Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Museum of Time



A museum of time. That's what this place should be, should become. A space as vast and rambling as this needs to be filled with the mechanisms of time. Have you not noticed that there are no clocks here? None of the walls have any variety of time-keeping instruments. It is designed to suspend you in a sense of timelessness, mired in a fragile feeling that time is not of the essence. Who needs to be told the time when you are busy spending money? Here money is disconnected, independent of time.

Time is not money here as the old adage would have you believe. Time is of no consequence. In this ambience of constant bright fluorescent light where the dark is kept at bay but always seems to be there on the fringes, threatening to engulf, you don't need the time. You need the aimless purpose of wondering where to spend money next. To be made conscious of what the time is is to deter you from playing your contributive part in trade, an unnecessary distraction that might stop you from being the selfless person you become as you wander these glass-walled corridors in search of adding to someone else's profit margins. To spend your money, hard-earned or ill-gained, on things to which you have added your own estimation of value over and above its asking price, is a feeling that you often find indescribable. It is at once a sense of fulfilment, satisfaction and ennui. Not easy feelings to come by when you live in the life, the spaces, where time is of the essence. Where the devices of chronometry dictate what action you will take in the next minute and the one after that, and after that.

You traverse these marbled floors which wind about themselves in soft-soled, sure-footed steps. You look at the wares on display as if you have never seen such things before. Perhaps you never have. Perhaps you have imagined it, something like it. You notice nothing else, no one else as you stare through the sparkling clean glass wall. Your eyes gradually become conscious then of someone else on the other side of the wall. Someone peering with the same concentration as you at the item you may potentially expend your money upon. You look up at that someone else on the other side and you stare into your own eyes. At first you are slightly startled, and then a smile spans your face, a short giggle to yourself. You look back at the enticing thing there, imprisoned in glass, spotlighted in LED brightness. It seems to rise up to you on a cushion of air. You look at it and you imagine yourself using it, wearing it, eating it, cuddling it. You are pleased. You enter the shop, pushing open large glass doors that heavily slide apart to give you entrance.

Welcome. Welcome to a world where you are exactly who they want should enter their shop. If you are not too avid about the reason why you entered the shop, you might look about you and notice there are no timepieces on display. Nothing to remind you of the faster, chronologically-bound life which awaits you once you leave these climate-controlled, shiny metal and glass halls of static commerce. What use is time if avarice has been well and truly established in its role to increase your hunger to possess? Possession is 3/4ths of the law. Isn't that what they say? That you cannot be dispossessed of your ownership or your tenancy without recourse to law? That by virtue of the fact that you have purchased a thing from within this splendiferous architectural structure and will continue to do so as long as you have money to spend, can you not lay claim as a tenant? By virtue of having spent hours in this place? Hours? Countless hours! Ah, there's the rub. Countless. See? Time does not exist here. You can never prove the number of hours you have spent here mainly because you willingly entered a zone where time does not exist.

In the museum of time the many instruments devised by humans to calculate and tell the course of the sun and the moon in our life, in the universal scheme of things, and in its repetitive form, will be in direct confrontation with each other. No one device will ever tell the same time as the ones near it. You will be immersed in an ocean of visual, auditory and physical time of every hour, minute and second of the day. And night. Every tick, every tock, every click and every clang, every whispering moment will resound in a silence that surrounds it. Clocks, watches, hourglasses, sundials, metronomes, egg-timers, large almanacs of fluttering pages, calendars which measure human time till infinity perceived will be on display, for you to see and experience every hour of every day, of every month and every year until you no longer wish to. Or can. The museum of time is never closed.

In the museum will there be two atriums, atria. One will be exposed to the natural passage of the day and night, while the other will, in multi-dimensional technological marvellousness, show the exact opposite of the natural passage. As you amble along the circular corridors of time on display, the atria in the centre of these corridors will simultaneously present real or artificial time as the gradual transformation of day to night to day to night...

Any time at once is what the museum of time will have on exhibit. Time as told in devices of wood, stone, earth, water, metal and synthetic substances. Many of rare and long heritage, carefully preserved to contest the ravages of time. Many of recent vintage, of recent invention. Analogue, digital, binary, shadows of the sun. Differently told, never the same.
Your hands grip bags made of environment-friendly, recycled waste containing items in polluting plastic which you will never dispose of carefully, but you are particular in trashing the polystyrene cup which had a coffee in one of the stainless-steel bins primly situated next to a pillar, one of many which hold these balconies, these circular corridors showcasing wondrous artifice clothed in colour and texture, behind thick clear glass and shiny polished metal, painted wood and textured polymer. And you stand for a timeless moment, put the bags down near your feet, rest your hands on the smooth gloss of the steel balustrades and look down into the atrium. Down in to the depths of this building where time is absent. And you notice the other light. Not the fluorescent, neon, LED kind. You look up. Up to the clear domed glass roof sectioned by curving support beams. And you see it is day. Sunlight shines brightly outside. Clouds gently waft across beyond the glass. A sense of true satisfaction grips you. It is still day. Lots can be done. Be bought. Be spent upon. Time can be spent on what money can buy without being aware of the time itself.

Picking up your socially-conscious packed goods, you turn back to the corridors to look at the next direction you may want to go. To the left and down seems like a good choice. Away from the atrium, away from the natural light, into the mild-yellow fluorescence that renders the visual of time entirely useless. Something makes you glance back to the atrium. You see, no you only register, somewhere in a corner of your mind that the light in the atrium now seems to be that of night as you nimbly patter off on the marble path paved with good intentions to ride the escalator to hell.

The radio ballet for listeners which LIGNA of Hamburg-Berlin broadcast in Calcutta's South City Mall between 11th and 18th December 2012 as part of 'Parallel Cities' - an alternative art and media project in six simultaneous venues presented by Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan, gave me food for thought to write the piece above.

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