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Artists: Tamy Ben-Tor / Marnix de Nijs / Mark Formanek / Marzia Migliora / Julius Popp / Reynold Reynolds / Jens Risch / Michael Sailstorfer / Arcangelo Sassolino / Fiete Stolte

Standard Time, 2007-2008
Un’opera di Mark Formanek,
realizzata da Datenstrudel
Berlino, agosto 2007
Courtesy l’artista
Photo: Bernd Schuller 2007

Mark Formanek (Germany, 1967)

This video shows seventy workers, divided into three shifts, uninterruptedly engaged in building four 12 metre-high digits, made of wooden poles, for a digital clock. This is a real-time clock: in 24 hours, its numbers change 1611 times to mark the passage of each minute, thus creating a complete system of time measurement. Aside from displaying the actual time, the workers' activity serves as a unit of measure for the passing of time and the production rhythm itself. Viewers will see the time-but also the men who are constructing it-through an activity that is apparently an end in itself and pursues one specific goal: that of marking time. The installation can also be interpreted as an allusion to the very notion of work production in its two defining aspects: the creation of something new and the destruction this always implies of an initial element. The workers, however, are always on the verge of failing in their mission. For if the numeric sign is not ready at the right moment, they must move on to the next one. The franticness of the work engenders a sense of anxiety-albeit an amused one-in the viewer. Time passes inexorably and we do not know if the workers will always succeed in their task.

Standard Time, 2007-2008
Exhibition view at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Firenze
Photo: Valentina Muscedra

The work thus becomes a symptomatic expression of the condition of the workforce of modern man, who is pressed by time in meeting the deadlines for his various tasks, jobs and assignments. The acceleration and rationalization of systems of production represent two crucial traits of our society. Our lives are not governed so much by power or money, as by the silent coercive force of acceleration, which governs our time from within, and conditions our lives. The title of the work, Standard Time, is an allusion to the standardization of time through the time zones system centred on the prime meridian. The artist's reflection acquires additional meaning by showing how time is but a convention established and "created" by man. The concrete action of the workers, which repeats itself and is performed with collective precision and orchestration, serves as a metaphor for the common and shared management of the work and social life of individuals. The work was first developed as a performance carried out in various cities at different moments, with varying characteristics and unplanned accidents which made each performance something unique. Thanks to the support of the Datenstrudel agency, Standard Time has now taken the form of a video-documentary. The performance has been turned into a video installation and recently into computer software as well, which can be purchased online and can be used as a real clock for one's PC. A unique performance has thus been turned into a reproducible product, analogously to the process of evolution that the very notion of work has undergone through the passage from manual to industrial work.

Palazzo Strozzi