An Excerpt: Cumulative Nature of Time

A.N. Whitehead’s interpretation of ‘time’, that definitive medium for apprehending and describing all conceivable processes by their cumulative and irreversible nature, furnishes the introductory subject of the book and is also something of an introduction and parallel to Dieter Kiessling’s analogous explorations in his closed-circuit video installations. (…)


The phenomenon of the feedback loops demonstrates vividly the non-repeatability of forms, of their characteristic features and times, and it is there that a parallel to Whitehead’s philosophy of process can be legitimately drawn. Its development becomes manifest in context with the concept of time in the philosopher’s Enquiry concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge of 1919, and especially so in his critique of instantaneity. Once central thesis is the assumption that perception requires duration. Every perception reveals a continuity of existence, of experience – the precondition for understanding matter as something enduring, i.e. that an object will subsist within the space-time position of a system of references and can be consistently perceived. Since time lends the process of ‘synthetic realisation’ a direction, it does in a certain sense ‘transcend the time-space continuum of nature’.


Apart from the irreversibility of time, Whitehead also stresses its non-linearity. It is the prior condition for the concept of duration. Even if time is not to be considered as a single linear sequence, it is still assumed ‘that the temporal process of realisation can be dissected into a group of linear, serial processes. Each of these linear series is a time-space system’ (Science and the Modern World, 1925). A moment in time can be seen as such a time-space-system in which a pattern becomes established.

Out of the repetition of patterns in successive events, time emerges. Every moment in time reveals the pattern that results in its complete form from the succession of moments in time.



Whitehead’s critique of instantaneity (closed circuit technique still being generally known under the term of ‘Instant Feedback’ at the time) and his inferences of process philosophy, can, at least as an implication, be sensed in Dieter Kiessling’s closed-circuit video installations. Some of the features there can be generalised with certainty and observed similarly in non-artistic feedback phenomena. The twenty pieces by this German artist as described above and completed over the past nineteen years, testify to his consistent and successful further development of his investigations begun in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">America</st1:place></st1:country-region>, with the most filigree

structures the medium can offer and his reciprocal rapport with the experience of time and aesthetic perception.

The critique of the instantaneity of time is by no means far removed from the critique discussed above, of the usual understanding of ‘real time’. One of the consequences of these adjacent theoretical approaches has to be a critical evaluation of current theoretical trends that perceive in computerised ‘real time’-processing programmes such as ‘morphing’, a substantially new and revolutionary development, and which would make a sharp distinction between this digital and other, ‘analog’ options. (...)


The viewer is continually challenged to discover principles of order – in time, topology, technology and other spheres – thus confirming the artistic intention of reassessing not only these but also the relation between work and beholder; of providing that viewer with active access to the medium and retrospectively to his/her own ‘mechanisms’ including the personal constructs of reality.

Luhmann’s operative systems theory thus co-incides with the ‘structuralism’ of Kiessling’s closed-circuit video installations with their foundations of ‘self-reference’. They seek to demonstrate to us viewers the ‘idiosyncratic world of the world of apparatus’ (‘Eigenwelt der Apparate-Welt’ – the motto at the ‘Ars Electronica’ show in 1992) – without losing sight of the circumstances that allow them to come to be in the first place. (...)


A longer quotation from Volker Riegas may serve as a parting shot, or rather, an ‘operative-optimistic’ insight.-

“No reason at all to favour the homeostasis model at the outset as opposed to the input/output model... As states //statuses appear as both arguments and values of the function, autoregulative constructions, for example (feedback loops etc.) can be modelled in this in such terms with great ease.” (...)

What Kiessling calls the ‘latently existing kinds of state’ are evidently intrinsic to both of these worlds.