Jorge Luis Borges wrote, "Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire." In "TIME," Amy Stacey Curtis lays a serenely minimal framework for her audience to meditate on the elusiveness of the subject at hand. Nine large-scale interactive installations reach through 16,000 square feet of the Pepperell Mill in downtown Biddeford, asking the audience to submit to a raw experience of the passing of time. A cool dusty light streaming through the tall windows of the mill facilitates this submission, hitting a worn hardwood floor and faded paint steeped with the history of the space. A rhythmic tick of clock pendulums from Curtis's "pendulum IV," and steady footfalls of viewers passing through "labyrinth V" echo the textile machinery once inhabiting the mill.
Since 2000, Curtis has been presenting broad scope solo-biennial exhibits-meet-laboratories in the mills of Maine towns from Lewiston to Sanford. Viewers are deemed participants in the completion of experiential works that have previously tackled themes of "Light", "Sound," "Change," "Movement," and "Experience." "TIME" is introduced with a letter from the artist to her audience, explaining that "without your careful participation my work is unfinished" and that "instructions are as much a part of my work as you." The installations are curated to be experienced in number order. Viewers navigate the exhibit on a certain path, and not without thorough instruction. In a very controlled setting, Curtis acknowledges and relies on the subjectivity of her audience, while simultaneously fostering a rich communal experience. Though there are lovely discoveries to be made through Curtis's installations regarding time specifically, the most profound experience here is the shared responsibility viewers assume for the work as they affect it.
For the last year, the artist crocheted an hour every day, resulting in "undoing;" a 7-by-100-foot white blanket that now spans the central room of the exhibit. Participants are encouraged to each unravel one row of the form and place the refuse yarn in a large Plexiglas box, essentially nullifying the hours of work put into the original form, and quickly degrading the carefully crafted textile into tangled handfuls. While it is a destructive act, viewers slowly approach the work and methodically and respectfully pull it apart, considering the relativity of the two contrasting acts that comprise the work.
"Labyrinth V" is a triangular path delineated with white tape, in which visitors are asked to walk, either setting a reasonable, consistent pace or stepping in unison with those already in the labyrinth. Steps become a measured keeping of time, and as several people enter the labyrinth, the struggle to maintain a steady pace forces interconnectedness on the participants.
Some of the installations are simple, slightly didactic statements, using inconsistent metronomes and pendulums to expose the instability of our tools to measure time, or an urging to be present by acknowledging that someone else experienced a very similar moment while regarding the same work. These are the least interactive in the show, and are ultimately the least affecting. The strength in Curtis's work is where she humbles the human experience of time.