Curated by Sophia Cai

But this day will be over
When the minute and second hands overlap
The world holds its breath for a little while

Translated lyrics from 00:00 (Zero O’Clock) by BTS, 2020 (Click here to listen to the audiotrack or click this link for captioned lyrics)

Time is a subjective phenomenon, a measurement of duration related to events and experience. While we may use physical markers and language to delineate and record time, our awareness of time is inherently embedded in our individual consciousness.

The experience of time itself may be abstract, but the ways we organise ourselves against its structures guides every aspect of ourselves and the world. From instruments like calendars and clocks to the ways we organise, schedule, and write history, we rely on measurements of time to function as a society. Increasingly, we are recognising the ways in which methods of time-keeping can be biased, and how temporality imposed by Western history imposes particular ideologies of routine and progress (i.e. time is a colonial construct).

How does our experience of time change during periods of isolation? What does optimism for the future look like during the immediate present? And how might our routines, our daily experiences, act as a potential site for resistance?

Zero O’Clock is an exhibition sparked and inspired by the current period of lockdown and isolation in Victoria. It asks artists currently studying at the VCA to consider themes broadly related to ideas of time and ‘timelessness’, reflecting on ideas of beginnings, ends, and everything in-between. The title of the show is a nod to the mega pop group BTS, and pays homage to both the universality and individuality contained within their music. Inspired by the lyrics of the song, I wanted to ask “at 00:00 when the clock resets, can we find comfort in the promise of a new day?”  In particular, I was interested in artistic practices that considered counteractions to grind culture, burn-out culture, and expectations of output by focusing on the minutiae, the interpersonal, rest, solidarity and radical love.

The resulting exhibition brings together works by 10 artists whose works broadly explore the above themes, with a particular recognition of the experience of time from the position of the present. Astrid Mulder, Christina Darras, Jen Valender and Rebecca Diele are all exhibiting works that are a direct personal response to the current experience of lockdown. Valender and Diele draw on questions of repetitiveness and labour, while Darras and Mulder reflect on our relationships to space and time during moments of physical restrictions.

For artists Katie Paine and Karleng Lim, Zero O’Clock provided an opportunity to revisit previous bodies of work within a new context, reflecting on the spiral or cyclical nature of time and our understanding of causal links. Lim’s work, first presented in 2017, takes on a new urgency amidst the extreme crisis we are presently facing. It is within this context of crisis that we can also regard Lia Dewey’s Morgan’s work as a moment of radical queer love and care, a poetic reflection of self-affirmation. This sense of hope and solidarity is also expressed through the works of Chelle Destefano and Ebony Hickey, both powerful visual statements that locate the artist’s body as a site of agency and resistance. It is in these moments of solidarity and care that we can perhaps reimagine a different future that we have not yet arrived at yet. In post COVID-times, what kind of future do we want to be part of?