On Time

Timethings from the collections of the Werkbund Archiv – Museum der Dinge

30 Jun – 5 Aug 2013

Whether we are spending it, saving it or wasting it, time seems to take on a thing-like character in many of our mental and verbal constructs about it.

 Such expressions reveal not only a widespread understanding of time as material, but an implicit commodification of the spaces between lived events.

Timekeeping technologies first developed out of observations of sunrise and sunset, the phases of the moon, and the cycling of the seasons. The invention and spread of the mechanical clock allowed for production processes to be carried out independently from time in nature, with precisely-measured time, to an ever greater extent, becoming the pervasive organizing principle of life and work. Devices like alarm clocks, agendas and timetables coordinate worldwide the pace of machines and communication systems, the division of work and free-time, international trade and travel, and continue to interact in complex ways with our subjective experience of time and nature.

This exhibition explores the world of everyday objects within the collections of the Werkbund Archiv – Museum der Dinge and the messages they carry about how their producers and users understood time. Whether we experience time as cyclical, linear or momentary, through our bodily functions or cultural institutions, whether we are attempting to speed up work processes, or slow down processes of deterioration, the objects our society produces bear witness to these more or less conscious ways of thinking about time.

As we move further into an era in which watch, alarm clock, timer, camera, telephone, notepad, computer, music collection and library all collapse into one disposable digital device, culturally defining time through objects appears ever more to be a phenomenon of the last centuries, and can perhaps be understood to be in a state of dematerialisation, quickly becoming a thing of the past.

curated by

  • Alexis Hyman Wolff (Museum der Dinge)