Now showing at mudac, the Lausanne design museum, Telling Time strikes a happy balance between elaborate craftsmanship of the past and the excitement of contemporary culture. Historical and iconic timepieces from foremost watchmakers are presented alongside present-day art works to reveal the infinite ways in which time can be told.
“We didn’t want this to be just another exhibition about watchmaking and time is too vast a subject,” explains co-curator Fabienne Xavière Sturm, who for thirty years had charge of the prestigious collections held by the Musée de l’Horlogerie in Geneva. Approached by Chantal Pro’Hom, director of the Lausanne museum, to create an event in a region world-renowned for its luxury watchmaking, they decided to build the exhibition around the guiding question: How does mankind tell time. By narrowing the subject down to the visible face of time, they selected examples of the ingenuity of man when it comes to mapping time, including the virtual displays dictated by the digital era in which we live.
The faces of time
“We look at a watch dial in much the same way we look at a person’s face. We read into its features to find out what it has to say. We discover expressions that can be mysterious or funny, secret or beguiling,” explains Fabienne Xavière Sturm. “Our intention was to highlight the collaborations between mathematicians, watchmakers, engineers and craftpersons when they create those interfaces, an area that has come to interest artists as well.” The approaches of the co-curators complement each other, one assisted by Arnaud Tellier, former director of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva who has acted as historical consultant and the second by Karine Tissot, director of the Yverdon-les-Bains Contemporary art centre, who selected the related works of contemporary art. The result is an exhibition that is scholarly and elegant, but it is also entertaining and playful.
The choice of themes from the two worlds allows for a constant dialogue between the heritage timepieces and modern artistic interpretations. From the world of traditional watchmaking come examples of mysterious hours (Vacheron Constantin, 1930), secret hours (Jaeger LeCoultre, 1932), singing hours, jumping hours (Girard Perregaux, 1935), universal, daytime and nightime dials or vagabond hours (Audemars Piguet, 1991), whereas today’s artists and designers propose allusive, illegible and even absent, poetic or dreamy hours, The art works on display include mismatching flip dials, real-time 24 hour videos, a lashes clock, a knitting machine, a ticker tape, outrageously kitsch cuckoo clocks and even one of an embalmed cuckoo, as well as a necklace clock that advances like a string of worry beads. The works are by world-renowned artists Darren Almond, John Armleder and Gianni Motti, as well as exciting young Swiss designers like Martin d’Esposito and Alexandre Gaillard (Swiss Koo) or Nicolas le Moigne. They propose new, ingenious, quirky, humoristic and even bizarre ways to capture time. “The telling of time reflects the philosophical underpinnings of society,” observes Fabienne Xavière Sturm.
To orchestrate the dialogue between the timepieces on display from the sixteenth century to the present day, the scenography was entrusted to a team of four young designers from the Lausanne University of Art and Design (ECAL) who under the leadership of industrial designer Adrien Rovero have created tall and beautifully lit showcases that are bound to transform watch exhibitions in the future: because they are inclined they do not require bending over. There is however an amusing paradox since the security level of the showcases is so great that the smartwatchs, including the recently arrived Apple watch, cannot be constantly recharged and are therefore not … connected.
Sponsored by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), the exhibition brings together more than 150 objects from all over Europe. The historic pieces are from private and major public collections, in particular those of the Musée International d’Horlogerie (MIH) in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Musée de l’Horlogerie Beyer in Zurich, Musée d’Horlogerie du Locle – Château des Monts in Le Locle, Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and the Louvre in Paris, as well as from the heritage collections of leading manufacturers including Vacheron Constantin, IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Scenography is in collaboration with Lausanne University of Art and Design (ECAL), led by Alexis Georgacopoulos and industrial designer Adrien Rovero.
mudac – Lausanne
May 27 – September 27 2015