“Ha ha,” laughed Sissy. “Criminey. You wouldn’t believe it. It’s just a bunch of junk. Garbage can lids and old saucepans and lard tins and car fenders, all wired together way down in the middle of the Siwash cave. Every now and then, this contraption moves – a bat will fly into it, a rock will fall on it, an updraft will catch it, a wire will rust through, or it’ll just move for no apparently logical reason – and one part of it will hit against another part. And it’ll go bonk or poing and that bonk or poing will echo throughout the caverns. It might go bonk or poing five times in a row. Then a pause; then one more time. After that, it might be silent for a day or two, maybe a month. Then the clock’ll strike again, say twice. Following that there could be silence for an entire year – or just a minute or so. Then, POING! so loud you nearly jump out of your skin. And that’s the way it goes, striking freely, crazily, at odd intervals.”
-Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
The clock we have built doesn’t provide a measurement of time, but rather a measurement in time. Our clock’s mechanism is its weight, its tensile strength, its rigidity, its fatigue – its odd agglomeration of offcuts and jetsam gradually yielding to gravity. Our clock’s chime is each unrepeatable clunk or thud as the assemblage shifts and falls. It’s the shadow that circles the structure, extending the path of the sun.
The clock is never finished. Both its creation and its disintegration are ongoing, as each of us responds to it in our own way over the course of the residency. As we tinker with its unhinged mechanism, the clock begins to track our changing notions of temporality.
In the absence of a readable face peopled with presumptively timeless symbols, our clock keeps its own time. It measures its surroundings from its particular material point of reference. It measures the slap of the breeze, the thump of the rain, the clatter of the earth’s immense pull. It measures its own strength according to the time it takes to fail.
The structure is completely unremarkable, because it does what all things will, in time. Nevertheless, we hope that by naming it “clock” we have made it remarkable. By giving it the notional identity of timekeeper, we hope to make space for yet more things to one day become clocks. We hope to blur our habitual cultural distinction between marking time and marking place, and so allow for the possibility that the two may be identical.
-Kit Riley, While the Hour at Testing Grounds, February 2017