Sunday, July 16, 2006


In the space of a Friday lunchtime, a visit to the Tate Modern got me thinking about what we human beings try to do with time and space:

  • We divide up time and space because time and space are both indivisible
  • We find ways of visualising time and space because time and space are invisible
  • We fight for time and fight for space because time and space are infinite and unlimited.

My first stop was the fourth floor: back to Pierre Huyghe's One Year Celebration inside his Celebration Park. Huyghe's premise was that our calendar is a map, a map of the year, and the map has some uncolonised territory in the form of days which don't have a holiday attached to them.

At Hugyhe's invitation several artists and critics have come up with suggestions for colonising these days with celebrations.

Two of these proposed celebrations are attempts to resist the mapping of time, in order to escape the constraints that our mappings of time place on the way we live our lives and on the way we think about the universe.

Joe Scanlan suggested having an 'open day': a day slotted in somewhere between Sunday and Monday. Nothing can be scheduled for this day (because no-one knows when it is) and we can instead enjoy things in life that don’t need to be scheduled (Scanlon suggests that coffee, newspapers and cigarettes should be half price).

Another artist suggested a day out of the year, a revival of the Mayan practice of having one day in the year that wasn't included in the calendar, to remind everyone that time is greater than the calendar, that time is impervious to attempts to measure it.

I popped into the bookshop to flick through the book accompanying Celebration Park and noted Hughye' s comment (in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist) that he regarded time as a corollary of space. He talked about how a television programme exist mainly in time, but also in space, and differently from objects.

All this talk about the relationship between space persuaded me to pop upstairs to the fifth floor to revisit my favourite thing in the Tate Modern: 1,000 millimetres by Stanley Brouwn.

It consists of a card index box, containing 1,000 pieces of card. Each card has the words '1mm' written on it, above a horizontal line, in pencil, one millimetre long. So you have a thousand millimetres in the box.

There are no more or less millimetres in that card index box than there would have been if Brouwn had left the cards blank and saved himself the effort of drawing all those lines.

We have no way of adding a millimetre or a second to the universe.

As I was coming down the escalator from the fifth floor of the Tate Modern I had a Eureka moment. I solved the mystery of time and space: they don’t exist!

1 comment:

Cosmos said...

You always make interesting observations. I think what makes life and this universe so interesting is existence of the kind of contradictions that you mentioned. Such fascinating discovery about time and space!