Brno Clock

10 June 2017

A special clock created during a 24 hour performance

Helmut Smits has installed a clock on Malinovsky Square in Brno, Czech Republic. However this is no normal clock that measures time minute by minute. Instead, the time displayed on the clock is determined by passers-by on the streets of Brno. Over the course of 24 hours, groups of two volunteers go out into the streets in shifts and ask passers-by for the time. They then enter the times they are given into an app on their telephones, and the time is displayed on the public clock in Malinovsky Square. The time on the clock does not progress of its own accord, but remains the same until updated with another entry from someone else.

Because people’s watches and clocks are not always in sync, and because people relate the time differently, with some giving it precisely while others round it off, the clock often shows time moving backwards, or sometimes taking up to several minutes to advance by one minute. Furthermore, some people’s devices are still on winter time, while others inadvertently reverse AM and PM when giving the time. The number of people on the street also has an effect, with the time changing faster during busy periods, and much less at quiet times, such as in the middle of the night. The greater the interactivity, the more accurate the time displayed on Smits’ clock.

Ultimately, the outcome is a working clock on which you can see roughly what time it is. But whenever the activity of the passers-by is discontinued, a metaphysical timelessness results, pointing to one of the basic premises of classical physics - time is an illusion.

Commissioned by Brno Art Open, Czech Republic
Photos by Michaela Dvořáková
Video by Dana Balážová