The Fussy Eye: Adding Up the Years

An artist unwinds a chronicle of her life.

Time coils upon itself like a ribbon, nested on the floor in a steel fire pit, arrayed in a seamless paper spiral like a mandala. What are those tiny numerals, printed on old adding-machine paper? (Related: Do they even make that kind of narrow spooled paper anymore?) You might think the numbers in Countdown are dollar figures, but they're dates. And the math is actually quite simple: the birthdate of artist Sarah Fansler Lavin, plus one, repeated to the (near) present day. How old is she? I don't think that's really the point. Rather, she says in an accompanying statement, the data entry became "a ritual act," one that helped her "reflect on the passage of time." (So do the other sculptural pieces in Killing Time.) The winding series of dates would be easy to accomplish as a spreadsheet formula, but here you're reminded that each date is hand-entered. There's a deliberation to this mortal accounting, the same consideration we all go through on a birthday, New Year's, or significant anniversary: How many are behind us, and how many will follow? Ringed by steel, the carefully coiled paper almost resembles a nest. You could drop a match in it, destroy it, as a reminder of the impermanence of life. But the sequence would still exist in the smoke, and the countdown would continue in the morning, as it does for us all, until the end. 

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