10 screenshots from De Lauf der Dinge (1987) by Fischli & Weiss
Martin Amis (25-08-1949 // 19-05-2023)
For me, Time’s Arrow (1991) is the ultimate thought experiment wrapped up in a brilliant editorial set-up and written with equally brilliant eloquence.
The narrative moves literally backwards in time, as a result of which – for once − what’s done can apparently be undone. Since regression in time makes it possible for us to erase the end of an event from our minds, we end up with a better view of the conditions and considerations that played a role as it unfolded. By actively unravelling these conditions and considerations, we can briefly escape from the doctrine of cause-and-effect thinking. It suddenly becomes clear that factors such as chance and free will were influential determinants in the historical process, although these often vanish from view when the events are represented. Such omissions cannot all be blamed on the rhetoric of ‘reading into’ something what we were looking for; they also stem from the conditioned assumption that the future is methodically and systematically being manufactured in the present. In this sense, perhaps the film Der Lauf der Dinge (‘The Way Things Go’) by the Swiss artist duo Fischli & Weiss (1987) can be construed as an ironic commentary on the rigidity of its own predetermined line of irreversible development.
The ultimate consequence in Time’s Arrow is a reversal of the horrors of the Holocaust: evil retroactively metamorphoses into good. In the process (that is perhaps just as horrifically grotesque as utterly abject) all kinds of questions are raised in the sphere of morality and causality, and the connection between them. What I think Time’s Arrow tries to convey is the fact that ‘the arrow of time’ is always a-symmetrical; the real course of history is never congruent with its imaginary inverted equivalent.