Urban Flow 1837, New York, 2015 © Adam Magyar, Courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery
In the movie Cashback, the first time main character Ben, a college art student who works the graveyard shift at a grocery store, learns that he can freeze time, the screen flashes through stills of people and objects stopped in mid-motion, customers reaching for shelves, some stuck in conversation, and an open gallon of milk caught flying through the air. These moments stretch meaningless seconds into observable time, where “it becomes very easy to understand the concept of beauty,” as Ben says in the movie.
As elusive time is captured, hidden moments become discoverable. Hungarian born, Berlin-based artist Adam Magyar illuminates this through his stunning photographic and video work, in which he uses custom technologies to create panoramic long-exposure images of city dwellers across the world caught in their daily routines, exposing both their quirks and similarities. In Magyar’s current exhibition, Kontinuum, at the Julie Saul Gallery in New York City, he shows new prints from his Urban Flow series, his Stainless series, and six videos. For each of these projects, Magyar customizes the act of freezing an image by using industrial cameras and reprogramming their softwares so each photo and video is completely unique and irreplicable.
Stainless 03621, Tokyo, 2010 © Adam Magyar, Courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery
Urban Flow 333, 2007 © Adam Magyar, Courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery
Magyar’s Stainless series explores Einstein’s thought experiments of simultaneity, a part of his theory of relativity. Einstein used the example of a person standing on a platform, watching two bolts of lightning strike each end of a passing train at the same time. The theory states that the person inside the train will experience the first lightning bolt in the direction the train is moving before the second. In Stainless, Magyar’s camera takes the place of the onlooker on the platform; it captures the moving train and the people inside of it simultaneously, even though, from the train rider’s perspective, the train is still moving in a forward direction. The resulting images silently inspire feelings and associations of living in large city and using public transit as it documents, as Magyar put it, “the in-between times,” from packed subway cars, to interactions with strangers, to reading your neighbor's newspaper.
Urban Flow 1807, New York, 2015 © Adam Magyar, Courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery
Urban Flow 1865, New York, 2015 © Adam Magyar, Courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery
Magyar is also debuting three new New York City photographs from his Urban Flow series, for which he turns his handmade slit-scanning technique towards busy intersections and city streets, places where the flow of pedestrians is constant. This time, instead of standing still, as he did to create the Stainless pieces, he moves with his camera's sensor, which in turn creates beautiful long photographs that are printed up to six feet wide. The stunning blurred background stripes brings the pedestrians to the foreground as they are frozen and distorted in time. In a piece by Chelle Mackay on Medium, Magyar explains, “The horizontal axis is not about space, it’s not about left and right, it’s about earlier and later." He continues, “If two people are crossing the pixel at the same moment, they will look like they are walking together.”
Array, Seoul © Adam Magyar, Courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery
The six videos in Magyar's exhibit are all filmed using a high-speed industrial camera that he reprogrammed to change the exposure time from 12 seconds to 12 minutes. This process creates the illusion of the viewer being on the subway platform, weaving in and out individuals who are at a complete standstil, through only the slightest movements of the viewer's eye.
Adam Magyar's work bends concepts of time and makes us notice the “in-between times” that we often are too rushed to appreciate. His surreal documentation of morphing space as as time stands still raises questions about the range of perspective we as humans have. He states, “These moments I capture are meaningless, there is no story in them, and if you can catch the core, the essence of being, you capture probably everything.”
Adam Magyar’s Kontinuum exhibition is on display until April 4th, 2015 at Julie Saul Gallery in New York City.