"Doctor Who is required! Bring him here!"Art What to photograph in Derby Square? With the TARDIS landed, do I turn my camera to the Victoria statue or the Law Courts? The description in the Biennial booklet mentions the latter directly, so here they are looking like part of the landscape from an off-Earth Pertwee story. Which is quite apt because Lawrence Abu Hamdan's Hummingbird Clock, three sets of white tourist binoculars resembling CCTV cameras trained on the Town Hall and its clock, with their buzzing electrical current could be part of a UNIT viewing and listening post quite rightly out in the open for everyone to see.
-- WOTAN, "The War Machines"
The visual joke is obviously a take on "who watches the watchers" with the Town Hall notionally being the centre of government in the city, although it's the police control room which has the power to view citizens as they go about their business. Two views are fixed on the clock and the Minerva statue on the roof. The other can be shifted left and right although at such angle that all it can glimpse are the edges of tree branches and nondescript chunks of building. The only distinct image viewable is also the clock.
The Humming Bird Clock refers to what the Biennial booklet says is "a new kind of public time piece that exists physically and online" (online here in fact) (fair warning that website contains strong humming from the start). As the text on the object explains the National Grid gives off an almost silent humming the disruptions in which have been used by security services to check if a recording has been altered by matching the time and place with this noise. Hamdan's piece online and on the street is an attempt to create a sort of public domain version.
Like the Mariana Castillo Deball's To-day 9th July 2016, this contribution to the Monuments from the Future episode is interactive and as I sat pondering where to be put my camera, I noticed a huge number of people, children and adults looking through the viewfinder, reading the text, perhaps wondering what the digital read out on the front meant. There's already some graffiti, someone's been at it with a pink marker writing slogans, initials. But this is a very bold place to put a piece of public art at one of the nexus points in the city
The objects are also giving out hum, but mixed with the usual bustle of the city, buses and chatter, the lunch eaters sat on the benches nearby didn't seem unduly irritated. In the evening silence, especially after midnight, the effect must be stranger, more ominous. Rather like the surveillance we know is taking place surrounding our lives, it's easy to block out its existence, forget like the noise in daytime. It's only when that surveillance makes itself known, through some news item breaking the silence do we appreciate how far its encroached on our lives.
Before leaving, I attempted to recreate the shot in the booklet of the Town Hall clock. Remarkably. by holding my iPod's lense up to the viewfinder on the binoculars and setting it at the correct angle, I was able to see the image on the generic fruit based mp3 player's screen in all three instances. Indeed the resulting photographs are crisper than what I was able to see with my naked eye. Which either means machines have overtaken humans as the dominant species on the planet, or I need to go and get my eyes tested.