Festival m3 / Art in Space
Hynek Alt: Untitled (Tower Clock), 2018
Klementinum, ground floor – gate A (entrance to the NL reading rooms)
Mariánské nám. 5, Staré Město
Open: po–pá, 9.00–19.00
A silently ticking clock seems to define clearly the space without giving a possibility for making error, unless you begin to question what is given.
Synchronization of time is something that we usually take for granted. Our beloved technologies themselves independently switch from standard to summer time, or from our home zone time to the current time abroad and we don´t notice it until the moment when the battery in our wristwatch (mostly worn as a fashion accessory) is gone and we are reminded for a moment of the artificiality and omnipresence of this system.
Hynek Alt exploits the potential hidden in minor disorders, shifts and deviations arising from technical imperfections – which represent a nuisance in the society, enslaved by the demand for ever growing productivity through the optimization of activities; these imperfections, however, may become a key to the freedom.
The transfer of the real Klementinum tower clock not only on the ground floor corridor, leading to the General Reading Room but also into the 3D render generated in the real time, means that the concept of time synchronization is questioned as a social construct which defines our balance between life and work. Its uselessness and fragility are further emphasized by a momentous, ever-renewed image.
Time at the Klementinum
The need to measure and synchronize time is as old as the mankind. There were various ways to tell the time – the Sun, church bell ringing, waving a flag, gunshot, radio signal etc. At present, time is mostly set with the aid of satellite and computer signals.
Hardly any of tourists, who visit the Klementinum and its Astronomical Tower, realize that they can find there the evidence of historical methods of measuring the time and that the Klementinum devices significantly contributed to the standardization of the time. There are fifteen sundials of different types, belonging to the oldest in Prague, which have been preserved on the walls of the Klementinum courtyards, one out of them even on the Astronomical Tower. Another device telling the time with the aid of the Sun can be found inside the Astronomical Tower in the Meridian Room. At noon, the room changes into a camera obscura. The image of the Sun is projected through a hole in the wall onto a tight string. The string is long enough to be used during all the year, i. e. within the whole range of the Sun declinations. The solar noon is determined at the very moment when the string divides the image of the Sun exactly into two halves. This device was used to determine noon until 1926, first by waving a flag from the tower, later by firing a noon gun. Time determined at the Klementinum was used not only to set clocks in Prague, but until 1891 also to synchronize railway time in the western part of Austria-Hungary. The Klementinum tower clock also used to be set according to the time measured in the Meridian Room.
At present, we can use the sundials and the Meridian Room device (the latter only during the culmination of the Sun) to compare the zone time with that of the Nature measured by the Sun; or we can just admire knowledge and skill of our ancestors and precision of their products.