Quick, Quick, Slow

Saturday 10th Sept, 9.30-11.00, Room CG11

Chair: Professor Anne Massey, University of the Arts, London 

This session looks at the influence of industrialisation and modernity on subjective temporality.  This is seen on the one hand through highly designed experience of travel by train and steamship;  and on the other through the design of new activities for leisure time, with “time off” itself being a newly regulated concept.

42134488_daviesAll At Sea: Rhythm and Regulation on board the Colonial Steamship
Daniel Davies, PhD Student, Middlesex University and National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
E: dandavies1@live.com T: @this_dan W: Institutional Profile

Humans have imagined time at sea in an extraordinary variety of ways, from the freedom and romance of the open seas to the terror and apocalyptic destruction of the deep. Focusing on two souvenir sketchbooks, published at the end of the nineteenth century by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), this paper considers the design of time on board the colonial steamship.

Founded in 1837, by the end of the nineteenth century P&O had evolved into a vital imperial role transporting passengers, goods and mail to ports across the British Empire. P&O’s passenger lists were dominated by the civil servants, army officers, planters and businessmen who constituted the British-born imperial workforce. In the 1890s, the journey from London to Bombay took almost two weeks, and many of the men and women on board were to be away from home and families for months, and even years, at a time. In this context, in a light-hearted and often amusing manner, the souvenir sketchbooks illustrate the on-board events and activities which filled the sometimes long and lonely days and nights at sea.

Using Lefebvre’s concept of Rhythmanalysis, this paper will analyse the sketchbooks, investigating the ways in which time at sea was structured and represented. It will argue that in the observance of the daily and weekly circle of activities, such as Sunday Morning Muster, the Call to Dinner, and even the home-made games and entertainments, P&O’s crew and passengers were continually remaking and revalidating a distinctively imperial order which attempted to instill in each person a sense of moral place, duty and service within the wider empire.

Design-time and the Ghan
Anne Burke, Senior Lecturer, Photography, Middlesex University
E: burke_anne@yahoo.com

This paper explores the role of design in managing the experience of time through train travel. The specific focus of the paper will be the Great Southern Rail service known as the Ghan that runs weekly between Darwin and Adelaide. The name of the train itself is a direct reference to the era of exploration and expedition in Australia, when cameleers were brought in to assist in the opening up of a route north. Known collectively as Afghans, these Muslim cameleers in fact came from a number of countries and their camel trains were relied on for the transport of goods north and south until the development of road and rail infrastructure rendered them redundant.

Three aspects of design time will be explored in this paper: the invocation of historical time in the design of material advertising travel by the Ghan, from the exotic connotations of its name to travel posters and website material; the negotiation of historical memory, with specific reference to landmarks of the aboriginal Dreamtime, in the design and laying of the Ghan’s route; and the impact of design on the perception and embodiment of time over the extended duration that travel by the Ghan involves, with particular reference to the design of red-eye versus sleeper accommodation.

The paper emerges from first-hand research into travelling on the Ghan, as well as on travel accounts and historical analyses of the development of the route north. It will also draw as relevant on interpretations of Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis and on time theory, such as Bergson’s concept of duration.

42134488_knottThe Design of Sunday Painting
Stephen Knott, Lecturer in Critical and Historical Studies, Kingston University
E: stephen.knott@kingston.ac.uk T: @Amateur_Craft W: Institutional Profile

This paper investigates the arrangement, structuring and design of ‘Sunday painting’ as the past-time became an accessible hobby from the late nineteenth century onwards. Weekends, leisure activities, and time off became increasingly commonplace in this period after a succession of Factory Acts and legislation to curb the length of the working week.’ Sunday painting’ is a well-used phrase to describe hobbyists who only are able to practise painting during moments of rest and leisure – evenings and weekends. The temporal category emerged within the socio-economic context of increasingly abundant ‘free time’ and provides an excellent case study for investigating how new experiences of time are designed.

The primary source material will include how-to manuals, guidebooks, and advertisements that within their capacity to instruct an audience on how to undertake Sunday painting also provided specific information about the temporal environment in which the activity should take place. I will discuss how the time limitations inherent to Sunday painting necessitate particular forms of painting practice, and how problems are mediated through technologies – such as portable kits, easels, and carry-cases – and instruction, such as hints, tips and indeed outlines for how to set up a scene, or catch the best of outside light. Without resources of time available to regular artists, the Sunday painter had to rely on shortcuts, communicated through manuals that obviated the time-consuming elements of practice and provided quick access to the experiences that Sunday painters were looking for. An investigation of the design of Sunday painting in this early moment of mass leisure allows us to consider the extent to which the activity is guided or constrained, how far the practice can be framed as an ‘off-the-shelf’ commodity or a modern form of democratic, creative expression.

An investigation of how companies, guidebook authors, and arbiters of taste designed this particular leisure activity will facilitate the development of a nuanced argument relating to the freedom of this particular activity. A focus on the designed artefacts that Sunday painters used – for example, manuals and watercolour kits – demonstrates how the activity is both constrained and directed, but also allows for individual configurations of practice, a metaphor more broadly for the expression of individual within modernity.

This topic connects to my wider research on amateur craft, and the relationship between artists, designers and craftspeople and the notion of ‘free time’. The paper will be related to wider reading on the notion of ‘free time’ within modern life, including references to Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Henri Lefebvre and Arthur Schopenhauer, and will integrate research on nineteenth-century contexts of work and leisure.

Further Reading

Knott, S (2015) Amateur Craft: History and Theory, London: Bloomsbury.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *