Public time?

Posted in CF Writing, News, Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on October 21, 2010

Claire Docherty’s comments at the Mapping the Future (of public art in Scotland) event in Dundee yesterday were billed as a discussion of ‘public time’ and focused on the current state of public art. She seemed to be arguing around a need to move beyond a dichotomy of monumentalism or critical ephemeralism looking in particular at what she called public time. She described a number of projects which were iterative or cumulative or strategic, i.e. that, without monumentalism, tried to develop relationships with audiences and participants (the public?) over a period of time. She highlighted gardening and pavilion projects, slow food, conversation and referenced her own year long programme of One Day Sculpture across New Zealand.   The obligatory Ranciere reference – participation does not equal critical legitimacy – was made.

But her comments remained looking around in the (public) art world. Whilst time and space are different dimensions of the same experience, the focus of public art, certainly in Miwon Kwon’s construction, has been an evolution of the understanding of space and the abilities of artists and designers to shape and reveal space.

“Yet despite the meanderings of the last 15 years we often continue to use such a search for resolution in lieu of admitting that there is a need to understand the relative value of work that deals with time as much as space.”  (Proxemics, 2006, JRP Ringier, p.99)

Nothing is ever cut and dried, but when Liam Gillick raised the issue of shifting the focus from public space to public time, and I’m not sure if that’s where Docherty got the idea from, he prompted in my mind thoughts about the public experience of time, not artists’ construction of time.

Turn your thoughts to public time and approach that idea:
Waiting, waiting lists, waiting rooms, wasting
Travelling, delays, speed, dislocation,
Working, pressure, shifts, holidays, nightworkers, clickworkers, payday
Boredom, repetition, necessity, cuts, dole,
Queuing, waiting,
Shopping, retail therapy, footering
Beer o’clock
Timeless places, casinos without clocks or natural light, skara brae
Sleep disorders, postcode lotteries,
Today vs PM, rolling news,
“The geese from Siberia are three weeks earlier this year”
(the list is as long as the time invested in making it – half an hour yesterday, another five minutes today)

Time is a curious phenomenon. It is structured within society, historically by culturally determined cycles derived from the process of the planet’s angle and rotation around the star at the centre of our solar system. In Scotland, because of our Northerliness, the pattern of the seasons mean that our school holidays are different from England. We have different festivals (Michelmas has just passed, Lammas before that, and in the future Candlemas) with associated happenings, including food and drink. Marking time and the pattern of activity related to the seasons has slipped our minds’ because we shelter, light and heat our lives. Other cultures have a more present experience of seasonality, including for instance the Sami (image above).  We rarely extend our timescale to even one cycle of seasons, let alone thinking beyond our own lifespan.

If there is value in drawing attention to scale, then it is equally important to draw attention to value. Time is money. Or rather there is a more complex relationship where social position is related to time and money. Just as money is unspecialised form of exchange (and humans are unspecialised animals) so time (as we organise it in Western society) is an unspecialised form of measurement enabling a little of one person’s time to be valued very highly and a lot of another person’s time to be bought extremely cheaply. In this way time is like space. Public art is complicit in the gentrification of space. Can public art not also be accused of being complicit in the gentrification of time?

Detailed summary of all three Mapping the Future events on PAR+RS website.


"I always knew you were wrong." Ross Sinclair and David Harding on the train returning from the seminar.

One Response

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  1. More public time? « CHRIS FREMANTLE said, on November 30, 2010 at 10:41 am

    […] See earlier post Public time? […]

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