piece by artist X, it is sometimes so powerful that the topic can lead to remind you another piece of art by another artist you saw years before in another country and an artwork you didn’t even know you had memorized it so well. This should be called “the secret life of art within your brain”.

Los Angeles, October 11th, 2011
Beatrice Chassepot.


*Davide Balula was born in 1978 in Annecy, France. He lives and works in Paris. He has been exhibited in New York (USA) Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka (Japan) Milano (Italy) Amsterdam (The Netherlands)and many museums in France.

Galerie Frank Elbaz:

Upcoming show:

November 20th,2011 at Georges Pompidou Museum, performance « THE ENDLESS PACE (MECHANICAL CLOCK for 60 DANCERS)?