The Atemporal Event
The COVID pandemic has prompted many people to reconsider their previous living and working rhythms and to consider alternatives. We believe that the global enslavement to the standardised time of clocks and calendars has had a negative impact on us individually, socially, and environmentally. We aim, therefore, to change perceptions of time by helping people step outside societal time, treating time instead as a malleable material that can be stretched and moulded. This exposition describes our process, outcomes, and analysis in staging an event using an alternative approach based on natural and material time processes specifically related to the body and the external day/night cycle driven by light colour and intensity. In a twenty-four-hour event in London designed around chronobiological phases, we investigated our research question of how to change perceptions of time by treating it as a malleable material. We discovered that treating time as a malleable material necessitates first stepping outside of the clock-time system: in our case, using daylight and bodily chronobiological phases as alternative time-givers. Dialogues using linguistic and non-linguistic means between ourselves, our collaborators and participants, as well as with our tools and materials, resulted in treating time as place, and places and things in temporal terms. We discovered that time is not only stretchable but can take different shapes and qualities, with multiple times existing alongside each other, by 'programming' actions and activities through performance, rhythm, and materiality. Our research focuses on the broader issue of the ‘time crisis’ as identified by sociologists, chronobiologists, and philosophers, as a result of acceleration processes driven by digital technologies and contemporary 24/7 societal norms. We address this by bringing together Helga's research on ‘uchronia’ (temporal utopia or non-time) and Kevin's anthropological perspective on designing embodied experiences.