Luis Camnitzer


ON TIME



In 1952 when I was fifteen, they showed an Argentinean film called La de los ojos color del tiempo (The Girl with the Eyes with the Color of Time). I never saw the movie, but I liked the title so much I’ve already remembered it for 64 years and probably won’t forget it anymore. In the moment I saw the marquee, I took the word “tiempo” to mean time, even though in Spanish it can also mean weather, which may have been the writer’s more trivial intent. Recalling this recently got me speculating about the poetic dimension of the concept of time.

Marcel Proust would be an obvious referent, but when researching his “time lost” he looked for anecdotes that happened in time rather than for the meaning of time itself. The “Books of hours” don’t contain them and thus missed the potential of a great point by only describing religious activities to fill them. But “time-colored” eyes suggest that time is something essentially tangible, immutable, something that may be reflected. Instead of a sequence, it’s a “there.”

Thus, there seems to be a conflict between language and time, where language helps us give time a veneer of structure although it always will remain unstructured, unreachable, untouched by the words that near it. This may be time’s poetic aspect. Language is an effort to capture and hold meaning, imprisoning what is bound to escape. Poetry is the craft that tries to elude these prisons in an effort to reach the essence of things. The fact that essence remains eternally elusive is what keeps us trying to grasp it time after time. Language here acts like a material: it approximates, but in the intent it erodes information. We try to free ourselves from an existing order, but language fights us because it’s an orderly system. Time, on the other hand, is dematerialized.

Information changes in it but is not eroded. Essence lives in a time warp, an undefined state that is neither concretely here nor concretely there. We are in an unfocused expectation of receiving: a state of meanwhile that even time-colored eyes can’t see.