Fast, Fast, Slow
“There is the speed of business, the opportunism of business. But I also think the different channels that we work in [as designers] have different time scales.”
—Designer Laura Stein, in the debut issue of Live Magazine
What if we designed time differently?
With the holiday season upon us and a new year imminent, our thoughts turn to time: scheduling meetings before the office closes; planning visits with loved ones; arranging recipes so everything makes it into the oven before guests arrive. For the fortunate among us, the usual rhythms give way to a period of rest and recalibration. We feel each day differently. How might we carry that feeling with us?
Prior to the Gregorian calendar, farmers in China and Japan counted twenty-four “small seasons” marked by natural phenomena. Ross Zurowski lists them here and has created a Twitter bot to note their passing. (You could go deeper: in Japan, these twenty-four are divided again into seventy-two microseasons; today is part of “salmons gather and swim upstream.”) But we need not look to other cultures. The land around us suffices, as the talented writer Charlotte Mendelsohn proves with her garden diaries. Fall, she notes, is the “the season of mist … licensed melancholy ... and glorious rot.” Does creative work have its own seasons?
Push down a layer into the Earth and you find deeper time: “‘Geologists take it for granted that rock equals time,’” [Cornell paleontologist Warren] Allmon said. ‘I don’t know of another experience that we all have in our daily lives where a solid substance represents time.’” Marcia Bjornerud, author of the new book Timefulness, notes in an interview that thinking like a geologist can help us step out of the present and recognize that objects’ “paths through time shaped what they are now, and what they may become in the future.”
Of course, artists have long explored reshaping time’s arrow. On Kawara’s series Today is composed of a painting of the day’s date, completed before midnight and slipped into a box along with the newspaper in the city where he found himself. Katie Paterson has planted a forest outside Oslo whose trees will become the paper for one hundred commissioned stories to be printed in 2114. Nancy Holt placed four concrete tunnels in the Utah desert; on the solstice, the sun’s light aligns perfectly with their apertures.
Perhaps you’re presently searching for gifts. Illustrator and writer Tamara Shopsin created a five-year diary. Designer Peter Bil'ak printed a one-hundred-year wall calendar. Artist Tauba Auerbach devised a twenty-four-hour clock (though you’ll have to find one second-hand). Designer Prem Krishnamurthy created a screensaver that tells the time with yellow and blue spinning disks.
Your explorations in time need not be so complex. The programmer and writer Paul Ford uses Google Calendar to set reminders for himself far into the future: “It’ll pop up thirty years from now, and go, ‘Remember that it’s important to end things.’ That’s all it says.”
We wish you a bright start to the next period in your calendar of choice. Share one of your goals with us by replying to this message.
Every few weeks, we send Dispatch, a newsletter that draws together fascinating stories on creativity and purpose.