Silvana Annicchiarico and Jan Van Rossem view digital clocks and timepieces as artificially separated from the time of the natural universe. Whereas the hands of a clock are in their impression a beautiful reproduction of the sun in the sky, timepiece design has transformed our relationship with time.

(…) Time expressed by the clock with hands was once a beautiful reproduction of the natural time calculated by the sun in the sky. On the contrary, today one of the characteristics of the digital clock is to communicate nothing at all of the universe. Perhaps they alert us to the fact that the essence of a timepiece no longer consists in displaying the course of natural time, but only of artificial time, artifact time.

O’clock thinks deeply about this transformation and the relationship between time and design. but this is not an exhibition with a historical approach. It does not seek to document the history of timekeeping diachronically, nor the relationship that the masters of design have had, over time, with instruments, from calendars to clocks, used for measuring time.

O’clock is meant to act as a synchronic survey of the possible relations that some contemporary objects or designs – beginning from about the zero of the new millennium – have with time and the problems connected with it. Thus o’clock appears not so much under aegis of kronos as that of kairos. It does not present a logical or chronological sequence of objects, but an aggregate set of exhibits by the type of perception it triggers, emotions it inflames, thoughts it sparks. Hoping that this can also trigger the occurrence of something in the visitor. (…)

O’clock seeks to give some answers to these questions, by way of enigmatic objects, aesthetic artifacts, ironic projects, playful, philosophical, mechanical, instinctive, existential observations or provocations on the notion of fleetingness.

Annicchiarico, Silvana, and Van Rossem, Jan. 2012. “O’clock. Time Design, Design Time at Triennale Design Museum, Milan.”


RobinB Creative posits that the subjective experience of time is not a true reflection of objectively quantifiable time. However, in order to appreciate the quality of one’s time, one must dedicate themselves to a quantifiable amount of objective time.

Just because “time flies when you’re having fun”, or a boring lecture may seem “the longest hour of my life”, does not mean that we really believe that units of time literally changed to our dis/advantage. We all understand that subjective experience of time has no true relationship to time as an objective measurement.

More seconds, minutes, hours, days, and/or years = a greater quantity of time. Simple.

Quality of time, is quite a bit harder to pin down. There is no objective measurement for time-quality, as there is for time quantity. Quality of time is purely subjective. Two people, experiencing the same things, at the same time, may have completely different, even opposite opinions regarding the quality of that time. Think, for example, of a father, attending a Justin Bieber concert with his tweenie daughter — or, family game night.

I recently read a very good New York Times article, by Frank Bruni, entitled The Myth of Quality Time. In it, he very convincingly proposes, that quality time is a direct result of commitment to quantity time.

Here’s the gist. (don’t let it discourage you from reading his excellent article) He speaks of quality and quantity time in relation to relationships — more specifically, family. Quality time, is time spent relating, that specifically results in greater relationship depth, sharing, and/or closeness. His primary point is that such quality time is next to impossible without a commitment to quantity time. In other words, quality time requires quantity time to occur.

Bruni states it in terms of family members being unlikely to open up to each other, unless quantities of time are set aside, just to be with each other. However, the thought occurred to me, that this also directly applies to our creative lives, artistic and/or otherwise creative.

Let me first state it bluntly, and then look at it in more depth. High-quality creativity will occur when you commit to spending quantities of time, working on creativity.

Anyone, who has practised creativity, knows the myth and the reality of the “flash of inspiration”. The reality is that we do, sometimes receive apparently sudden flashes of inspiration. The myth is that these flashes appear out of nowhere.

Inspiration, no matter how sudden, proceeds directly from time spent working on, thinking about, and marinading in our craft, art, problem to be solved, etc. This is true from start to finish (Creative 2017).

Creative, RobinB. “Creative time – quality vs quantity.” August 23, 2017.


Keiichiro Fujisaki portrays a clock, which graphically represents the regions of the world which are concurrently either in sunlight or shadow, as a recognition of the difference between natural time and artificial time. Whilst natural time is indicated by the sun, artificial time is said to be illustrated by the time zones.

In the morning, the birds all begin to sing in unison.

The passage of time is different from country to country and region to region. Different cities may be in the same time zone, but as the clock strikes seven in the morning, some may already be experiencing bright daylight, while in others the sun may not even have risen. Earth Clock affords a sweeping view of these various times around the globe. Yoshiaki Nishimura of Living World explains:

“Despite the fact that it’s as broad as the U.S. (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) when measured from east to west, China employs the same standard time throughout the country. The time difference between India and Japan is 3 hours 30 minutes, but the time difference between here and Nepal is 3 hours 15 minutes. Time differences of 15 or 30 minutes are used by certain countries to distinguish themselves from their neighbors, so in a sense they can be referred to as time borders. So among other things, time is a political tool.”

