‘It allowed to take its course, is inconceivable

‘It Will Continue to Grow Except at That
Point’ (see figures 4 and 5) is an ever- changing sculpture by artist Giuseppe
Penone. He places a bronze cast of his own hand around the trunk of a tree and
allows the fist to alter the shape of the bole. The two have not been connected
by any sort of binding agent but instead the iron cast stays attached to the
bark because they have become fused by the increasing width of the tree trunk.
It is a sculpture that changes from moment to moment, even though we may not be
able to notice or measure a difference until sometime has passed. As Penone
indicates in the title of the work, the sculpture will continue to change because
the tree will continue to grow. The oldest trees in the world are approximately
5,000 years old (Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research, 2012), and the point at
which the sculpture will stop growing, if nature is allowed to take its course,
is inconceivable to us. Trees grow slightly but constantly, and this will cause
the sculpture to continually transform. Unlike Horn, Penone uses materials that
are not in obvious flux, and this helps us to understand that even though
something that may seem stable, it is just a seeming stability, and that even
though we may not be able to visually witness it, it is still in a continual
process of change.

Neither the tree nor the river are more stable than the other; both
transform from one moment to the next. The river may seem as though it is in a
faster process of change than the tree, but this is just because it is more
noticeable. Where Heraclitus likens all that happens to the flow of a river, it
can be noted that the river may seem the same by way of geographical location.
For example, it may have the same source and positioning of where the river
resides where it meets the ocean, yet when one cannot come to the river on two
separate occasions and step their feet into the same waters. No matter how
miniscule a transformation is, even if it cannot be measured scientifically,
everything is in flux. Even if Penone’s time-sculpture did reach the point at
which it stopped growing, if it was felled for instance, it would still be in a
process of change. The stump of the tree that would be left behind would
eventually decompose and decay, transforming from one material to another, yet
never diminishing.

In the epic poem ‘Metamorphoses’, Ovid writes: ‘everything changes,
nothing dies’ (Ovid, 2001, p.456), agreeing that things are in a constant state
of change without any end. Relating this to the example of the river, it is
understood that it changes in that it flows, but we should also remember that
it is part of a greater system of transformation: the water cycle. The river can
never die, even if the water that is the heart of the river were to evaporate,
it will rise up into the air to form clouds and then fall again as rain to
settle back on the earth in streams, rivers and oceans. It will not die, it
will just change as part of a cycle that has no conceivable end. If we consider
the water cycle to have no conceivable end, then we must consider time to as it
grows side by side with occurrences. Due to this endlessness of transformation,
it shows that there is no stopping point in time to which, in theory, a moment
could be measured accurately.

Time is mobile and transformative on such a scale that it
cannot be accurately measured. Horn’s example of the river in her works ‘Still
Water (The River Thames, for Example)’, and ‘Another Water’ contribute to
understanding this constant flux. The river flows swiftly and continually, as
does time. Even if something may seem as though it does not transform at the
same pace as the graceful movement of water, it is just because the change is
too slight for us to notice over a particular period of time. Penone recognises
this in his time-sculpture, ‘It Will Continue to Grow Except at That Point’,
where we see that even something as seemingly solid as a tree is not
stationary. Nothing is still, and instants change from one to the next, each
different from the last. Therefore, if a moment is not captured, it never will
be. This results in scientific measurement being approximate rather than
accurate because moments are so fleeting that they pass as we attempt to
measure them.