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“Digital Watch” installation by Jim Campbell, shot by photographer Michael Cuffe as displayed currently on the second floor of SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)
American (Chicago, Illinois, 1956)
video installation | monitor, two video cameras, and custom electronics
Digital Watch uses video, electronics, and a watch to explore how communications media influence our perception of time.
Two video cameras are positioned within a gallery: one is trained on an analog pocket watch on display, while the other records visitors’ behavior in the space. The two continuous feeds are fused electronically into a single, beguiling video presented on a large monitor. The round face of the watch occupies most of the rectangular field, while moving images of the visitors fill the marginal spaces around it.
Meanwhile, the use of a digital frame delay in tandem with the real-time video creates a series of still images of the visitors, which pass through a five-second delay before they momentarily appear in the circular field of the watch’s dial. The pacing of the flickering still images is synchronized with the ticking of the watch’s second hand. The juxtaposition underscores the cognitive dissonance between the retrievable, non-linear nature of digital time and the relentless forward motion of its analog counterpart.