Time is among the most fundamental conditions of human existence, yet also perhaps the most elusive. In still forms of art like painting and photography, the passage of time is often represented symbolically, as an hourglass, withering flowers, rotting fruit, or a human skull. In film, time can be represented more directly by movement and sound. Hungarian-born video artist and photographer Adam Magyar has studied the relationship between time and moving images extensively. In his work, he has developed custom cameras to capture subway cars speeding into stations at 1300 frames per second, 54 times the standard cinematic framerate of 24 frames per second. In another project, he photographed high-traffic public areas repeatedly from a fixed overhead position, overlaying the images to produce composite pictures of impossibly dense human crowds.
His newest work Matter expands on this practice, focusing on the spatial dimension of the moving image over time. Fixing a camera inconspicuously in public spaces throughout his worldwide travels, Magyar captured hours of human foot traffic, layering the video recordings upon each other and replacing the urban cacophony with a solemn, meditative soundtrack. The resulting images depict the ghostly traces of dense human presence in otherwise still environments, shifting the focus to the spaces that remain stable as life passes by. Matter can be read as a contemporary memento mori, a reminder of the destructive potential of our age of climate change and global conflict. Conversely, the video might be understood as a peaceful tribute to humankind’s minor role in the grand scheme of the universe, our moment being but a blink in the eye of time.
Adam Magyar (born 1972) is a Berlin-based Hungarian photographer and video artist captivated by time. His process is a symbiosis between technology and creative instinct. He is fascinated by the flow and the endless stream of life in the world’s biggest mega-cities.
Magyar is captivated by high-tech cities and urban life. He depicts the synergies of city life while embracing it as home to both people and technology. With each of his series, he observes the flow of time, scrutinizing the transience of life and humans’ inherent urge to leave some trace behind. Magyar is keen on adopting and reinventing contemporary devices like industrial machine-vision cameras in order to produce his unique view of the human experience. Magyar stated, “I study our relationship to past, future and present moments, reflecting upon the way we use and misuse time.”
Magyar’s works have been exhibited in various solo and group shows internationally including Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston; New Museum, New York; New York Public Library, New York; Midnight Moment – Times Square, New York; Houston Center for Photography, Houston; Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest; Vasarely Foundation, France; Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester; Light Work, Syracuse; Saitamia Triennale, Japan; Museo Casa Grande, Hidalgo, Mexico; Ethnographic Museum, Budapest.
His work is present in private and public collections including Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; New York City Public Library, New York; Bank of Montreal, Toronto, Canada; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Deutsche Bank; Light Work, Syracuse; Hong Kong Heritage Museum; BNY Mellon, New York; Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Beachwood; Bidwell Projects, Cleveland.
Adam Magyar, Matter, Full HD video with sound, 9:40