local mean time

Modern standardised time, synchronised across international timezones, dictates the daily rhythms of billions of people. Invented in the industrial age to facilitate the long-distance transportation of goods and people, the digital age exacerbates the delocalisation of time by drawing more and more people, embedded in global marketplaces of work, leisure and attention, to align their lives with the rhythm of distant timezones. This long-distance synchronisation operates at the expense of a sense of local community, eating away at the localised meaning of time as giving structure to a situated social rhythm.

local mean time takes the social and spatial individualisation of time one step further, but by returning to an earlier conception of time. Three digital clocks are set up along a straight line that runs East-West through the main hall of Otto Wagner’s Postal Bank Building in Vienna, a space whose geometric design anticipates modernism’s reverence for pure geometric forms which are the scientific basis of much of modern life, including standardised time. All three clocks seem to display the exact same time, but each one is actually tuned to the precise local mean time for its longitude. On closer inspection the clocks reveal just noticeable differences in when their digits flip over, which are grounded in their actual position in space, relative to when the sun passes them overhead.