film with sound / 5.34


Commission for Queens Hall Digital

part of the TID project

How to keep time? How to grasp the passing of day into night? The ticking clock keeps track. Seconds are inventions, minutes and hours are neat ways of collecting those seconds.

Seconds used to be made of sand, of sun and of water. One of the earliest methods of measuring time passing was a water clock, a Clepsydra, from the Greek ‘to steal water’. Predecessor to the hourglass, the clock developed from the sundial as a means of measuring time indoors, or at night, or when the sun cast no shadow.

Beginning in 1379 BC Egypt, designs spread invented independently throughout Babylon, India, China, Persia and Greece. Time is tracked through the flow and weight of water. In one version different vessels corresponding to different lengths of time were placed in a larger water-filled container to slowly fill up and sink. One use of this design was to time speeches; a vessel corresponding to a length of time a speaker might orate, stopping when it sank to the bottom.

TIMEPIECE is a speculative water clock experiment. Different stoneware vessels are tested, trialled and trained as measurement of time. Echoing the shape of a clock face or the moon, with a soundtrack of the tide sucking in and out, it offers another way of keeping track from this moment to the next.

Online the time is always present and thus almost invisible. The digital sources of the phone and the computer are coordinated to the same centres, ensuring a frictionless movement through the day; we all move to the same time. A water clock offers an irregular counterpoint to these apparently seamless conditions. Instead of ticking seconds you wait as time slowly fills up and sinks.