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What time is it? (wz.cz)
363 points by joaopfsilva on May 1, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 80 comments

This is an art project called 'Standard Time' by Mark Formanek. In late 2007 he filmed a team of 70 workers constructing this clock through 1611 iterations (every minute) for a 24-hour period in Berlin's Sculpture Park. So when originally filmed it was done in real-time.

The flash video here is based on a screensaver that Formanek has made available which synchronises that video to your system clock, making it appear that you're watching the clock as it's being built. It's a clever idea with great execution and the effect is interesting enough that a number of galleries have put screens with the time-synced video on display.

Formanek has since staged a few live re-enactments of this clock being built, though I'm not sure if any others have gone for the full 24 hours.

There's more info, including videos demonstrating how it was done, at the official site: http://www.standard-time.com/

>Formanek has since staged a few live re-enactments of this clock being built

I will never understand people that appreciate this kind of art. Call me classical, but I really don't see watching a clock interesting.

Someone at the Boston MFA made a 24 hr movie where they compile different bits of film that includes a clock into a real time clock (so if it was 10:23 it would show 10:23 in a bit of the clip). It was interesting until you realize that besides being a neat art project, it's really difficult to understand.

I think I understand what Formanek was aiming for with this.

Unlike pre-compiled footage that can just be made 24 hours long, this was done in real-time with the workers forced to match the demands of the clock without the opportunity to pause during their shifts.

Because of its real-time nature when you view the video synced to your local time you can't help but become somewhat invested in the success of the workers as they struggle to keep up with time and come very close to failing during some transitions. There's tension generated by the fact that you never know whether they'll make the next minute.

Then there's the realisation you get after having watched this for a while that it's really all pointless, that you have become personally invested in the actions of a bunch of workers struggling to keep up with re-creating one of the most basic solved problems of the modern world: A clock. It takes 70 workers working all out to do what a cheap watch can do effortlessly.

I suppose that if it succeeds in getting most viewers to think a bit about the nature of work, time and labour then it achieved its intended purpose.

I can't watch the video because I'm on my phone but your explanation makes me want to bookmark it for later. Thanks!

So this kind of art is aimed at normally unreflective people?

Every saturday millions of people invest $100s each and colleges invest $100millions in finding out which team of people can carry a leather oval from one end of a field to another.

This is at least novel and at the end of it you have a clock.

Everything can be simplified to the point of absurdity.

Or to the point that its absurdity becomes apparent.

How meta; a post that exemplifies itself.

Life is absurd. Embrace it.

Yes, and for more than a thousand years people have been rearranging the positions of tiny sculptures of feudal stereotypes on an 8x8 grid. What a waste of time.

What gk1 said.

You forgot the part where each team is trying to stop the other. That fact changes it from being a mere procedure to being a dynamic system.

And in your summary and description, there are a great many almost borderline poetic parallels to a lot of situations and things in our life; there is a tension, almost an arc... great effort but it is all in futility, in vain because there are more modern, better solutions. Old technology vs. new ones? Past vs present? Or the great effort it takes people in poor countries to do something that is totally effortless for most of us? And those are just some silly ideas but still fun to think about it, at least for me.

It's really choppy on my computer, but I'm definitely finding it interesting on a few levels. In case you actually want to understand people that appreciate this kind of art, here's my take:

The basic level for me is that watching them run around is kinda compelling. I once worked out of a high office building across the street from a building being disassembled and then replaced, and I lost hours watching the people at work.

There's also a series of deadlines; watching them speed up and slow down is neat. Very human. Will they make it? How about next minute? A friend who's an improv performer (and Google engineer) sometimes does this thing at his shows called "the oxygen game". Three people improvise a scene, but only two are interacting at once. The third one has their head in a bucket of water until the other two find a narrative reason to bring them back in, at which point somebody else's head goes under. The audience loves this human struggle against time.

There's also an element of expectations violated. Clocks are usually utterly boring, especially digital ones like he's aping. Which is why a lot of people create interesting clocks. E.g.: http://www.stuartsinger.com/ballclock.htm http://longnow.org/clock/

Then when watching it, it's really interesting to think about the labor. These are real people, in effect dancing for our pleasure. But they're not professional dancers. They're just construction workers, making another thing for somebody else. How do they feel about that? Do they feel the same way about a lot of the stuff they get hired to build? Are there other things that they build that are ultimately just as pointless, just as rooted in entertainment for the funder?

Then I wonder how far you could take this. What if I put up a webcam in Times Square and had a big mechanical clock where people had to supply the labor. Say by cranking a wheel once a minute. Would people participate? How would they feel? Would the clock ever miss a minute? Would it miss an hour or a day?

