Thursday, 17 September 2015

Penumbra: Theory

Visual render of Penumbra
Penumbra: noun. A shadow cast by a celestial body.

During my research it has become increasingly apparent that the more technologically advanced (and technology dependant) we become, the more linear our time becomes.  We move forward at an ever-increasing rate, chasing the next advancement, and leaving behind the natural world and it’s cyclic time – that of re-birth and renewal.  In his essay on products and their relationship to time, Stuart Walker hypothesises that time has two distinct progressions; secular time and sacred time. (Walker, 2004) Secular time relates to the everyday life of a person, it is linear and fleeting.  Sacred time is circular, it represents the changing of the seasons, the rotating of the earth, birth-life-death-renewal.  Our lives are dominated by the linear progression of time; we feel it slip through our fingers like grains of sand. 

The celestial bodies in particular have resonance in our ancient and modern religions, where the events in our lives are an echo of the lives that have gone before us, their cyclic motions visualising the repetition of what Mircea Eliade calls “Great Time” (Eliade, 1954) – the long now.
Penumbra is a conventional timepiece that reflects the cyclic nature of the world around us.  In our technology obsessed lives we need a reminder of the forces that define our days and nights – the sun and moon. 

The wall clock takes the form of a traditional sundial, where the sun and moon are represented by LEDs set into the frame of the clock.  As the sun moves throughout the day, the LED sun moves around the outside of the clock, casting a shadow onto the hour position.  As the sun rises and sets the LEDs change colour, simulating sunset.  During the night, the moon becomes the time keeper as it rotates around the clock.  The LED cycles are set to mimic the natural solar and lunar cycles over Manchester.  At this time of month, the moon rises early in the day, shines with the sun and sets at around midnight.  This natural progression is replicated in the clock, meaning that at certain times of year, the moon will eclipse the sun and the clock will cast no shadow.