Time is one of the greatest mysteries in the history of civilization. Its definitions are many and varied; they are found in various disciplines, from philosophy to biology and economics to physics – and of course art. The first pandemic lockdown, which brought everything shuddering to a halt, forced us to confront space and time in their extreme forms.
Surprisingly, for all Switzerland’s reputation as a watchmaking nation, few art museums in the country have yet staged an exhibition on the subject of time that spans multiple eras and disciplines. Our sensual journey through the history of time includes paintings, films, installations, performances as well as real objects such as watches from the 1750s to the present day. They attest to the ephemeral nature of life, the scope for meditation opened up by painting, the changing seasons, and a financial market that is now synchronized down to the last nanosecond. Although the exhibition starts from the watch as instrument for measuring time, it also investigates perspectives such as the physical, biological and geological, along with the viewpoint of personal sensations. Participatory performances and installations invite us to share with each other in the present, but also to critically debate different models of the future. We would be well advised, then, to heed the advice of renowned watch specialist David Rooney: ‘In the end, we need to look beyond the faces of our clocks to see who is inside, rather than simply obeying what these objects tell us to do.’
In association with, among others, the Musée international d’horlogerie (MIH) in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Arts at CERN and the Literaturhaus Zurich. With works by Giacomo Balla, Julius von Bismarck, Manon de Boer & George van Dam, Abraham-Louis Breguet, Ohan Breiding & Shoghig Halajian, Pieter Claesz, Honoré Daumier, Cao Fei, John Harrison, William Hogarth, Roni Horn, Monica Ursina Jäger, Pierre & Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz, On Kawara, Herlinde Koelbl, Alicja Kwade, Jürg Lehni, MANON, Sophie Nys, Dieter Roth, Cyril Schäublin, Una Szeemann and others.
Ill: Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Large Berkemeyer and Gold Pocket Watch, c. 1632, Kunsthaus Zürich, The Betty and David Koetser Foundation, 1978