Is Time Really Everything? Time-Based Artists

Yolanda Green

Miller and Shellabarger

Miller and Shellabarger

Definitions are sometimes a very tricky thing when it comes to art. For instance, what exactly defines “time-based” art? Is it just anything with a beginning and an ending? Does any movie or video qualify? Is there a separation between time-based art and performance art or theater? To further explore this genre, here are a few artists and projects that are considered time-based.

Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger

For the 2010 Time-Based Art performance Festival in Oregon, Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger aimed to explore death and human relationships, creating a powerful symbolic piece that spanned almost an entire day. For the performance, the couple began by digging their own graves, each one proportionate to their individual stature, as opposed to digging two identical graves. This detail is significant since their work often toys with individuality and togetherness, connection and separation, and how all four relate throughout life and death.

Miller and Shellabarger then placed themselves in the graves and began digging a tunnel until they were able to hold hands through the dirt. In an interview with JustOut.Com Miller explains, “It’s a process piece. It’s a very short narrative but it’s a very long piece. When we performed it before [in Switzerland]…some people came back several times throughout the day, which for me would be the better way of viewing the piece.”

For “Untitled (the Pink Tube),” the husband and husband team have been crocheting a tube made of acrylic yarn since 2003. Again, tackling themes of connection and separation, the task brings them together, but also separates them simultaneously. This project’s duration is indefinite and it is always performed in public. For more of Miller and Shellabarger’s work (both together and separate), visit http://www.westernexhibitions.com/index.html.

Bart Woodstrup



Using audio, film, and animation, Bart Woodstrup creates pieces that are largely eco-related. His work often contains a narrative and uses new media to further showcase how new technology and environmental data relate and clash. On his website, Woodstrup explains, “I am specifically interested the cultural integration of technology as well as the increasing desire for technology to solve the culminating problems of overpopulation, pollution, and global warming.”

“The Hottest Year On Record” was featured in many exhibitions across the country. Using data in regards to the earth’s global mean temperature anomalies (from 1880 – 2006), Woodstrup looped samples from George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.” Each loop represented a year and the speed of each loop represents the global mean temperature of that year, essentially creating a graph through music.

His latest project, in collaboration with inter-disciplinary artist C. Ryder Cooley, is entitled “Animalia” and tells a story about a young girl who wishes to fly. Filled with metaphorical allusions to the environment and its struggles, as well as personal identity, “Animalia” is a tale about transformation. The following video is a 12 minute version of a project that will eventually become 15-20 minutes in duration.

Animalia Trailer from bart woodstrup on Vimeo.

The final project will also be presented as a printed book, and it is now in the mastering stages.

Currently, Woodstrup is also an assistant professor at NIU. In addition he’s working on an installation called “Paper Cut Illustrations,” which fuses “illustration, laser cut paper, and interactive video installations…to challenge the way you envision land use, natural resource, and the energy grid.”

To hear “The Hottest Year on Record” and see more of Woodstrup’s projects, visit http://www.vodstrup.com/bbw/.

Annett Barbier and Drew Browning

For over 30 years, Annett Barbier and Drew Browning have worked together, creating artwork that reflects their shared concerns and ideas. For instance, about a year ago, they created an audio installation entitled “Elevator Music.” Sound-bites from disabled rights activists and supporters – including writings, interviews, and analysis – were played through a speaker in place of traditional elevator music. The piece not only aimed to move people from one place to another, but also into self definition, rather than definition by others.

More recently, the duo presented an exhibition for the International Digital Media and Arts Association Conference in November of last year. A projection of the following video was displayed on a building, and it speaks to suburban life, its high and low points, its struggles and secrets, and what such a life says about the American Dream.

The American Dream from Annette Barbier on Vimeo.

Matt Rappaport

Fascinated with media and space, and the relationship that both have on any given “user,” Matt Rappaport often combines the two within his work, creating fascinating pieces of time-based art. As a multimedia artist, his work consists of anything from performances to photography to video. Last year, in a project entitled “Current,” Rappaport uses the function of the Delaware River as a border between Pennsylvania and New York to make a statement. On one side of the river, a beam of light flashes Morse code (spelling out the constitutional right for congress to regulate interstate trade) to the other side, onto a screen where a video plays. The video displays images of nature around the river as well as an office environment.

Matt Rappaport is currently an associate professor at Columbia College. To see video documentation of “Current” as well as his other projects, visit, http://www.meme01.com/.

Clearly, time-based art can span a wide range of material, from performance to installations to audio sounds. Perhaps the definition of time-based art is purposefully inclusive in order to incorporate the many, many different methods of using time within a piece of work. That being said, what do what do you think? Can time-based art really be anything? A movie? A song? Or are there more distinctions?