Sitting on the banks of the étangs d'Ixelles, a little boy clutches his fishing rod. He looks out across the water with studied concentration, past the small ducks bobbing on the surface. In the foreground a small wooden boat is seen casting a shadow over the gently rippled pond. This is the scene that Douglas Huebler captures in a series of thirty photographs taken one Sunday afternoon in March 1973. Carried out at intervals of twenty seconds, the photographer documents the trajectory of the sun as it falls lower in the sky. Hand held, the camera immortalizes the slight movements, left to right, up and down that the artist made as he stood poised for ten minutes, observing the passing of time in space. Entitled Duration Piece No. 77, the name commemorates this moment. Whilst Fluxus artists once used the word 'piece' to refer to passages of music, for Huebler this term foregrounds his work in life's ongoing project, the passages of time. The accompanying text acts as a verbal explanation, a detailed directive set forth by the artist to 'bring together instances from the unstructured ongoing continuum of people, places and events that constitute visible reality' (A. Rorimer, New Art in the 60s and 70s: Redefining Reality, London, 2001, p.140).
Huebler was one of the first of a generation of artists including On Kawara and Roman Opalka, to make work based on the documentation of time and place. He began his series of Duration Pieces in 1968 following a landmark exhibition at the Seth Siegelaub Gallery in New York entitled January 5-31 1969, alongside artists Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth and Robert Barry. The works presented at the exhibition dramatically differed from those Huebler had shown barely two years before at the Minimal sculpture show, 'Primary Structures' at the Jewish Museum, New York. As he rationalised: 'the world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more. I prefer, simply, to state the existence of things in terms of time and or place' (D. Huebler, January 5-31, 1969, exh. cat., Seth Siegelaub Gallery, New York, 1969, n.p.). By moving away from three-dimensional objects, Huebler was at once renouncing modernism, as well as entertaining new possibilities including: maps, drawings, language and photographs. These works, including his Location and Variable pieces referred to as Site Sculpture Projects, expressed Huebler's search for a 'methodology for deconstructing - dismantling - whatever, the rules of formalism, of aesthetics, etc.' (D. Huebler letter to Anne Rorimer, 22 September, 1994, quoted in A. Rorimer, New Art in the 60s and 70s: Redefining Reality, London, 2001, p.135).