Public Art

Against the Run, 2019

Alicja Kwade
A freestanding clock with a restrained modern design sits seamlessly into the built environment of the Kendall Open Space plaza

Alicja Kwade, Against the Run, 2019. MIT Collection Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art funds. Photo by Charles Mayer Photography.

Kendall Open Space (near MIT Welcome Center, Building E38)
Alicja Kwade
177 3/4 x 20 3/4 x 18 in. (299 1/10 x 52 7/10 x 45 7/10 cm)

MIT Collection, Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds with gifts from the Robert D. (’64) and Sara-Ann Sanders Family

At first glance, Against the Run, a freestanding clock with a restrained modern design, sits seamlessly into the built environment of the Kendall Open Space plaza.

The clock’s unusual feature becomes evident on closer inspection: although its minute and hour hands tell the correct time, the clock’s face rotates one fraction to the left every second while the second-hand appears to tick in place. This jerky punctuation appears to jostle the entire dial counter-clockwise with each movement of the second hand—quite literally against the run of time.

Days, hours, and minutes are all somewhat arbitrary units and yet inescapable measures of the pace of human activity. In Against the Run, Alicja Kwade questions the basis of systems that index and quantify time, addressing the human-made bureaucracies that maintain their global standardization. Time zones, for instance, are strategically hewn along national borders and economic zones to promote and protect industrial labor and production. On a larger scale, the idea that time flows linearly, from past to present to future, is specific to Western cultures, and has in turn influenced the hemisphere’s political, philosophical, and economic thought. Against the Run suspends the notion of ever-forward movement, proposing alternate systems of timekeeping and pointing to different potential narratives for history and society.

Alicja Kwade (b. 1979) was born in Poland and studied sculpture at the University of the Arts in Berlin, where she lives and works. She has exhibited internationally and across the United States, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, East Lansing, MI; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit. Kwade also participated in the 57th Venice Biennale (2017). Her work is collected by prominent institutions, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark; and the Reykjavik Art Museum, Iceland.