The experience of art is as brief as each passing instant. The encounter with a work is new in every
moment, constantly revealing fresh dimensions and changing over the piece's lifetime. This
transience stands in opposition to a vision of art as creating eternal values and capturing a timeless meaning. Yet though these two conceptions of time and art may appear paradoxical, they can be reconciled in the belief that only art which is valid over time can present itself to the viewer anew in every moment.
Artists have always analyzed questions of the ephemeral in their work. In doing so, many artists
have not merely used materials and means of expression that might disintegrate or which border on the immaterial, but rather have foregrounded the very changeability of the artwork itself. Thus, for
instance, the works of Jannis Kounellis contrast substantial materials such as coal and metal with
mutable or intangible materials such as frost covering slabs or fire burning in lamps fuelled by a
limited supply of petroleum.
Often enough, the ephemeral appears to be a fragile apparition wavering on the edge of existence,
such as in a drawing by Joseph Beuys; the ephemeral draws its power precisely from its
evanescence. But the ephemeral can also function as a warning highlighting the transience of all
being. Such memento mori, reminding the viewer of death and the finitude of the self, are found in
Sophie Calle’s photographs of gravestones. In a pietà by Beuys, the memento mori is twisted into a promise that death might not be the final station after all. The art of Miroslav Tichý seeks to
apprehend the brevity of the moment by dwelling on a young girl bathing, suffused with the full
romantic melancholy of one who is aware that beauty fades. The homemade, rudimentary camera
made from cardboard which Tichý uses to capture his images is itself a makeshift thing.
"The Ephemeral" will feature works by more than 20 international artists. Curated thematically, the
show launches a series of group exhibitions to be presented both at ARNDT Berlin and in Asia and
the Pacific Rim. The exhibitions will take place in galleries and institutions but also in locations
removed from the usual spheres of cultural activity. Such offsite spaces provide a stimulating
juxtaposition to the artwork on display.