Good Morning. How Do We Measure Time?

Installation // Vitamin C, Water // 2015 // Utrecht, the Netherlands

Photo: YiLing Hung
In this project I try to question how the time is experienced. We are used to the “standardised” time counting units in our daily life, such as seconds, minutes, days and years. But these units are also created by people, or I should say agreed by most of the countries in our current world. In the past when the time unit was not yet standardised, each culture around the world had their own way in measuring the time. Take ancient China for example, there is no “minute”, one unit of time is as long as “15 minutes”.

Furthermore experiencing time is more than just counting the time units. It is a physical experience and should be expressed as a relative perception. When you are in a rush, the time for making a coffee feels longer than when you are on vacation. Since the experience of time is a relative perception, which means it is subjective. Can we then replace the standard time units by our own choice when communicating the experience of time with another person?

In this project, I create an installation that the melting of a Vitamin C tablet becomes the unit of time. I invite people to experience this one Vitamin C time first and then I interview each of them about how do that feel about the passing of time? Was it slow? Was it fast? How long (How many “standard minutes”) do they think they’ve experienced?
我試著透過這個計畫探討時間是如何被經驗的。在日常生活中我們早已習慣使用制式化的時間單位,例如秒、分鐘、日、年。不過這些標準化的時間單位也其實是被創造出來的,又或者說,被大多數國家代表共同規範出來的。在時間單位尚位標準化之前,各個文化皆有其測量時間的方式。舉例來說,在古代中國,「分鐘」的概念是不存在的,他們使用的最小單位是「一刻鐘」等同於現今的「15分鐘」。

另外,實際的時間經驗無法單純透過量化的標準時間單位來表達。時間經驗是一種身體經驗,它應該是主觀且是相對性的感知。比如說,當你正趕著前往一場會議,煮一杯咖啡的時間比起當你正在渡假時「感覺上」來的長了許多。即然時間經驗是主觀且是相對性的,那當我們在與他人溝通時間經驗時,能不能以其他時間單位來代替我們熟悉的秒、分鐘、小時…等等?

這個計畫中,我製作了一個以「融化一個維他命c錠」為時間單位的裝置。在受邀的參與者經驗了一個單位的「融化維他命c錠」之後,我與他們進行一對一簡單訪談:一個單位的融化維他命c錠對他們來說是快?是慢?他們覺得若換算成標準時間單位,這一個單位的融化維他命c錠會是多幾分鐘呢?