Steam Clock, 2020

To construct a time-telling device using puffs of steam.

Artist Statement
Between life and the afterlife rests a conflict of our own making. Unable to accept any broader possibilities of existences beyond our own, we construct boundaries, both here on Earth and for what lays ahead.

With this installation, I have attempted to recreate Heidegger’s suggestion that there was never a time when humans did not exist, not because we are eternal, but because we are the creators of time.

Steam Clock is a chaos generator; an uncontrolled system that is confined within a time-space contraption that questions our need for immediacy while desiring eternity. Through its mesmerising antics, viewers experience time standing still while waiting for the machine to tell the time.

Every twenty minutes, Steam Clock will attempt to display the time as a convoluted binary code as if in battle with the prevailing inevitable of the unknown.

To tell the time using Steam Clock, count the puffs of steam in each frame. The frames represent the clock-face numbers 12, 4 and 8 while the steam puffs represent the positioning of the hands, for example:
2:40am/pm =
4:20am/pm =
6:00am/pm =

Fog machines (3),
Arduino micro-controller with LCD display,
Arduino RTC shield and
Arduino 4-way relay interface,
PVC flexible conduit with couplings,
Glass-fronted shadow box frames (600x600x40Dmm approx),
Free-standing plinths (timber boards, metals threaded rods, nuts and bolts),

Steam Clock installed at Casual Powerhouse Art Centre, Feb-Apr, 2021 – 66th Blake Prize Finalists’ Exhibition

Free-standing sculpture

• Program micro-controller so that the interface relays operate the fog machines at certain times in a particular sequence to tell the time.
• Assemble plinths.
• Fix frames to plinth, sit fog machines on another plinth.
• Connect fog machines to frames and frames to each other via PVC conduit, run Arduino program.
• Stand back, wait and enjoy.

My Findings
The fog machines worked more randomly than expected – they have some sort of pressure-release action that cause them to spuriously operate thus causing the clock to have an uncontrollable element. This lead me to investigate the idea of chaos in time and became an unintentional, yet welcomed focus within the work.

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