"Time doesn't exist when you're... just chilling!" Topping an administrative page on the site of curatorial collective Jstchillin, this slogan rephrases a familiar bit of folk phenomenology: Time flies when you're having fun! But in denying time's existence, rather making its perceived acceleration a metaphor for losing yourself in the moment, the slogan suggests a swap of the trinity of past-present-future for something else -- a sense of time that (until the end of this essay, at least) I will call "chill time." Jstchillin is concerned with the internet, and my description of chill time will be, too. It entails an awareness of parallel threads of messages, ordered by clock-time sequence and subjective assignments of importance (cf. Facebook's feed settings: "Top News" and "Most Recent"), and the knowledge that these messages will wait until you find them (in your e-mail, in your RSS aggregator, etc.) but might be irrelevant when you do if you wait too long. Chill time is simultaneity of the recent past and lagging present, the sum of attempts to track some threads into the past and push others toward the future. Awareness of physical surroundings tends to be fuzzy as you sift through old layers of digital sediment and deposit new ones. Jstchillin founders Caitlyn Denny and Parker Ito describe it like this: "[T]o chill is to live in a constant state of multiplicities, a flow of existence between web and physicality."
Jstchillin encompasses a number of initiatives, including the gallery show "Avatar 4D," but its flagship project is "Serial Chillers in Paradise," an online exhibition that has featured a different artist every other week since October 2009. Chill time, I think, is the central theme of "Serial Chillers," one that many commissioned artists have approached through conventional associations with chilling. Video games were the subject of an illustrated short story/film treatment by Jon Rafman, and Jonathan Vingiano's browser add-on Space Chillers was a game. Ida Lehtonen's contribution folded soothing ocean sounds into a video of exercises that computer laborers can do to stay limber during breaks, while Eilis Mcdonald's sent you scrolling through bits of pat, New-Agey advice and then to a page with equivalent visuals; both artists drew on packaged relaxation. Zach Schipko and Tucker Bennett's feature-length movie Why Are You Weird?, parceled into YouTube uploads, is a story of art-school students who spend almost all of their onscreen time at parties or hanging out in their dorm rooms, rehashing crits.
Found objects have had a place in art for nearly a century, but the practice has seemed particularly pervasive in recent years, as approaches from both contemporary and historical perspectives have attempted to redefine it as appropriation, nonmonumental, unmonumental, or "combining crap with crap." Fascination with old or overlooked marginalia could be regressive melancholia spawned of the Bush era's resigned cynicism, or sympathy for the poor objects in spite of high-tech consumption. Whatever the case, the sensibility saturates Shana Moulton's Whispering Pines, a series of videos and performances. While sculptural assemblage clusters objects in space, Moulton spreads her thrift-store and gift-shop finds over time. Rather than tracing the artist's web of references through stationary contemplation, the viewer of Whispering Pines is led through the process as Cynthia, the heroine, interacts with the things she has chosen to surround herself with. A Magic Eye 3D poster transports her to a zone of free movement. A swamp-colored facial mask opens a green-screen gateway to a forest clearing. If, in a readymade or sculptural assemblage, the artist endows objects with totemic power by isolating and emphasizing their formal properties (or the subjective associations they evoke for her), then Moulton gives that principle a radically literal interpretation in Whispering Pines, where objects' properties and associations acquire the power to shape the narrative.