Indeed. I remember hearing stories about how at the western extremity of China the Sun would be directly overhead at three in the afternoon. The terminator marches on regardless of things like manmade national borders and standard time zones. Says Nishimura, “I had in mind the question, What would time be like without the influence of time in industrialized societies?” So Earth Clock was born out of a recognition of the contrast between artificial time and natural time.

“In the morning, the birds all begin to sing in unison as the terminator passes. On the opposite side of the globe, the sunset side, dogs start barking and crows return to their nests. Although in the cities, which increasingly operate around the clock, we live according to artificially designated time with little regard for whether it is day or night, the world at large is overwhelmingly governed by natural time. The terminator turns relentlessly like a music box. Frogs start to croak and birds start to sing. I find this kind of thing fascinating, and I’d always wanted to express this somehow in my work” (Fujisaki 2007).

Fujisaki, Keiichiro. 2007. “Natural time, artificial time: Earth Clock Report Part 1: Living World.” Living world. 14 January 2007.


Jose Arguelles characterises human life as occurring within an artificial time that is separated from the natural rhythms of the biosphere’s (planet’s/universe’s) time. The clock is portrayed as an artefact of artificial time. Contrarily, the Law of Time is said to show that energy, combined with real time, equals art. Time, governing energy, is here positioned as inherent to naturally artistic creation.

From my experiment in time, seeing and studying the human as part of the larger self-evolving fabric of the biosphere, I came to the conclusion that the human is living in a time apart from the rest of the biosphere – an artificial time whose climax and termination is inevitable, for nothing artificial can withstand the force of truth. If the human is living in artificial time, the clock is an artifact whose system of measure has nothing to do with natural cycles but is a totally abstract standard, then there must be something called natural time. I will go even farther and state that not only is there natural time, but that there is a law governing natural time, and that is the Law of Time. Just as Newton only discovered gravity some 300 years ago, though gravity has always existed, so the Law of Time has always been in operation, even though it was just recently discovered…

The Law of Time is formulated very simply, and in some people’s way of thinking, rather unscientifically as T(E) = Art, “energy factored by time equals art.” All phenomena in the material world represent some state of energy, and every state of energy is governed by time, the resultant product of which is always something beautiful or elegant. Have you ever seen an ugly sunset? A hideous flower? Even if you examine a scorpion with some objectivity you will be amazed at the flawless and elegant manner in which its parts are organized. Yes, all of nature is organized by time to produce in you the sensation of beauty. And time itself, well, believe it or not, time is a frequency, and a frequency is not measurable by a clock. The Law of Time states that time is the universal frequency of synchronization. It is the nature of time to synchronize and to maintain all things in a condition of synchronization. Synchronicity, then, is the experience of real time. When we say that time is a frequency, we can be more precise and say that time is a universal constant expressible by the mathematical ratio 13:20. That is, the 13:20 ratio is the frequency of synchronization (Arguelles 2002, 3-4).

Arguelles, Jose. 2002. Time and the technosphere: The law of time in human affairs. Rochester: Bear & Company.


Julia Rosenbaum reports that the artist Theodore Robinson, upon seeing several paintings by John Twatchtman of Yellowstone Park, lamented that it did not adequately represent the American landscape. It is said that for Robinson, what is needed in such painting, is to juxtapose natural or geologic time, from human or social time, as well as to exhibit the mark of human time over natural time.

For Robinson, features of the New England landscape seemed particularly iconic and emblematic of the region’s – if not the country’s – culture and history. He was particularly drawn to New England’s barns. While in Vermont he wrote glowingly of them: “We should paint them as in the Old World one paints cathedrals or castles. Weir has done this – Twatchtman as well.” The motif, in his opinion, not only characterized an American as opposed to a European identity but also stood out as a monument to the country’s past. Robinson drove this point home in a statement he made shortly before he died. He had just gone to see several paintings of Yellowstone Park that Twachtman had completed. Robinson was singularly unimpressed, especially with Twachtman’s subject matter: “it is a country,” he wrote, “I shouldn’t care for – it is not enough in time.” Against the West and geologic or natural time, Robinson juxtaposed the East and human or social time. The two halves of the country marked the extremes of a scale calibrated by human industriousness and achievement; it was the mark of human time over natural time and the degree of historical continuity that determined the quality or value of a landscape. From this perspective, New England and Vermont in particular scored high. The intimate connection of the region with the flow of human history gave it, in Robinson’s mind, the significance and authority to represent American landscape (Rosenbaum 2006, 100-1).

Rosenbaum, Julia. 2006. Visions of belonging: New England art and the making of American identity. Ithica and London: Cornell University Press.