“The ink wasn’t dry yet on their divorce papers before he was shacking up with you-know-who.”
In this sentence, there’s an idiom—“the ink wasn’t dry yet”—which does a nice job of creating a picture of a temporal event—a relatively short temporal event—by thinking of this event in terms of observable material phenomena—ink drying on paper.
One could say, “It didn’t take that many days after their divorce before he was shacking up with you-know-who,” but, in so doing, one loses the image of time as material; it lacks the bite of the previous sentence in which time is given the same oppressive materiality as an object in space.
Here’s another example:
“We’ve each said things we don’t really mean, so let’s let the dust settle and talk this over in the morning.”
Again, one could say here, “We’ve each said things we don’t really mean, so let’s wait a couple of hours and talk this over in the morning,” but, in so doing, one might lose something of the imagistic power which the idiom “let the dust settle” affords the sentence.
All of the sudden, that stretch of time becomes an object—an accumulation of dust following a confrontation—and, thus, becomes more dynamic than a reference to the passage of time through standardized time units—minutes, hours, etc.–which are decidedly more difficult to picture concretely.
The idioms in which time is pictured as an entity with its own materiality and its own objective weight on one’s experience are often powerful because they nudge one towards the intuition that time is as much a material as space (albeit a very different kind of material).
In Damon Zucconi’s Grey series, which consists of (as of right now, anyway) eight images created using a digital scanner and varying amounts of naturally-occurring dust and light leakage into the scanner, the artist invests himself in a similar experimentation with the material representation of time.
As viewed through his website, he presents, to begin with, a series of four images composed of dark shades of grey, accented by bursts of horizontal white bars, and pools of off-white specks that remind one of the scratches, hairs, and other noise of poorly preserved celluloid films.
In the fifth instance of the series, one views a similarly dark grey field which, likewise, contains traces of light leakage and dust and, then, an additional bright burst of orange/tan (almost fleshy) light which extends vertically in the upper right corner of the work.
In the following two instances of the series, a dark grey to black field is crossed by a series of rhythmically ordered straight horizontal lines of varying colors.
And, then, in the most recent instance of the series, one views another dark grey to black field upon whose entire right edge bursts a bright white streak of (almost cosmic) light whose own inner edge is a shade of bright green.
Now all that said, in each of these instances, one views the varied constellations of formal elements just mentioned—yes–but one also views something else—a unique picture of materialized time.
One views the changing amounts of dust and light recorded in each particular image which, in turn, are records of particular lengths of time.
Each formal variation here is due to an experimentation with time—whether it be the amount of time allotted to accumulate dust on the bed of the scanner or the amount of time allotted to accumulate light flares of varying degrees of strength.
Thus, as one reflects on a given formal element in the work, one is nudged towards reflecting on the time which each of these elements records.