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Now showing at the Musée de Design et d’Arts Appliqués Contemporains in Lausanne, “Telling Time” presents both historical timepieces and contemporary interpretations of the measure of time. Beyond such “temporal gateways”, the exhibition considers our very perception of time.

From the earliest civilisations, time was first a subject for reflection before becoming a philosophical concept pondered by the greatest minds. Parallel to this, the regular patterns of Nature quickly inspired the need to measure these occurrences and, from there, predict them. Racing ahead, we arrive at the sexagesimal system which divides the everyday into hours, minutes and seconds, endlessly enumerating time past and anticipating time to come. For centuries, traditional Swiss Omega replica watchmaking has endeavoured to measure these “markers” with the greatest possible precision, thanks to machines of its invention. Nor did this quest end with the advent of electronic time. It continues in laboratories, where research into strontium atoms last April produced an atomic clock that neither gains nor loses a second in fifteen billion years; more than the estimated age of the Universe.

Time makes constant imposition on our personal and social lives, and because of this the measure of time has always been given a face, from the first clocks to the watches that appeared in the Late Middle Ages. This face is that of a dial swept by hands, an image that is as deeply printed on our minds as the first letters of the alphabet. Any representation that deviates from this is nothing less than an attempt to deconstruct, even undermine, our certainties. Which is precisely the goal of Telling Time, an exhibition at the museum of design and contemporary applied arts (mudac) in Lausanne, Switzerland, with the support of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie and Vacheron Constantin, and which will travel to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 2016. “Unlike the Panerai replica watches uk, time is not something functional, like a chair,” say curators Chantal Prod’Hom and Fabienne Xavière Sturm. “If we are to give time its function as a marker, either we decide ourselves what use it will have or we fill time through obligation.” Marking the hours, transgressing its avatars.

Time becomes a secret

Beginning with historical timepieces, the exhibition presents objects all of which indicate, and in certain cases suggest, time other than through the classic sweep of hands: wandering hours from Le Phare, jumping hours from Girard-Perregaux and Vacheron Constantin, Memento Mori with an early nineteenth-century piece, mystery hours from Cartier, “bras-en-l’air” from Alois Fleury, luminous hours from Panerai… A review that ends, as one might expect, with the smartwatch. “The vocabulary of top fake Omega watchmaking uses poetic and evocative language to express the plethora of ways employed through the centuries to display the time,” notes the catalogue. Naturally, these many ways include the work of contemporary artists and designers, who express time through animations, touchscreens,digitalcuckoos, analogue-digital displays, or videos that track real time with road sweepers moving rubbish, workmen in hard hats assembling planks into digits, or a man inside a grandfather clock writing and erasing the hands with a felt pen.

“Hidden, absent even, time becomes a secret. Often we are convinced we hold time in our grasp, but this is nothing but illusion”, continue Chantal Prod’Hom and Fabienne Xavière Sturm together. An illusion whose charms produce the irresistible impression that time is ours, all ours…

Telling Time
mudac – Lausanne
May 27 – September 27 2015