This week I’ve been thinking about individual perceptions of time. Some of us feel its passing keenly, while others, like the Panaceans, see themselves as an integral part of a timeline that never ends. Like a cartoon character, they stretch out every fingertip and toe, straining to stop the clock for as long as possible, before that terrible ripping sound begins...
Naïve as it sounds, most of us can probably relate to this desire to hold a moment in our hands. Life isn’t predictable, falls follow rises, and there’s no telling when the next precipice will open up under our feet. But this need to stop the clock might be more deeply ingrained than we think. I keep pondering the recent reconstruction of Octavia’s house and the rooms in the Panacea Museum building. Does this mammoth ongoing effort, carried out in the name of education, come from the same place as the Panaceans’ careful preservation of rooms (and moments)? Is one of the roles of museums to sanction our basic need to freeze a moment?
Then there are initiatives like the Long Now Foundation and their 10,000 Year Clock which seem to me to be on some kind of paradoxical continuum with the mindfulness movement. The further you soar above the truth of change (movement that becomes different; entropy even) the more you engage with the truth in abstraction. There are a lot of ways to mark time that feel like a heart beating itself out, and just as many ways to stretch each beat out so thinly that you cease to detect it passing at all. There are also ways to make a movement last forever, digitally, by repeating it over and over and over again, and I’ve been looking at some of those.
Thinking about halting time, modern predictions, and the Panacean’s apparent stock in the protective effects of miniaturisation (see see my previous blog post), I’m going to attempt to make a sort of digital, apocalyptic cuckoo clock.
It’s a variation on the symbolic Doomsday Clock if you like, but with a different effect/graphic for each hour. Watching the clock will (hopefully) be Jack, my interpretation of Octavia’s jackdaw, who appears reincarnated as a sentient robot. The media we are treated to on the hour, every hour, are his dreams of our futures.
The archives show the Panaceans felt shock and sadness at Jack’s loss. It seems he was a real member of the family.
By December 31st I aim to have the digital clock working, and 12 pieces of media, one for each hour, ready in their rough state. After December, I will sharpen up the media, perhaps re-make some of it, and begin to work on a way to display the material online.
Jack’s Dreams will be a sort AI version of the Southcott box. Each one is a vision for a future of mankind, and you won’t know what he has to share with us until it appears, on the stroke of each hour.
Jack will move while he watches, because he’s going to have a Pixy camera in him which will track bright colours (see my previous blog post for more about this). The camera is mounted in a robotic cradle which allows for a good range of movement. As is typical for these kinds of experimental new technologies, the equipment doesn’t work perfectly at the moment and I’m still waiting for the replacement servo motors to arrive. Fortunately there are plenty of other things to get on with in the meantime.
When not being viewed online through a webcam, the entire ‘cuckoo clock’ rig can be moved around relatively easily and installed in different locations to allow for interesting viewing online through the webcam portal.
It handles themes of global sustainability, natural disasters and time, and, given it’s AI we’re talking about, a bit of philosophical speculation too.
I have about three more full days to spend on this before Christmas, before moving on to Part 2 of the residency. I’m planning to collect and create rough versions of each of the 12 pieces of media, and have the camera module working. I’m also keen to involve some contemporary ‘prophets’ in each of these pieces of media. Again this is something I want to line up before the Christmas deadline. It’ll be a little tight but it’s all possible, particularly if I move away from pixel work and into less time-consuming video for the remaining six pieces of media. With another 8 days after Christmas dedicated to finishing and polishing, it’s on track to be in good shape by March.
The images show: Pixel landscape showing a ‘tripods’ type scenario; fabric swatch of another pixel graphic scenario with a view to possibly printing them all as a wall hanging or similar; Jack’s obituary in the Panceans’ newsletter; very early mock-up of the Pixy embedded in a bird; mermaid gif for another one of the hourly events.