NOWs: Zirkon Kompass by Markus Hoffmann
winner of Celeste Art Prize 2016 – Installation, Sculpture & Performance Prize;
awards and final exhibition 7-9 October, The Bargehouse, OXO Tower Wharf, London
Markus Hoffmann: Zirkon Kompass, 2015
Filled with different zircon sands from all the continents of the world, the work Zirkon Kompass consists of sixteen hourglasses that are suspended from the ceiling. Positioned at eye level, the hourglasses are arranged in a circle with each object at the quarter-wind point on a 16-wind compass rose.
A thin steel rope is mounted at the narrowest point of each hourglass, keeping them in horizontal equilibrium. Zircon minerals are the oldest known materials on Earth. Resistant to chemical changes, they offer a window into time going back as far as 4.4 billion years ago. Zircon is omnipresent in all stones and contains the radioactive elements uranium and thorium in minute amounts – the clock within the zircon. With the passage of time, it converts to the element lead. In the work both the semiotics of the hourglass as a metaphor for vanity and the utility as scientific instrumentation are transformed. Instead, the sand forms a seemingly stable horizon: a layer representing the oldest stratum we could hypothetically stand on.
While the hourglass has lost its socially determined function, the zircon clock invisibly continues to transform, subconsciously reminding the viewers of their precious and yet transient time on earth. The zircon is a metaphorical semblance of the element of time. As the oldest material on the planet, it establishes an abstract meaning of time that is limited by the current capabilities of scientific research. It thus inherently addresses the relative stability of scientific knowledge, which depends on technological progress and the creation of measurement methods, enabling us to expand our limited horizon. Paradoxically, zircon is used to create storage vessels that may be durable enough to hold the radioactive waste products of our species – the future fossils of the Anthropocene. But even zircon is not eternally durable. Everything eventually decays, and even permanence becomes relative.
Celeste Prize 2016, 8th edition, curated by Ellen Blumenstein, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin.
The jury: Juliana Bardolim, Marc Bembekoff, Sandro Droschl, Chris Fitzpatrick, Martin Germann, Felix Hoffmann, Chiara Ianeselli, Marianna Liosi, Zane Onckule, Barbara Piwowarska, Alya Sebti, Moritz Wesseler.