Catalogue text, 2000: Tina Jonsbu
by Marit Paasche
You know how it is. You’re bored, you look out the window, you glance at the clock, it’s only gone five. You walk restlessly up and down, you feel the agitation in your body. Barren minutes drift past. Now you’re standing at the window looking out. Time has become too big. Apathy has got you. Boredom has got you by the throat. You want out, but sit down at the kitchen table. The pen is next to the phone. You grip it. Make small circles. All the same size. Next to each other. The circles are placed where the lines on the paper meet. You fill one sheet, hen start on the next. You have found a kind of peace. Time goes by and you make circles. You are totally immersed and time is kept at bay.
Tina Jonsbu makes art which deals with a temporary paradox. Through setting herself restrictions in the form of rules she sets herself free from time, but at the same time is trapped by it. Out of this paradox art is created. The objects are more the tracks of a systematic process, they primarily document time. Looking around at the objects you see embodied in them the numerous hours taken to create them. You wander in systematic time because the exhibitions primary material is time, highlighting different aspects of time.
Tina Jonsbu has worked with this theme before, but on a larger scale. For the exhibition FORMAT in Bergen in 1997 she covered the walls, ceiling and floor with drippings of molding clay at specific places. For the exhibition Biennale Syd in Kristiansand in 1998 she covered the exhibition walls with small, dry broken clay pieces fixed to the walls with pins. In both cases she worked on the artwork in the exhibitions location and in both cases the artwork was not kept when the exhibition was over. Transcience and the passing of time were central to these works. The large format also gave these works a manic touch. Now it is different. The pulse is lower and the analytic distance to the work is greater.
As children, one first experiences time when bored or waiting for something. As one grows older we understand that time spent bored is a sad time. Sad because of all those minutes that are lost. Time spent in boredom is empty and translucent, a time without impression – not memorable. It’s a time of anxiety because one is detached from the world. Tina Jonsbu systemizes time in its different forms and therefore gives it an impression. In this way she gives us pictures of all those forgotten hours we’ve gone through being bored and she attaches herself to the world with matches, mapping pins and rubber bands.
In artistic terms this is not a simple strategy. Because the world that is created whilst you are engaged in your little systems, whether it is drawing circles on graph paper or dipping matches in candle wax, is deeply private in nature. It is a closed, intimate universe where thoughts are reset.
The artist’s challenge is to open this world for others. Tina Jonsbu´s artworks communicate because of the recognition aspect and because of the choice of material. Rubber bands, matches and graph paper we all recognize from home or work. They are usable objects that radiate an aura of something that is only half noticed. They are nearly invisible. Just like time spent in boredom. Things first get noticed when they become part of a number or form part of a system. A thousand red mapping pinheads get noticed. Through choice of materials Tina Jonsbu drags that big time down to a manageable level. The results are small and beautiful holders of time that radiate loneliness.
Behind these, are hidden little systems. Each system holds a time machine burning boredom as fuel. Books dressed in rubber bands, labels placed flat with red mapping pins as if they cover some form of map, matches dipped in wax, all these are systems lying there waiting to be used.
They are just waiting to be activated. The time machines document mankinds necessary loneliness in the face of time – one must be alone to do this. The strive to keep time powerless under control and the loneliness that it carries gives the works a melancholy slant.
The relationship between melancholia and time is complicated. As Susan Sontag once said of the melancholia’s relationship to hours and minutes:
For the character born under the sign of Saturn, time is the medium of constraint, inadequacy, repetition and mere fulfillment.
Time is a source of frustration. It carries constraints, enforcement and a feeling of inadequacy.
Time is purely to be past. Sontag’s characterization of the melancholic’s relationship to time has a resonance Tina Jonsbu´s art. Here we find constraints in the simple regulations of the systems.
The inadequacy of the time machines exists because of the expectation that time shall be used sensibly and will result in something helpful. There is nothing helpful about a matchstick dipped in wax or an unknown number of circles drawn on graph paper, but there is something else; a dwelling on how one can tame boredom.