A&O – ART and SCALE – time and space



time and space notes


I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars…

(Walt Whitman)



“Art exists in time as well as space. Time implies change and movement; movement implies the passage of time. Movement and time, whether actual or an illusion, are crucial elements in art although we may not be aware of it.

An art work may incorporate actual motion; that is, the artwork itself moves in some way. Or it may incorporate the illusion of, or implied movement.”  (visit Lucy Lamp’s tutorial on movement and time for SOPHIA)


Proportion - A Principle of Art

SCALE is about the relative proportions of elements of an experience to its effect as a work of art.  In visual art (graphic, performance), auditory (music, voice), chemosensory (olfaction, taste), tactile.  It is fundamental but can be extraordinarily complex in provoking dissonance (which can be energizing)  or evoking harmony (which can be satisfying).   The artist that can can control the order in which elements of a work of art are perceived and assembled as a holistic perception can play with the viewer’s mixed feelings to varying effect.    The reference point for scaling is the human body.  


“Scale in art does not stand for the size of an artwork but is a relational principle which is usually defined through the ratio of an object to a human body or another object.[1]   Relational aesthetics stands at core of each artwork and human body is often the corrective against which the size of each piece can be discussed. As humans put themselves in the center of the visible world, as masters of the living environments, artworks are measured regarding proportion relative to the generalized human scale.  ….  Different scaling is applied in art when something needs to be emphasized, or when through disproportionate size the importance of the represented is underlined.” —from Widewalls blog entry by  Eli Anipur (2016), “How Scale in Art Influences the Viewing Experience.”

Selective emphasis of often unexpected qualities of a subject is the essence of abstract art.

Temporal Art is also highly effective in incorporating scale of time into its overall effect … cinema, music (see John Powell’s (2015) essay in Contemporary Aesthetics,) and many other areas.


Art has often pursued the still-point, the making immortal of something ephemeral.   But ephemerality is no less an existential interest and this occasionally captures the concern of artists that incorporate elements that will naturally transform over time. (In 1962, while attending nearby Drew University, I saw a work in a student show at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Florham, NJ consisting of food, the decay of which was factored into the artist’s intentions).  Alerted to the possibilities, I see the idea enjoys a rich life (see, e.g., “For These Six Aritsts, Mold is a Muse.“).

TIME itself as a subject of art ?  VISUAL ART that sought to represent more than the sensations and perceptions of the moment emerged about the time of FUTURISM as artists found ways of “fusing of the past and the present, and the representation of different views of the subject pictured at the same time (multiple perspective, or  simultaneity[9] –double exposures and cinema –TIME!  (from the A&O ART notes)

Time in cinema, as in time-lapse or acceleration in space… A unique expression of ephemerality in motion pictures is in the work of Bill Morrison* With Michael Gordon’s score he  developed “Light is Calling” (2004; more at Icarus Films) ) which utilizes a decaying 1924 film (“The Bells”)  to provide a hypnotic balance of the spontaneous film decay merging with antique imagery of soldiers on horseback & a fleeting meeting with a woman in the woods, all underscoring the transitory of the medium itself and nature of human experience.


Living Flowers and their arrangement have always been a compelling decorative art as well as fine art that enjoys a passionate following (see for example, Flower Arrangement – Art or Design).  As a traditional subject for visual arts (see, for example, The examples at My Modern Met or the Guardian’s survey of some of the best flower painings) representations are tightly bound to the impulse to preserve a specific view of beauty (“perfection”) forever although there is a rich subgenre that emphasizes faded flowers, with all their implicit poignancy.

Beyond a “perfect bloom” as a cognitive reference-point we can consider not only the poignancy and ephemeral nature of “perfection,” but also an appreciation for them in their apparent decay as (on deeper study) we can appreciate the effectiveness of their changes in their crucial reproductive functions in nature.   (The biology of sunflowers was not Vincent Van Gogh’s first thought as he devoted himself to their representation:  he loved them and fully appreciated the continuing processes of coming to bloom and fading (look at Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers)





Temporal scale is of particular importance in art that aims to evoke the sublime:  

 “When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, and the little space I fill, and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of space of which I am ignorant, and which knows me not, I am frightened, and am astonished at being here rather than there, why now rather than then.”                                                                                                                      —Pascal


and underscoring our fragility in the face of nature, Jeremy Taylor, chaplain to Charles I (1651) reminded his congregants that “Man is a bubble, and all the world is a storm”



Man and Nature

life as we are and understand it is ephemeral, nature abides

Hudson River School (developed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak

Albert Bierstadt 



Southern School - Wikipedia Chinese painting from the 11th C through the Song dynasty, represented humans as tiny and vulnerable in the face of nature   Southern School c. 1070 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_School










miniature gardens and Bonsai trees of Japan (for example), deeply influenced by Zen Buddhism and the expression of wabi-sabi, with its emphasis on  asymmetry, imperfection, and simplicity, underscoring the “integrity of natural objects and processes.” (Wikipedia)







Ephemeral Art.  This may be the most powerful forms of art that emphasizes the temporal dimension, as it ranges from poignancy through existential angst, as it touches on unstoppable, irreversible change, loss, and the brevity of life.

  • The Sand mandalas of Tibetan Buddhism (Wikipedia) are explicitly dedicated to the spirituality of the ephemeral nature of life.

for other examples The Tate’s entry is a good place to start, and there are good examples on line (for example) but then look at


  • Culinary arts?  Preparation and presentation as an art form? (for example); and you will enjoy a small article on the art of cooking in India (Cooking is perhaps the highest form of meditation, a divine ritual that is key to nourishing the soul and balancing the cosmic forces…”)    


COGNITIVE DIMENSIONS of fixed versus changing percepts and subsequent concepts can engage time itself as a subject for art.  Of course, all things (internal state and external stimuli are always changing.  From “how long is now” to the well known physiological phenomena of sensitization (“adaptation” of sensory receptor to repeated stimulus)  and habituation. (increased or decreased responsiveness to a repeated stimulus) .  See Dr Clark-Foos’ notes from Univ. Michigan.


  • Bill Morrison is best known “in relation to his feature film Decasia: The State of Decay (2002), and his process of taking pre-existing footage from films which have been largely lost to the natural process of nitrate deterioration, and reconstituting them as artifacts for a new artistic product. Although it would be unfair to reduce Morrison’s works to the fallibility of film’s materiality, or ‘ruined’ cinema, several of the most impressive works in the programme do rely heavily on the materiality of film, and the creative strength to take what would otherwise be seen as ‘destroyed’ or seriously compromised original footage and bring them to a new aesthetic existence (a new aesthetic form, rebirthism?).” ( http://www.horschamp.qc.ca/new_offscreen/morrison_rebirthism.html