Mark Formanek’s Standard Time (2007) is a 24-hour performance video that shows a group of labourers racing against time to manually create a ‘digital’ time display. The performance designed by Formanek and realised by Datenstrudel involved 70 workers who, over 24 hours, continuously reassembled a wooden scaffolding to keep up with a digital time display, making 1,611 changes in the process. The performance was captured in a looped video that, when adjusted to the local time in Kochi, works like a digital clock.
As the workers in the video struggle to keep up with time with less than a minute to complete each change, the audience is forced to share their anxiety. What at first might seem like the recording of a futile exercise soon begins to embody the tyrannous grasp time has on our lives. Formanek points to time as we experience it, domesticated within the confines of a clock. Here, in a dramatic reversal, it is the timekeepers who are imprisoned within its endless march.
Embedded in the performance is a subtle comment on labour, an entity largely rendered invisible and disposable in the age of sweatshops and financial markets. In Standard Time, labour is made immensely visible in the form of a troop of quasi-mythical workers keeping time on behalf of us all.