Work currently on display
The dropping of the time ball marks a single instant in each day, specifically, 1pm, Eastern time.
Perhaps this particular instant is familiar as the “beginning of the long dash” heard daily on the CBC.
But does it make sense to speak of “instants”? In our relativistic universe, there is no moment in time that is absolutely the same for all observers. Is time actually a thing that can be smoothly chopped into smaller and smaller fragments, fractions and fractions and fractions of a second without end? Or is there a granularity at the bottom, discrete steps, like the ticking of a second hand on some impossibly small scale?
We live immersed in time, but rarely think of it, except to ask “What time is it?” And what time is it? Most of us now carry in our pockets or purses a device which we trust to give us the correct time, to the point where many have given up wrist watches, and with them, the ritual of setting them to the “correct” time. The same device, however, has eroded the social need for exact time. Punctuality is dead, replaced by a series of real-time negotiations which enable the parties to meet at an agreed-upon time and place. And, despite the accuracy of the cell phone's time reference, it's now rare to see a display of the time which includes the seconds. While possessing accuracy to the millisecond, we are satisfied with precision to the minute.
In the nineteenth century, the instantaneous communication of time via the telegraph enabled the time balls located in many cities and ports to be the public reference points for a moment in time. Soon, however, radio superseded the telegraph, and the time balls were forgotten. I have resurrected the time ball, replacing the telegraph with an internet connection which synchronizes the ball with the official time from the National Research Council. It is an invitation to gather, a spectacle, a public convenience, and perhaps, like time itself, a bit of a mystery.
The ball rises at 12:55:00 every day and falls at exactly 13:00:00
Robert Cruickshank is a Toronto-based multidisciplinary artist. His work in various media including electronic, kinetic, and robotic installations, sound art, electroacoustic music, and photography have been exhibited in Toronto and internationally.
Much of his work is associated with InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre in Toronto, where he has developed a number of hands-on workshops for artists using electronics, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors.
His work combines a knowledge of physical computing and electronics with an ongoing fascination with sound, light, and motion. It is as much informed by the kinetic art of the early 20th century as it is by contemporary new media art.
Video of the orignial Greenwich Clock can be found here: Time Ball