It’s hard to talk about time travel without talking about movies about time travel, like The Terminator. In The Terminator, Terminator T-800 Model 101, also known as Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the Terminator and in time travel, there are enough paradoxes to bend minds.
“If the scientists here at the UEA invented a time machine, then presumably I could go back to my 11-year-old self and give him advice,” Jeremy Goodenough, a philosophy lecturer at the University of East Anglia, said. “But I don’t remember being approached by a man when I was 11.”
Goodenough lives inside a place called reality, which is located in the present, although, when he told me he hated time travel, it was in the past. But let’s try to keep it moving. He’s not surprised so many of us are obsessed with time travel.
“I think it relates to a very human faculty, the faculty of imagination, that people are capable of imagining the past and imagining situations that aren’t real in ways that animals can’t do,” Goodenough said. “A lot of the science fiction of my youth would have us believe we’ve colonized the planet by the far off year of 2015. But we’ve got two robots on mars and that’s about it.”
Over at the Norwich and Norfolk hospital, hundreds of patients rest upon hospital beds. There’s a lot of time in a hospital to think about choices and how life could have turned out differently.
“I don’t know,” Jamie Fox, who founded Time Travel Prints, said. “Maybe I am obsessed with the past.”
All along the hospital walls, he’s planted photos of the past. His photographs are three dimensional, so when you turn your head, you can see images of the past. Turn your head again, and the same image morphs into a photograph of the present.
“I had to convert the pictures so they’re 3 dimensional, so you’re not just looking at a picture,” Fox said. “You’re looking through it. So every detail of that picture either stands out or goes in at a hollowed sense. So it’s almost like looking through a window.”
For instance, Fox has an image from Holt High Street in Sheringham as it exists today, and then one from the 1900s. The recent photograph is missing a few buildings that used to dominate the street.
“There’s things that aren’t there in the present picture,” Fox said. “There’s a great big hotel – I think it’s called the Grand Hotel – which, very strikingly, disappears. I think it was demolished. Plucked out of time.”
Fox came up with the idea for his Time Travel exhibition while working on a final year project at Paston College in North Walsham.
“Being a bit different, I decided I’d set fire to bits of paper – not that I’m advocating arson. I had this idea that you could see time burning through. You saw parts of the present day, burning holes, basically, and you’d look through and you’d see the past,” Fox said.
And then he sort of dropped that. Now there’s less fire and more history. Fox sells his art, and that means selling the past. He tries to turn the past and present into images people want to see. People want places to change, but they also want them to stay recognizable. Cathedrals, for instance, barely change at all, while the war changed a whole lot. Take his image of the Guild Hall, for instance.
“The original picture is from 1919. If you look there’s still the roof at the top. Now, 1919 is of course before World War II. Norwich was hit a lot,” Fox said. “During the war years. If you look at the top as you move left and right the whole top roof disappears. It’s like a building losing its’ hat.”
Fox also commissions portraits so people can see themselves when they were young, move their necks a bit to the right, and see themselves much older in the same photo. At first, Fox wasn’t sure if that would be so flattering.
“Age is a hard thing to navigate. When you’re physically showing age, it can be a difficult one to do right. You’re going from child to very much adult,” Fox said.
If Fox could go back in time, he’d go back to his first year of university. Simple. In fact, a lot of wannabe time travelers don’t want to save the world. They just want a quick peak. Take Philip Langeskov, a Creative Writing and Literature lecturer at the University of East Anglia. If he could go anywhere, he could go to Sunday, June 2005. Or was it July? Maybe it was June. He’s not so sure. But he does remember the feeling. He’s talking about the final moments of the second test between England and Australia.
“It was an amazing moment for a cricket fan who followed England all through his youth,” Langeskov said. “It was a transformational moment, it was everything, and it was when everything seemed right with this world. It’s one of the most innocently pleasurable moments of my life.”
Some days, he still goes back there.
“The older you become the more you notice the way the world has changed,” UEA philosophy lecturer Jeremy Goodenough said. “You are still capable, with your mind, of moving back and forth through the time you live in. I can, in that sense, travel back in time to the 1950s and the 1960s and so on. In that sense, our memories do give us a form of time travel.
If you look at it like that, Jamie Fox’s photography is a form of time travel. But if you look at it that way, living is, too. And we do that every day, at a speed of 60 seconds per minute, the oldest joke in the book.
If you would like to check out Jamie Fox's artwork, you can find it in the Western atrium of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, or find out more here: www.facebook.com/Timetravelimage
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