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San Francisco
Thomson & Craighead
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
2155 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94720
June 1, 2011 - August 31, 2011

To the last syllable of recorded time
by Andrew Berardini

Time, time, time: the bastard just doesn’t stop.

Time is of course one of those mind-bogglingly ginormous things that’s exceptionally difficult to wrap one’s head around. Even quantum mechanics and other well-degreed and deservedly smart physicists have an exceptionally tough time with it as well for all the right reasons. It’s perhaps best just to show up when your dentist tells you to and try not to think about the existential/philosophical/quantum aspects of time too terribly hard. Time of course and attempting to mess with it or change it have long been a pop station standard; I’ve a bleak memory of Cher prancing on a Navy battle ship in a fishnet jumpsuit and a leather jacket singing “If I could turn back time…” Shudder.

Despite Cher's heartfelt attempts, sometime solutions to the problem of wanting to turn back time are best solved with a stiff whiskey and a late-night marathon of black-and-white films, but the easier though still rather unsatisfying solution is to flip the clock backward. The artist duo Thomson and Craigshead did exactly this and though it doesn’t actually make time backwards it does make time read backwards on an online digital clock, which is at least better progress than I’ve been able to make with countless stiff whiskeys and old movies.

Their curious digital clock is online, though curated ostensibly by the museum (which is something else I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around along with a collector recently telling me he was buying up websites on the cheap from net artists). You first notice that the strange feeling of digital numbers as something so terribly familiar is marginally de-familiarized. They at first look right but yet not quite right at first, the digital fingers decidedly marching forward, in their petty pace.

Digital numbers though have all the bad smack of efficiency and work, clock-watching and waiting rooms, the alarm clock and the digital wristwatch.

Follow a link and there it is simple, flipping time backwards.

The most recent foray into visual art clock making is of course Christian Marclay’s The Clock, a masterpiece of collaged movie clips, almost every scene including a clock with the appropriate time somewhere in it, meant to be viewed in real time and lasting twenty-four hours. A collective history of past time, but much like a real clock, it still marks the inevitable, the unchangeable, the shift ever forward.

I’m reminded here of a scene of Willy Wonka in the 1971 film. The candyman takes his guests to the inventing room, where he leans over Veruca Salt (looking sour and spoiled in a foaming vat) and with an old-fashioned alarm clock in his hand Wonka whispers to her, ”Time is a precious thing, never waste it” and then throws the clock into the pot, presumably another satisfying way to deal with the inexplicability of time.

—  Andrew Berardini

Thomson & Craighead, 
Still from Flipped Clock, 
2009, digital animation
© Courtesy of the Artist and Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Posted by Andrew Berardini on 7/26/11 | tags: net-art

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