Each year the Bennington Museum’s Festival draws its inspiration from one of the objects in the Museum’s outstanding collection. For 2017, the annual festival of the season celebrates the creativity of a wide range of regional artists as they respond to Nichols Goddard’s Musical Tall Case Clock, ca. 1810, one of the centerpieces of the Museum’s newest exhibition, Early Vermont.
When I was in elementary school I had a watch that belonged to my grandfather that played the song “Yesterday” by the Beetles. After I heard the lyrics...I was struck, it was both funny and tragic, a watch that played a song about another time.
My Piece Tempus Fugitive, incorporates technology from the early 1800’s. The Phenakistoscope was developed in the 1830’s, the name comes from the Greek root word 'phenakisticos' , meaning "to deceive" or "to cheat", and- óps, meaning "eye" or "face.
It was invented simultaneously by a physicist and a mathematician independently observing optical illusions created by moving cogs when viewed through an aperture. Their successful prototypes were marketed as novelties that created fluid illusion of motion in the form of looped animations. These were mass produced on paper in several iterations. This concept is known to be the precursor to motion pictures. These optical studies remind us that our eyes can be tricked.
Tempus Fugit comes from the latin verse Georgica, written by the Roman poet Virgil: fugit irreparabile tempus, translates as ”but it flees irretrievable time” or simply put, “time flies” This notion is often portrayed as the winged hourglass which has been used as a memento mori
(remember that you have to die) and is used here as a front and is the main static image of the piece. It is through our mortality that we embrace the illusion of time.
The images on the large wheel of my phenakistoscope are directly inspired by the Nichols Goddard Musical Tall case clock, ca.1810. The Nichols Clock face features a rotating image dial that shifts slowly from a glowing full smiling moon to a burning ship on the water. The song (Heathen Mythology or Hunting the Hare) was surreptitiously buffed from the clock face, and is brought to life here through a section of it’s own on the phenakistoscope. Hounds hunting a hare morph into Diana Goddess of the Hunt, Cupid riding Pegasus and Pan looking mischievous. By turning the handle and spinning the image wheel then spinning the “frame” wheel the viewer can speed up and slow down the animations watching the quickening of the moon in it’s 28 day cycle, the hopping hare swarmed by gods and dogs, and observing the endless cycle of the ship igniting, raging and immolated. The viewer can be a time flier, a tempus fugitive.
Excerpt from the Lyrics of
Heathen Mythology or
Hunting the Hare
A Favorite Song
Songs of Shepherds in rustical roundelays,
Form’d in fancy, or whistled on reeds,
Sung to Solace young nymphs upon holidays, Are too unworthy for wonderful deeds,
To Phoebus the genius
Was sent by dame Venus a song to prepare,
In phrase nicely coin’d.
And verse quite refin’d,
How the states divine hunted the hare.
Stars quite tired with pastimes Olympical,Stars and planets that beautiful shone,
Could no longer endure, that men only shall swim in pleasures, and they but look on,
Round about horned
Lucina they swarmed
And her informed how minded they were,
Each god and Goddess
To take human bodies,
As lords and ladies to follow the Hare