About the exhibition

Guillaume Logé

The acceleration of lifestyles tested by art

Acceleration is one of the key words that describes our changing lifestyles. More and more surveys and studies show that multitasking, incessant soliciting from ICTs and the acceleration of mobility in general negatively affect our well-being and are counterproductive by causing fatigue, stress and poor concentration. Many thinkers consider speed a key criteria for analyzing society. Paul Virilio even talks about the inevitability of speed: once won, we can no longer slow down. Aware of its implications for the economy, politics and in war, as well as for the human body, mind and emotions from an existential and social standpoint, Virilio explored the topic in a multidisciplinary exhibition comprised of works of art, objects, documents and scientific studies (La Vitesse, Cartier Foundation, Paris, 1991). In a critique of the alienation caused by this “totalitarian” social acceleration, philosopher Hartmut Rosa saw the solution in art (“poetry”) (Alienation and acceleration: Towards a Critical Theory of Late-Modernity Temporality, 2010). Art can serve as an antidote to the “absurdity” of our competitive existence dehumanized by speed, healing the broken relationship between the self and the world. Rosa insists on the need to fight against imperatives of profitability born of the principles of the capitalist economy that permeate our existence. Today, a “successful” life means accumulating the most experience possible. In reality, however, it is a rat race: “The very technology that allow us to save time has increased the number of options available in the world: however fast we become, our share of the world, meaning the number of choices made and experiences acquired versus those missed, does not increase but rather is constantly decreasing.”

A collaboration between the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs and the Mobile Lives Forum

In this multifaceted perspective (scientific, philosophical and artistic), the Mobile Lives Forum wanted to explore our relationship with time as manifested in the daily commutes of train station users. In early 2014, exchanges were set up with the laboratory of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Paris (Ensad Lab). The Reflective Interaction working group - under the direction of artist and researcher Samuel Bianchini (see guided tour) - specifically explores the potential for interaction of objects with behavior and issues linked to mobility. Two doctoral students in the Science Arts Création Recherche (SACRe), designer Ianis Lallemand and artist Lyes Hammadouche, were thus commissioned to create a device designed to affect our perception of travel time.

Hourglasses interacting with passengers in a train station

The interactive installation Texel (a contraction of the words temps (‘time’ in French) and pixel) were installed in multimodal Ermont-Eaubonne station in the Paris suburbs, which welcomes approximately 35,000 travelers daily. The device is composed of 40-centimeter identical modules comprised of an hourglass and motor affixed to an aluminum frame. High-precision temporal and spatial industrial captors serve to detect travelers’ movements within a ten-meter radius. A linear set of 8 hourglasses and a single hourglass device were installed at two locations in the station from November 16 to December 16, 2015. When travelers came within close enough range, the hourglass rotated ever so slightly, pivoting several degrees forward or backward. The movement – quite fast at first – invited commuters to move closer, the slow flow of the sand mimicking the still-weak intensity of the commuter’s interaction with the device. If the traveler moves away from the module, the hourglass returns to its horizontal position, thus stopping the flow of the sand. However, if the person is intrigued and moves closer to the device, the hourglass continues to turn, tipping increasingly as the individual approaches it. A sand flow rate representing the more or less rapid passage of time corresponds to each inclination.

An invitation to stop time: what results?

Texel invites us to resist and to regain control by focusing our attention of the notions of speed and slowness and helping us become more aware of the subjective dimension of time. Texel tested the hypothesis that slowness improves the quality of our time and allows us to have more rewarding subjective experiences. The more we take our time, the more attentive we are, the more present we are in the world, the more time we have to think, the more creative we are, etc. This public experiment was investigated qualitatively and quantitatively by anthropologist Francesca Cozzolino, ergonomist Anne Bationo-Tillon and ethnologist Clara Lamireau-Meyer, who looked closely at how station users interacted with Texel and whether or not the interaction helped them reestablish a subjective relationship to travel time. The findings of the investigation gave way to a synthesis and two guided visits.

We here at ArtisticLab invite you to discover how Texel was developed and installed at the station. Explore the installation in the company of our guided tours: join Samuel Bianchini as he explains the challenges associated with the piece, Anne Bationo-Tillon as she analyzes travelers’ corporal responses to the device and Francesca Cozzolino as she explores the relationship to time established through this experiment.

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