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On-line version ISSN 2304-8557
Print version ISSN 0023-270X


COMBRINK, Louisemarié. Spatial and temporal thresholds in installation art: Jan van der Merwe's Eclipse. Koers (Online) [online]. 2021, vol.86, n.1, pp.1-11. ISSN 2304-8557.

The notion of thresholds and their potential to suggest liminality is usually associated with spatialities. However, I contend this notion can be extended to layered temporal thresholds and temporal liminalities. I present this argument, using postclassical narratological concepts as theoretical framework, with reference to the South African artist Jan van der Merwe's installation artwork Eclipse (2002). In this work, various spatial thresholds can be distinguished that relate to issues of conflict, mourning, exclusion, surveillance and the suggestion of death. This is achieved by means of a no man's land experienced when entering the artwork, where the viewer-participant finds him or herself compelled to follow a footpath surrounded by barbed wire on which clothes made of rusted metal are suspended. This journey culminates in a wall that presents three screens showing rose petals being dropped, as if into a grave. Various possible places suggest themselves: refugee camps, concentration camps, war zones and a cemetery. I argue that these spatialities are made possible by temporal thresholds that accompany them. Apart from the patina of the rusted material that suggest the passing of time, the moving flower petals in the screens repeat constantly to create not only liminal temporalities in terms of the artwork at large, but also an iterative sense of the ongoing culmination of these temporalities in death and mourning.

Keywords : Postclassical (visual) narratology; Installation art; Temporal thresholds; Spatia thresholds; Liminality; Eclipse.

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