At first glance Against the Run, a freestanding clock with a restrained modern design sited on a patch of lawn adjacent to Richard Fleischner’s Upper Courtyard, figures seamlessly into the plaza’s built environment. The clock’s unusual feature becomes evident on closer inspection; although its minute and hour hands tell the correct time, the second-hand ticks counterclockwise one beat and then returns to the twelve o’clock position, while the clock’s face rotates to the left, one fraction every second. 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.
As a human-made system of measurement, units of time like days, hours, and minutes, are an inescapable aspect of contemporary life, and govern the pace of human activity. In both Against the Run and a thematically related series of sculptures, Zeitzonen (Time Zones), Alicja Kwade questions the basis of metrics that index and quantify time, addressing the peculiar bureaucracies that maintain their global standardization. Time zones, for instance, are strategically hewn along national borders and economic zones to advantage industrial production. Adherence to “the time” similarly regulates the schedules of urban and industrial workers. While the way we measure time is linear, Against the Run suspends the notion of its ever-forward movement, proposing alternate systems of timekeeping.
This newly installed Percent-for-Art work is on view in conjunction with Alicja Kwade’s List Center exhibition In Between Glances (October 18, 2019-January 5, 2020).
Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art funds