So for me, art like this combines an interesting idea with something that engages the senses (and sometimes the emotions) long enough for me to think about the idea and related themes. Nothing new, really: Cathedrals weren't just built to be pretty; they were there to get you think about the builder's god(s).

I see artists as seeding the "Cambrian explosion" of ideas for every new generation. They start with the world as it is and just try stuff. Sometimes it strikes a cord with many people, becomes part of our collective "culture," and is entered into the canon of acceptable "art." Most of the time it is just forgotten. So artists are just out there trying things - if it makes you see the world in a new way or sparks an idea then it is art to you, if it doesn't then who cares?

I will never understand how people that don't understand something don't understand how other people have the capacity to understand things not understood by them!

That's not it. They are basically saying "the Emperor has no clothes".

i.e. that people pretend to get it, but really, there's nothing there. And what they don't understand is why pretend?

I've had someone say this about all of poetry. All of it...

It takes some breathtaking arrogance to think that a good chunk of educated and intelligent people are indulging in pretending to 'get something'.

I have written (edit: arguably terrible) poetry that people really enjoyed. But, I never thought of it as anything other than a word game. When someone called it deep there was a part of me that wanted to call BS and say it's attacking the part of your mind that seeks meaning in everything.

  Just Die  *What someone says*
  End the Endless Breath with Death *What an author says*
  Endless Breath Ended *What a poet says*
PS: Some people feel it's the readers who create meaning not the author or words themselves. I always felt that was a little to close to the chinese room argument. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room (Edit: Organization is important, a living body and a dead body may have the same atoms, but the dead one does not understand language.)

The same applies to music. There are great variations in taste and there are people who exist who can't appreciate music at all. But it would clearly be absurd for them to claim that music is a case of emperor's clothes. I see your point though.

You can by definition not understand why they don't understand. If you understood why they don't understand then you'd likely not understand yourself. Likewise, if they understood why they don't understand then they'd probably have understood in first place.

That argument works for the purely logical definition of "understand", but not so much for the "appreciate" or "accept" meanings of the word.

Its not so much that I don't understand how you have have the capacity to understand these things but rather what do you actually understand?

Think of some art you really like, then find someone who doesn't feel anything from it. Now try explaining why you like it to them. That's what you're asking us to do.

Art makes you think or feel outside your normal scripts... you don't need to "understand" anything. What is the origin of creativity?

Understanding is difficult - let's go shopping.

I really don't care if we call it art or not. I just think it's neat, it makes me go, "Oh! Cool!" and puts a smile on my face. I'm glad someone is doing it. Much like Improve Everywhere: http://improveverywhere.com/

But that is what art is supposed to do - inspire emotion. I had the same reaction btw.

Haha, "Improve Everywhere". I don't disagree. :)

But is it art? It's all in the eye of the beholder.

I feel the same in reverse. I'm very often left completely cold by art that is about well executed craftsmanship, such as painting, photography or sculpture but lean towards pieces like this which, to my mind, are about prompting the viewer to ask questions.

That's the kicker with 'art' it's about what the person experiencing it takes from it, and those reactions are as varied as people are. Anything is art if at least one person other than the creator reacts to it.

It's not just a clock, but an ever changing installation that will always need the labor of those men constantly rebuilding it, to keep "running". I find it quite interesting, as an idea. Implementation could be better, I guess, but it provokes some interesting associations and thoughts. Which is, I think, one of the definition of art. To capture an idea or emotion, to reproduce and communicate an experience. Not just a picture.

Of course, it's valid to say that it doesn't work for you, or even that it can't work for anyone, because it's plain stupid. Like so many garbage art out there.

The world is made up of different people with different ideas and tastes. So why do you think your Twitter App is interesting? Why do you think the JavaScript thing you coded to enhance CSS3 is worth the long hours you invested in it? Someone, not in the IT industry, will certainly dismiss it as non-sense (not even interesting).

One of the points of this kind of art is the discussion that you just participated in actively yourself.

I believe you are thinking of Christian Marclay's "The Clock".


Is being an interesting, neat art project not enough? Not everything has to be making some grand statement about the meaning of life.

> I will never understand people that appreciate this kind of art. Call me classical, but I really don't see watching a clock interesting.

Well, we have definitely gone beyond "classical" art for a LOOONG time now... the times when art was just "pretty" and "classical" is long gone - you find this "pretty" and aiming at the audience more in contemporary pop now, and the "artsy" artists do things like this clock and in my own understanding, an important factor definitely is experimenting and playing with our understanding of "what is art". Because when it comes down to it, there aren't THAT many borders or taboos to cross anymore nowadays so "what is art" is definitely an evergreen, if you will.

I am not saying you have to like it but maybe when seen from this angle, you can find it easier to appreciate the effort. Oh and by saying "I don't get it" or "I don't like it" or "this is crap" you have already contributed something - if you were to say "I don't like it and it is crap BECAUSE....." then you would have even contributed something of greater value. It's all (or rather it's a lot) about how it makes you feel and what you think and the ensuing discussion, really.

