For its 2015 symposium on art and ideas, known as “Volkspaleis (People’s Palace),” West Den Haag is putting on the table a topic at once metaphysical and all-too-real: time. Appropriately, the gallery has chosen The Hague’s oldest structure for this open-to-all gathering of artists and thinkers, the Grote Kerk (Main Church). The artistic centerpiece of this year’s Volkspaleis is Canadian artist Patrick Bernatchez’s monumental film installation, Lost in Time, which will cap this heady, one-day event and remain on view in a complementary solo show featuring the last installment of the film at West’s gallery space until early October.
This year’s Volkspaleis is called “100 Years from Now.” Through it, the gallery challenges symposium-goers and participants alike to predict the future and speculate about what art and culture will look like in 100 years. Bernatchez himself will take part in these discussions, and, through his evocative film, offer further meditations on time.
Lost in Time reflects Bernatchez’s longstanding preoccupations with time’s inexorable passage, as well as with such inextricably related issues as decay, death, and renewal. For this film, the artist collaborated with composers, filmmakers, photographers, and even a watchmaker, who together helped him to manifest its epic, austere visions. Dominated by chilly tones of black, white, and gray, it is set in a snow-blanketed, arctic environment. A masked horse and rider struggle through this unforgiving landscape, which seems to encase time itself within its frozen topography, or, perhaps, to be timeless. These landscape scenes are intercut with those shot inside a grim scientific laboratory, where a huge block of ice slowly melts. We can only wonder at the secrets it will eventually release—matter, potentially, from ages past. Overlaid onto these hallucinatory images is a soundtrack of music mixed with strains of a lecture by the French philosopher and neurobiologist Henri Laborit, who muses on such weighty topics as decline, fear, and death.
In some iterations of the installation of Lost in Time, a watch crafted by watchmaker Roman Winiger, in collaboration with Bernatchez, is displayed nearby. Made in concert with the film, the watch has hands that have been slowed to a glacial pace. It takes 1,000 years for them to complete a single circle around the watch’s face—suggesting that while time may be slowed, it can never be stopped.