The Propagation of Uncertainty
2020, 05:40 minutes, colour, English
Emily DiCarlo’s three-channel video installation The Propagation of Uncertainty (2020) explores the friction that occurs between, what she termed, “the infrastructure of time with the intimacy of duration.” The work focuses on time frequency standards and how our accelerated, networked world relies on the foundation of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). With airports, stock markets and telecommunications operating through precise temporal orchestration, UTC reigns authoritatively omnipresent, but in actuality, is anything but absolute. Through a month-long “post-real time” process, collected asynchronous data from 82 master atomic clocks around the world is reckoned at the International Bureau for Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris, and illustrates how a multiplicity of deviated pasts inform our future’s official, singular “present.” Ultimately clock time is an estimation of potential errors and a calculation of unknowns.
For this project, The Propagation of Uncertainty, DiCarlo partnered with Dr. Marina Gertvolf, the team lead at the Meteorology, Frequency & Time Department at the National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa, the only contributing Canadian location to the larger UTC network. She filmed in the NRC’s time signal “dissemination room,” a windowless laboratory unchanged since the early 1970s that still broadcasts the country’s official time. The immersive video installation collages eighteen “talking clock” hotline recordings from thirteen time zones as the video’s soundtrack. As a meditation on the temporal body at odds with time’s infrastructure, the work moves through moments of discordant simultaneity, a chronological survey by time zone and a bass-heavy beat of resistance.
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