Call me stupid, but... Why 1611?

    66*24 + 24 + 3 = 1611
Every hour, 60 minute unit changes and 6 minute tens changes. 24 hour unit changes, and 3 hour tens changes.

Can someone explain this like I'm five? If I watch this for 24 hours straight, I would see 24 * 60 = 1440 transitions, would I not? So why film the extra 171?

it is 1611 if you count transitions of individual digits (i.e.: 8:59 -> 9:00 is three transitions because 3 digits changes)

I personally consider it to be 1440 transitions with some transitions involving multiple digits (and hence harder to do) but arguments can be made for both ways of counting.

Is it insanely laggy because it's being Slashdotted/Reddited/Hackernewsed, or is it just the godawful Tasmanian internet again?

I suspect the former - it's laggy here too, and the network here is normally pretty fast.

If that's the case, it's been true since 1am this morning. I wonder if it's on the site's side. I have a feeling it is.

Argh! I tuned in at 10:52 and wanted to stick around to see the :00 transition, and the player crapped out just at :59, and when I reloaded the 00 had already been switched, and they were just pulling off the pieces to switch 10 to 11. The next such transition is an hour away!

...wait, how did I get so invested in this?

You could always change your system time.

The location seems to be Berlin, but the domain is Czech.

It would be cool to have this in different timezones with corresponding backgrounds!

And cue the commercials cloned off this.

Absolutely brilliant. I couldn't find any background on it though - looks like a Czech project?

With the Fernsehturm at Alexanderplatz in the background, I'd rather wager Berlin?

It was shot in Berlin.

Didnt have flash can't see on mobile. I am still curious if "creatives" still got stuck between Adobe and Apple, the two top "creative" tool producers.

Flash version 9,0 or greater is required You have no flash plugin installed

Download latest version from here

I do not have a flash player on my machine for more than 6 months. This is the first website I encountered that I cannot use at all.

You might need to change the parameters to sync it to your time.

Ditto. Flash is dead.

If Flash was really dead you wouldn't have bothered posting about how dead it is.

As an example: ActiveX is dead. If this was done in ActiveX, it wouldn't have gotten any upvotes at all if it was even submitted in the first place, and most wouldn't have seen it or bothered to point out ActiveX is dead.

So is this a clever split frame trick or did they actually spend an entire day doing that?

EDIT: Actually, the lighting would be really difficult if it was a trick so I'm going to say it's real.

I thought it was a split frame thing too, but then noticed that they veer into the tens place pretty frequently and cast shadows. :) (And the other comments give more details about the original art installation.)

That's not to say that you couldn't do a split-frame thing like this, with a little bit of cleverness and planning. Even if it were only split around the middle, that's only 72 transitions to film, which isn't too bad.

Looks to me like they hired a bunch of cheap workers on an "art" budget.

they stole this video from (as well as code for playing it)


http://iprl.wz.cz/ is now apparently displaying some obscene video.

The original(?) on http://esquire.ru/clock is working though.

Yes, http://iprl.wz.cz/ was working yesterday, but now is showing some random crap. http://iprl.wz.cz/ is really slow and framed. Please fix the first one!

It's using the same video bandwidth behind the scenes (which is why both are lagging). I'm not sure if that means it's a repost by the author on separate sites, or whether someone is leeching bandwidth for traffic here.

Well it appears that it's time for flash to load forever and then make my fan go crazy.

Same here. Is this a WebGL thing or something? Three people have sent this to me today so far, and the site simply doesn't seem to work at all.

Considering how much work was put into this, the novelty is lost very quickly, for me at least.

Things you only look at for a short time can still have a pervasive impact. I find art mostly works that way for me at least, and I think that will be the case here.

Pretty sweet how it freezes every two seconds, showing an hourglass. How do they do that?

I'd be more impressed if it displayed seconds.

Awesome. Closest affordable equivalent is the Stonehenge clock http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pH0HLXnXljY

Looking at this from my office in Berlin, I thought "wow, they're even using GeoIP and some clever compositing to adjust the background to wherever I am."

Same here :)

It was awkward when I realized this wasn't linking to the clock anymore and it had been on my facebook timeline the last three days..

WOW That's awesome!

I highly appreciate the vivid art and message behind this creative construction. We need more crazy people :)

Time to get a new server

Peanut butter jelly time?

flash.. yawn

Aaaadventure Time!!!

Really nice work!! and free time to do that ;)

Ya the location seems Czech Republic!! cuz the domain and the builds..i guess

it's Berlin

cool project. Website feels a bit slow. I did something similar recently to learn coffeescript. http://currenti.me

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