My heart is not a clock (Martha), 2022
360 video, 5.7K, 5:28 min
Weaving together disparate references spanning across histories and geographies, artist Johanna Strobel presents her first immersive simulation My heart is not a clock (Martha), 2022. The project is Strobel’s latest installment of her continual exploration of time as a construct, at once debilitating and absurd, yet nevertheless a constant and defining factor of our lives. Featuring narration by the artist, the 5:28 minute piece loops indefinitely and can be experienced online, or through custom cardboard VR goggles available free of charge.
After nearly half a decade, construction has finally been completed. Finalized with luscious frescoes sweeping across expansive ceilings, the Villa is a marvel for all those fortunate enough to visit. At the unveiling ceremony a confused guest asks patron Signore Agostino Chigi: “what will come of the barren trompe l’oeil pedestals lining the surrounding walls? What will the artisans render to fill these voids? The fresco surely cannot be complete.” Met with silence, the guest could only conclude that absence creates an insatiable desire, and that this very absence was the intended occupant of the cold, gray pedestals. Can desire expand beyond the confines of one’s lifespan? Concerned with gazing, both of the navel and of the stars, Signore Chigi had the Villa’s loggia decorated with an elegant astrological constellation displaying planetary positions as they were on November 29th, the patron’s date of birth. The planets have continued to orbit, and right now is the oldest the Earth and all of its inhabitants have ever been.
Far beyond the fields on the perimeter of town, a low dark cloud is rolling swiftly across the horizon. As it approaches, a deafening cacophony can no longer be ignored. This is no cloud – the Passengers have returned en masse, their tesselating bodies shading the ground below like a total eclipse of the sun. Their hunger and sheer numbers have destroyed livelihoods, and their endless, mad search for sustenance and breeding grounds continue to torment local residents, many of whom have ultimately concluded that the species must be destroyed. A campaign to annihilate the Passengers has begun, and everyday citizens have taken to shooting aimlessly into the heavens.
Martha was the lone Passenger still alive, an endling. Held in captivity for many years, Martha was unable to move much within her restricting cage or to socialize with her otherwise extinct kin. Perhaps these melancholic conditions affected her circulatory system, leading to her eventual death by stroke. Upon her death the taxidermists got to work, expertly preserving her flesh and sinew – Martha was a local celebrity, after all. A ceremony was held in her honor, and a memorial statue erected to commemorate and eternalize the Passengers for generations to come.
Rising from the ashes, the Italian Renaissance villa slowly assembles itself, only to collapse into dust once more. Interlocking and swirling in unison, Passengers flock to the reincarnated site, only to disappear moments later. What do we choose to monumentalize as an individual, or as a society? Always remember that absence creates desire.
Time is typically understood as linear, yet our most ubiquitous visual representation of it – the circular three-handed clock – defies this very idea. The heart, another clock of sorts, will only beat so many times within a given lifespan. At birth, a slow and endless countdown begins. Martha’s clock ran out long ago, yet discussions of de-extinction procedures are currently underway. Scientists question if they can repurpose Martha’s dried and dusty skin to revive a new generation of Passengers, over 100 years after their extinction. A Frankensteinian phoenix of this sort has undeniably complex implications, ecological and otherwise, broad and unforeseen. Does Martha’s absence merit a desire for the unnatural regeneration of her kind? Reincarnation by human intervention is the act most akin to time travel that mankind is able to perform.
– Moira Sims, 2022