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ALL THAT MIGHTY HEART A Film by Jayne Wilson


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The Central Office for Clocktime Expansion present

ALL THAT MIGHTY HEART An observation on our modern day malady of supposed urgency

A Film by Jayne Wilson

THE BRITISH ENGINEERIUM

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The Clock & The Steam Engine by Ben Russell, Curator of Mechanical Engineering at the The Science Museum, London

Historian of technology Lewis Mumford wrote ‘the clock is not merely a means of keeping track of the hours, but of synchronising the actions of men… The clock, not the steam engine, is the key-machine of the modern industrial age’. Exploring the intertwined relationship between the clock and the steam engine helps shine a light on our ambivalent approach to modern technology. At first glance, the nineteenth century world was characterised by the spread of networks which took time as their standard. The globe was covered by railways and their timetables, shipping routes navigated accurately using marine chronometers, and trade networks emanating from workshops, mills and factories where millions ‘clocked in’ and out at the start and end of the working day. Everywhere, the new industrial world was subject to a new time discipline, representing a major acceleration from the old, slow turning of the sun and moon, and of the seasons. But these networks of time were matched by networks of power: Without steam the railways would have been stillborn, the shipping

fleets would have languished at the mercy of wind and tide, summer droughts would have brought waterdriven mills and factories to a halt. The clock may have imbued the industrial world with a sense of the value of time, but the steam engine remained its pumping heart. That said, watching the steam engine today, with its regular motion and sound - the measured bass of the air pump, the whirr of the governor, and the hiss of the flywheel spokes – inevitably remind the observer of the clock, and of the passing of time. Going further, one might say the engine is even timeless, its hypnotic rhythms taking the viewer away from the world outside, enthralling them with its protective power. And that phrase - ‘protective power’ – lays open the paradox of the engine: it is simultaneously protective and coercive. On one hand it is an astonishing piece of kinetic art, the first industrial machine consciously built with the same precision and attention to outward appearance as a fine timepiece, a triumph of the engineers’ creative capabilities, and long the subject of public fascination. But on the other hand it

was a machine capable of terrible and promethean might, capable of transforming entire landscapes and driving production of an intensity far beyond the limits of human endurance, its beam and pistons working up and down ‘in a state of melancholy madness’. Today steam power is integrated into our lives to the point of invisibility, banished to generating stations and connected to us only indirectly via the energy grid. Instead, we seem most outwardly concerned with, and ambivalent about, the passage of time: ‘time is money’, minimising down-time, making the best use of time, all the time. Time is embedded in many of the things we use in our homes and workplaces and, as with the steam engine before, perhaps it’ll become such an integral part of our lives that we just stop noticing it. When that happens – if it hasn’t already - and we look forward into the technological future, we can take some consolation in any ambivalence we feel about what comes next having a long history back to the clock and the steam engine. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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“My work is about drawing awareness to the unseen. I research, record and absorb elements of place, and then revel in the layering and sequencing of my findings making work that adds new value and narratives to the often overlooked details of a site.”

The Central Office for Clocktime Expansion by Art Historian Dr Chris Mullen

Jayne Wilson

At the Salon d’Aviation in Paris in 1912, Marcel Duchamp turned to Constantin Brancusi and said, “Painting’s washed up.” He pointed to a plane’s propeller, “Can you do better than that?” Although Brancusi gave it a good shot throughout his entire career, such aesthetic admiration has not survived easily into our present century, an age of diminishing resources, with our gathering dependence on, and fear of, the Machine. The machines that order our lives are more safely adored if the visible moving parts are kept to the minimum (“All the better for Health and Safety...”) or rendered tiny through the marvels of nannoculture (“isn’t it marvellous, you can’t even see it!”). In her film she wanted to evoke the spirit of post-War exercises in Public Information, aiming for what John Grierson called “the creative treatment of actuality”. Her counterpoint of mechanical action (stately pistons, wheels and shafts) with indications of human intervention (signs, dials and numbers) unfolds with

symmetrically deployed bursts of steam acting as a sort of lubricant to the narrative, a quixotic time frame of acceleration and deceleration, underpinned by Tim Howarth’s sinuous musical score. The film can be differentiated however from Modernist exercises in Mechanolatry (Charles Sheeler, Margaret Bourke-White, and Humphrey Jennings for example) in that she has chosen to set her montage of visual material within the context of an invented organisation, The Central Office for Clocktime Expansion, inspired by her archival discoveries at the Engineerium and tapping into those bodies set up by Governments to enhance productivity, spirit or morale. Perhaps her antecedents are more accurately seen as Duchamp and Picabia whose machines were more perverse and comedic. The film constructs an arc of acceleration and deceleration, with a choreography and rhetoric the Central Office, with its formality and institutional earnestness, may not have originally intended. It is

for the viewer to decide whether the Central Office behaves as if it is operating within a Kafka novel or an Ealing Comedy. A single stray cobweb patiently shares the load with one piston towards the end of the film. Her new film is a timely reminder of the power and beauty of mechanical movement using the machines and archives of the old Goldstone Pumping Station, now resurrected triumphantly as the British Engineerium. She writes, “The Victorian chimney always made me nostalgic for my Industrial Northern roots. In a previous project I found myself occupied in little known archives, with stories that had no place within that project, but which fueled my hunger for more coherence between my research and the finished work. The Engineerium is an extraordinary site on the verge of development that permitted me quiet contemplation to drive my work and reflect on my own sense of ease and security in such industrial environments.’’

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The short hand goes round the circle in twelve hours. The long hand goes round the circle in one hour and moves from dot to dot in a minute.

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The 64-bit timestamps used by NTP consist of one 32-bit seconds part and a 32-bit fractional second part

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The making of this work would not have been possible without the support of The British Engineerium Trust, especially Peter Fagg, Alan Roberts, Steve Rather and Michael Rozsnyaki. I would also like to thank Dr Chris Mullen, Ben Russell, Tim Howarth, Darren and Benjamin Connolly, Catherine Bertola and all at the Fabrica Peer Review for their valuable contributions. This 24 page limited edition pamphlet accompanies the film and illustrates some of the printed, unearthed and archive materials that have influenced the course of the work. Additional copies can be obtained from: jayne@jaynewilson.co.uk

Jayne Wilson

Copyright Š Jayne Wilson

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Printed in Great Britain for the Artist by Delta Press Limited, Hove, East Sussex MMXI

All That Mighty Heart  

Publication to accompany Jayne Wilson's short film that considers mechanical engineering as an antidote to our modern pace of life

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