Abigail Conway: Time Lab

This delightful piece by Abigail Conway (one half of the company subject_to_change) isn’t really a show at all. Rather (developing one aspect of subject_to_change’s work) this is a participatory event, though to use the word ‘event’ suggests something grander and more ostentatious than the delicately poised understatement that is Time Lab.

Over the course of an hour, Conway invites her participants (six at a time) to take a watch (preferably one that they have brought with them – broken or unwanted), break it apart, and from the pieces construct a micro-sculpture. Conway proposes that the resulting object (through the provision of armatures) might take the form of a ring, a brooch, a pendant, or something else. In this act of audience creation the intricately functional is remade as the delicately beautiful.

The title Time Lab suggests that we are required to adopt something of a scientific mindset to the manipulation and arrangement of tiny components into an aesthetic object – a kind of inquisitive research into the mechanics of marking and dividing time. Whilst this is undoubtedly there in the tactile and dextrous demands made upon the participant, the focus and diligence needed to complete the task also serves a less tangible but no less concrete function –that of serving as a kind of meditative act, a zen-like uncovering of things that might normally be ignored in the onward flurry of our time-marked lives.

This stripping away begins with the focus needed to attend to the act of selection of the minute clockwork components, and then their placement into new relationships. This act requires a single-minded concentration married to a kind of attendant overview of the possibilities of the resulting sculptural arrangement. At once this is both a kind of zoning in and pulling back – a strange and deliciously oscillating experience. And, of course, it stills time. Because the choices to be made cry out for meaning, it also begins to distill these choices into almost ritual expressions of our relationship to time. Memories surface, fragments of experiences tick-tock back and forth, and points in life come into focus. TimeLab then is a kind of re-forging of the past and the present, such that time itself is shaped and bent, so that it is not just divided and marked, but actually captured in brass, steel and copper.



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About Thomas JM Wilson

Thomas JM Wilson has been writing for Total Theatre since 2001. His own performance work lies at the borders of dance and theatre, with a particular interest in solo performance. He is an Associate Artist of Gandini Juggling, working as Archivist and Publications Author. He also currently teaches on Rose Bruford's BA European Theatre Arts, and is a co-editor of the Training Grounds section of the journal Theatre, Dance and Performance Training.