New Criticals

Most all the images in Marclay's masterpiece are of classical clocks, pendulums, watches, digital alarms. Though the watch has returned moreso as a fashionable and luxurious item of conspicuous consumption rather than as a functional tool, our primary mechanism of checking the time is now via our cellphones. But these are not simply devices that locate us temporally, but spatially, socially. Cellphones are not passive instruments, but active technologies that shape our relation to time, space, and our fellow humans. As we read in a recent New York Times article, they are perhaps better understood not as phones, but as trackers, watchers, aware of where we are at every moment, tapped into our reservoir of desires at every second. Like Feurbach’s anthropomorphic understanding of God as simply a human projection of human desires that has become wholly other, with the cell phone “Watcher,” the same reification and deification of time and space is now complete—we no longer simply watch time and space, but time and space watches us.

The history of "the time" is a story of the increasing fragmentation of Time. As we become more precise and accurate, we precisely shatter and fragment the very phenomenon we are trying to measure, changing it by the very act of trying to measuring. The first attempts at measuring time were, like the first attempts of measuring space, not mathematical abstractions, but intimately tied to our experience of the world as bodies, elemental facts of our felt relation to the world and its motion: the movement of the sun, the planets, the flow of water or sand, fire as it burns a candle or incense. In trying to find the object "out there" of time, the clock only emphasized the fact of our subjective relation to the world, its change, its movement, its “time.”