Just outside Paddington Station is a new clock, and trapped inside is a man who has to perpetually keep cleaning the face and drawing new hands on the glass.
It is of course art, and the man is a video performance of a person, created by the Dutch artist, Maarten Baas, who was commissioned to make the latest in his series of Real Time clocks for the office building it hangs from.
The Real Time series are 12-hour films of performances indicating the time that intends to combine theatre, art and film production in a series of new clock designs.
For this clock, Baas filmed an actor dressed in a 19th-century three-piece suit in reference to Paddington Station’s architect, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Although mostly seen as a dark silhouette against the clock face, the actor comes close enough to the glass that you get to see the details of his clothing. Every so often he’ll put on a top hat, in the style of Brunel, but maybe either not visible or a nod to modern sensibilities, no cigar.
Throughout, he draws minute and hour hands, then a minute later has to clean the clock face and redraw the whole thing, every single minute.
The effect is subtle enough to be noticeable and make you stop and watch for a bit, without being overly distracting.
A man trapped in the clock forever.
I was once told that the most used feature of a mobile phone was the clock, and even in the era of ubiquitous phones in pockets and wristwatches, there’s something about public clocks that makes them popular landmarks and meeting points.
You can’t meet under this clock as the pavement isn’t suitable, but you will be able to watch the clock from the other side of the road if meeting someone at Paddington’s Elizabeth line station. In use, the brightness of the clock is determined automatically by the ambient light conditions, so the man inside should always be visible.
Baas’s first piece, Sweepers’, was launched in 2009 in Milan. Bass unveiled his special commission at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam in 2016. The clock sees travellers off from departures Lounge 2. A life-sized self-portrait of Baas featured at the Venice Biennale in 2019.
And now he has one in London.
The clock can be found at 50 Eastbourne Terrace next to Paddington Station.
(note, the lines on the screen in photos/video are due to the camera shutter speed matching the clock screen display refresh rate, in real life, they are not visible)