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Machine Times (Introduction)

Introduction from the V2_ publication "Machine Times" (2000), published on the occasion of DEAF00.

Machine Times (Introduction)

Machine Times

"Now" lasts for approximately 0.3 seconds. This is the time it takes the various centers and sections of our brain to find a synchronous rhythm which we experience as the present. As cognitive research into the phenomenon of time progresses, it is becoming more and more obvious that time is not an objective quantity which can be measured by chronometers and divided up into seconds and everything beyond. Time is a personal and therefore emotional experience, controlled by social rhythms - a process which starts in the womb. Time is never only natural or only historical, only subjective or only objective: it is always both at the same time.

Paul Virilio once differentiated between "extensive" and "intensive" time. Extensive time is the time of durability and presence, the time of archives and memory, the time also of the city with its spatial and historical continuity. It is a time that has a certain slowness and viscosity, a time inextricably bound up with physical activities such as motion and movement, transformation and geography, perception, interpretation. Here, time and space are still continuous.

Intensive time is very different. In intensified time, more and more appears to fit into a second. It is the extreme time of acceleration - from here to New York in seven days, in six hours, in two and a half hours, in one and a half seconds, in real time. Intensive time is time which, in the end, is beyond experience, because it lies below the 0.3-second threshold. It is the time of e-mail and surfing, the time which eliminates space: arrival and departure occur in the same moment in real time and the road traveled in between is no longer relevant. Intensive time is the time that exists only in machines and between them, the context of the slow human "now." A millisecond is quite a long period for a computer or a network. We cannot observe it directly, but it turns our living and working environments, our social and cultural life, upside down.

Time has become the factor which defines the content, information and knowledge contained within technical media like film, television, radio and video, as well as digital media like the Internet. Time enables our shared experience of these media: find a common hour and the geographical space separating media users is no longer relevant. "Change the world, stay home" (Adilkno). All the same, electronic machines such as video recorders, televisions and the Internet are most definitely linked to our historical sense of time - our extensive time. These devices even reinforce this historical awareness, because they function as a collective memory; they are machines of the "living dead," as Gregory Whitehead called them. Electronic media reinforce (process and manipulate) our notion of time; they are all time machines producing machine time. Our sense of past, present and future is part of this machine time.

DEAF00, as well as Machine Times, a book of essays, interviews and art projects which doubles as a catalogue for the exhibitions and program, explores the latitude that machine time allows us in the physical, artistic, musical, cultural, scientific, biological and economic senses. Temporal structures are built into technological apparatuses, from industrial machines to radio frequencies and computers with their ever-increasing processing speeds. But our bodies are also time machines, with biological cycles and cellular aging mechanisms. Illness brings with it an awareness of time. Movement in time is the way in which we perceive, maybe even constitute space, and the most radical boundary of nature is made up of the speed of light, beyond which we transgress into the utopian terrain of time travel: back into history, forward into the future, or down into the depths of the "now."

 

 

© 2000 V2_

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