parallel time - esther qian, amoli zhang, amy ping yan



ross mcleod + paolo cardini + eric mcmaster


The Time Machine was an intensive three week summer workshop which explored the idea of time as a potential medium within the designer’s palate. At the heart of the workshop was a collaborative project, an intense fourty eight hour period in which a design project was developed by students from different countries as it circulated the globe.  Working in eight hour shifts, the art and design students from across the world responded to the work that was sent to them and continued to extend its evolutionary growth. The universities involved were RMIT University Interior Design, Australia; VCU Qatar Master of Fine Art Design, Doha; and Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Sculpture and Extended Media, USA.


To prepare for the global workshop, students in Melbourne gathered a week earlier and engaged in a series of exercises that investigated the conceptual underpinnings of ‘designing time’. This week also served to tone the student’s minds for quick-fire creativity and immediate design responses that would be needed in the global design challenge.

Initially the students were asked to consider the nature of time in two different ways. One the one hand was the idea of the measurement of time and how each day and year is marked by the constant rhythmical flux of the movement of the sun and stars, the change of the seasons, and the measurement of minutes, hours, days and years with clocks and calendars. This measurement of time was extended to include the measuring systems used in science, industry, sport, music and dance. The idea of urban time was considered through the flow of people and activities within the city. The concept of world time and international time zones were engaged with so as to conceive of the spinning planet as an entity bound by time. The study of the relationship of movement and time led to the scientific frontiers of spacetime and the science fiction potentials of time travel.

In conjunction with the specifics that are held within the measurement of time came a deliberation on the aspects of psychological time. The students were asked to contemplate how time is experienced. What makes a moment seem to linger and how does the memory of the past and the anticipation of the future affect the specious present. They explored concepts of cultural time in which different people in different places have varying value systems and beliefs toward the nature of time. They considered the potential of architectural time in which the passing of seconds, minutes or hours can be focussed and amplified through the constitution of the built environment.

Working in two groups the students expressed the measurement and experience of time through the production of an audio visual presentation. This presentation had to clearly articulate the elements of the concepts they engaged in while imbuing those qualities of time within the nature of the work they created. Once this exercise was complete the group was divided again so that members of the different groups were teamed up and asked to design ‘a device for the marking of psychological time’, in which the measurement and experience of time can be interconnected in our daily lives.



measuring time - alice sehovic, hayley tait, berenice mazounie



inscribing time - alice sehovic + amy ping yan


The second phase of the project involved the collaboration of three groups from around the world. In his introduction to the project, Paolo Cardini asked ‘How fast can an idea, left running around the world, grow in 48 hours?’ This concept was put to the test as each group involved in the design cycle were free to modify, upgrade and refine the design they received and pass their changes to the next group in the cycle. This idea of open source collaboration was adapted from the world of software development where every single hour, around the world, millions of developers work together to improve and update the code of shared projects, resulting in monthly, publicly available, updates and software releases. Sharing is one of the main pillars that underpin the open design philosophy, with high innovation speed as an embedded outcome.

The Time Machine design brief was for a device able to measure and describe time through unconventional methods. No clock’s hands, no calendars, no numbers, but new meaningful cues able to represent the passing of life. The artefacts produced could be digital, analogue, human powered, powered by nature, or electric. They could focus on a single action or a single feeing. They could be useful or useless; universal, customizable or strictly personal. The design could be for something that could be time consuming or time saving, but it had to represent time in a meaningful way.

The workshop ran for six sessions, each held for seven hours. Between each session, approximately one hour was dedicated to upload and download the files on the project facebook site. Each group received the work from the previous group at nine o’clock in the morning (local time) and had to develop and produce a designed response to the original design and post it by five o’clock that afternoon. In this way the design process was held in a constant present, as the evolving design encountered three working days in one as all of the twenty four hours in one day were used to develop the project.



global design challenge - the time machine


The 48 Hour Challenge began with the students in Doha, Qatar. Their initial concept of 'stretching time' looked at how our lives revolve around the concept of time. They designed a flexible timeline that could be adjusted on one’s own terms. Freeing the user from time constraints and challenging the perception of time management. In the design the user being able to control how long his/her activities should take. If one action or activity takes one hour to be done on the usual time scale, the user can adjust his/her timing using the Time Bar, and can adjust the Time Stretching Pins on the time bar, to decide how many hours the user planning to consume to do what ever needs to be done. In this way a person wouldn’t need to necessarily relate to twenty-four hours in one day, but could  flexibly control time units that last for either an hour or an eternity. Richmond responded to the Doha design by saying that time is a continuum, a loop. It’s infinite. Therefore, they created a Mobius strip with three parallel rows of perforations to represent the three teams working on the project. The perforations in each rows were arbitrary because they though that standard measurement of time were irrelevant to the overall passing of time.

