Time Systems (circa 2000-2005) was an experimental mashup of consumer products, sculpture, networked systems, machines, mortality, longing, identity and memory. I created a business which provided custom machines that document, mark, highlight or memorialize aspects of people’s lives. I’ve archived the original site here.
Audio Time Capsules
Audio Time Capsules are based on vintage telephones. This technological platform provides a uniquely useful user interface for an audio time capsule, allowing the system’s owner to record a personal message and send it far into the future. This machine is a collaboration between myself and its owner. Upon its purchase, I help its owner record a short digital message, embed it into the audio archive system and then program the clock subsystem with the desired capsule opening date. This can be up to 100 years away.
Once set, the “message waiting” light will blink and the handset will tell listeners when the capsule will open, using digital speech. At the appointed time and date, the phone will ring. Whoever answers will hear the message from the past. If no one answers, the system will call back every hour. Once the message is played, the capsule remains open. From that point forward, anyone who picks up the handset will hear the message.
This system can be used to record secrets, to send advice to future generations, to record wisdom for posterity or to preserve family history. It could also be used for shorter-term special events such as an anniversary or graduation. This piece is the simplest in a series of time capsules. A more advanced version is also available which uses a dial for user input, allowing its owner to change both recordings and opening dates at will.
Virtual Self Portraits
Virtual Self Portraits are abstract, real-time models of their owner; remote, dynamic portraits. The systems are composed of two elements linked by telephone. One element, the control element, remains in the owner’s home. The second element, similar to that pictured here, is the actual dynamic portrait. This is placed wherever the owner wishes. It can be across the room, across the city or across the country. Each element needs only power and continuous access to a phone line.
The dynamic portrait contains a digital counter and a motorized scale. A small red light beats out the passing seconds using a heartbeat pattern. Each day the machine increments the digital counter. Once a year it tips the scale one degree.
To use the system, the owner enters a private code into their control unit at least once every thirty days. Once a month the portrait element calls the control element and checks to see whether the code has been updated within the past thirty days. If so, the portrait calls back again in another month. If not, it permanently ceases to function. In this way the system forms a dynamic, living, breathing model of its owner.
Portrait Diaries are time-stamped electronic image archives: life documentation tools. Designed to be used daily, they gather and preserve quotidian images from your life. They are meant to recall an old hall mirror in both form and function. If hung near the front door they will remind you to photograph yourself often. Over time you will collect a fascinating and moving archive of images.
Composed of a Windows PC, a flat panel display and a digital camera, Portrait Diaries create an archive of images of their owner over the course of their life. Embedded in the frame are halogen photo lamps, a digital camera, a small LCD text display, and a key switch. The owner accesses the system using a key, which prevents others from corrupting the personalized archive. When the key is turned the system turns on the lights, take a portrait, date-stamps it and saves it to disk.
When not taking pictures, the machine acts as a dynamic portrait, slowly scrolling through the archive, displaying the next portrait every minute or so. The date the photo was taken is displayed on a small text display. A viewer can move forward or backward through the owner’s life using two buttons. Pressing a button moves one date. Holding either of the buttons down causes the system to scroll rapidly in time, creating an interesting time-lapse film effect.
Such a device can be used to document your own life, that of a friend, a child, the moments of a relationship, a marriage, and probably many things I haven’t thought of yet.
Life Event Timers
Life Event Timers are very long-lived digital timers which count upwards in seconds from an important moment. They will theoretically count for one hundred years. They are used to commemorate significant personal events by marking them in time.
A typical Life Event Timer is a small mechanism similar to the one pictured here, based on a vintage found object (in this case an antique voltmeter) with a numerical display, a metallic conductive ribbon connecting two electrodes, and a custom brass plaque. Inside is a computer, a clock and a very large battery.
When you receive your Life Event Timer it will have been customized by me to suit the event you wish to commemmorate. I will engrave the plaque with the name and date of your event. If this event is in the future, the count will be frozen at zero. When the moment arrives, you will cut the ribbon and the count will begin.
If the moment you wish to commemorate has already passed, when you receive your Timer the ribbon will be cut and the count will be in progress, adjusted to refer correctly to the intended starting moment. An additional available service is the freezing of a count. This is useful in situations where the event being commemorated was of a finite duration. In this case the Timer can be frozen at the desired moment as a fixed, permanent commemoration.