For Simon Starling it’s all in the timing

Never the Same River has an alternative flow to the artist’s other projects

The title of Never The Same River (Possible Futures, Probable Pasts), the exhibition at Camden Arts Centre curated by Simon Starling, alludes to the most famous saying of the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus. Its popular interpretation, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”, implies constant flux – Starling’s “unstable present”. A more literal translation, “On those stepping into rivers staying the same, other and other waters flow”, suggests instead that the continued existence of some things depends on others changing.

Starling is known for his fascination with the processes involved in transforming one object or substance into another, which he explores through installations and pilgrimage-like journeys. He won the Turner Prize in 2005 for Shedboatshed: he dismantled a shed, turned it into a boat and paddled this, loaded with the leftovers, down the Rhine to Basel, for reassembly.

However, Never The Same River is a meditation on time rather than matter and is comprised of works which the artist claims “push and pull at an understanding of linear time”. Some achieve this alone. Douglas Huebler’s Duration Piece – a deceptively simple photographic portrait of a woman – fuses an eighth of a second of 1973 and an eighth of a second of 1974 in a film exposed both sides of midnight.

For other works, in addition to their own time references, poetic juxtaposition creates resonances unintended by the artists. Suggesting connections between Henry Moore’s 1932 Half-figure and Des Hughes’s 2007 sculpture Norfolk Flint (with Boring) Starling says: “A 20th Century sculptor reinvents a long-dead category of English sculpture with recourse to pre-Columbian and ancient-Egyptian precedents sent into the future by the craftsmen of those civilisations – their ancient pebble-like forms in turn tossed back onto the beach by another sculptor.”

As an additional twist to the time element, most works were displayed at CAC in the past half century and are returned to their original locations. Ern� Goldfinger’s 1931 tubular chair – in Hampstead in the Thirties in 1974 – stands close by the photograph of the view from his own modernist house (pictured) which was in John Riddy’s exhibition in 2000.

Starling intersperses recycled exhibits with works which might appear in the future, “in an attempt to break the stranglehold of history”. He envisages the overall experience as an encounter with “an impossibly interlocking series of moving walkways all running at different speeds and on different trajectories”.

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This intriguing exhibition had its genesis in 2000 when Starling made an installation at CAC called Burn Time. It included a fireplace roughly fashioned from bricks from the arts centre’s outer wall. Plans were being drawn up for refurbishment and it was assumed the fireplace was original to the former library, whose architect was Starling’s great-great-uncle. This serendipitous meeting across time planted the seed now in bloom.

o Until February 20. CAC is at the junction of Arkwright Road and Finchley Road, NW3. Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm and until 9pm on Wednesday.