There is only before and after, the now is transient, and the flow of time a tenseless illusion.1
Since the Industrial Revolution, our species has endured an unprecedented compression of time and space. In recent decades, this new existential condition has engendered a mode of human subjectivity at odds with the rhythms and flows of nature. Instead of navigating their way through life using cyclical, solar conceptions of time, humans have found solace and efficiency in time’s unwavering, linear arrow.
Waiting Room interrogates the nature of contemporary time in order to generate a scenario in which two competing temporalities (Oldtime and Onetime) produce a third (Sumtime). One half of society remains hopelessly shackled to the sun, living their luddite lives around the predictable cycles of dawn and dusk; the other is in constant pursuit of efficiency, promoting a universal temporal order and single clock, which eliminates all time zones in order to maximise economic gain.
Yet, out of this Hegelian nightmare appears Sumtime, a new temporal order which embraces emergent behavioural trends: excessive consumption, the rise of binging and the Slow movement. For Sumtime, life is not ordered cyclically or linearly, but instead experienced as chunks or blocks of repetitive action. However, this is no Fordist assembly line. Tasks are binged for themselves, without reason or agenda. They are done to excess, without worrying about efficiency or profit. They are done at any time, without recourse to the sun, the stars, or the arbitrary oscillations of a caesium atom.
Within this tripartite temporal world, time itself is subject to constant redefinition: a complex, pliable construct, used in different ways at different moments in one’s life. Each of the three temporal approaches operate simultaneously, yet are at odds with one another. Oldtime seeks to preserve; Onetime seeks to eliminate; Sumtime seeks to reconstitute.
Although these competing temporal systems imbue and animate every facet of life, there is just one act— the act of ‘waiting’—that provides a prism through which the nuances of each temporal approach make themselves manifest. Waiting isolates time—it is a unique experience, where time itself is foregrounded; and the waiting room names a space “filled with time, pure time, refined, distilled, denatured time without qualities, without even dust”.2
1 J.M.E Mctaggart’s B Theory.
2 An extract from ‘Waiting Rooms’ by Howard Nemerov