Extending the concepts of stretching and personalising time and the consideration of time as an ongoing continuous looping experience, the Melbourne group exlored how time can be expressed as a three dimensional object that in its working employs the fourth dimension of time. To this end, the design explored ways in which the mechanical nature of a clock mechanism and cyclic nature of the patterns of everyday life could be synchronised as a unified experience. The design explored how time can be expressed through looping, cycles, spinning, rotation and spirals, and attempted to create complexity through the juxtaposition of simple elements. The final product consisted of a series of transparent rings of acetate upon which images were printed. Employing a giant clock mechanism each ring rotated at different speeds and in different directions. Each ring depicted a different set of images and represented a different layer of the experience of time and place. These different signatures of time were thus superimposed upon each other.


In the second global cycle of the workshop the Doha group looked at the outcomes so far and came up with a list of the things they thought were interesting in the pieces. They sought to incorporate their idea of 'stretching of time' and the idea of a 'loop' from the Richmond piece, with the idea of layering, transparency and projection from the Melbourne piece. With these concepts in mind they wished to show what happens in an hour worldwide, and so used instagram photos which would be projected onto a wall using a pendulum movement to display photos of that particular time zone. Richmond developed this idea into the ‘InstaTrope’, a concept which took Doha’s use of Instagram in real time and Melbourne’s zoetrope-like cylindrical form which projected out onto a surface. Employing four small projectors placed inside a three metre cylindrical drum the InstaTrope was designed to display twenty four Instagram photos at a time covering all three hundred and sixty degrees of the drum. The photos would rotate around the drum and appearing and disappearing at the seam.

The last iteration of the time machine produced by the Melbourne group attempted to hold on to instagram concept of the Doha group and refine the structural form of Richmond’s design. After a discussion about the nature of ‘Selfies’, (an image that someone takes of themselves and posts on instagram), the group discovered that there were 1,527,000 within a webstogram search. These images come with a location, how long ago they were taken, an account name and the hatch tag. The team thought that this information had the potential to form the information for the construction of a world clock.

The final idea was based around the use of twenty three Apple ipads. The ipads were to be incorporated into a circular structure that was comprised of identical elements that are joined together to create a clock/installation environment. On the floor surrounding the structure a graphic of the world clock designated timezones and cities that are situated in them. In each of the elements an ipad is housed. Each of these ipads plays a slideshow of peoples personal portraits. Each section of the structure and each ipad represents a one hour time zone (starting from Greenwich as timezone 0). Each slideshow then features images of people taken in that timezone. So, for instance in Timezone +9 there would be people from Tokyo, Seoul, Port Moresby and Adelaide. In Timezone -5 there would be people from New York, Miami and Lima. However Timezone -2 has no land mass in it and so therefore would be occupied only by people in jets or astronauts in orbit. The 'Selfies World Clock' would be encountered by entering through timezone -2 (that has no ipad screen) and into the centre of the circular structure. From within, the viewer would be surrounded by the faces of the inhabitants of the world; a curious changing map of culture, ethnicity, activity, place and time.




time scroll - hybrid making - tasmeem art + design bienalle - doha 2013


The final exhibition of the project at the Tasmeem Design conference in Doha, Qatar in 2013 involved an installation of  two new works that encapsulated the spirit and content of the workshop. Two hand-driven scrolling machines were produced by the Doha team. On one of the machines, all of the projects and development work that was documented on the facebook page were organised in a chronological order, so that the viewer could relive the intensity of the two day challenge and trace the development of ideas that occurred. On the other scrolling device was an analogue version of the Selfies World Clock, in which the viewer could orbit the globe as they turned the scroll, and view the cultural diversities and similarities of the inhabitants of the earth as they moved from time zone to time zone.



STUDENTS: esther qian, amoli zhang, amy ping yan, alice sehovic, hayley tait, berenice mazounie