At first glance, Breguet’s Frieze New York lounge on the 8th floor of the Shed looks like what one might expect from a luxury timepiece brand. A watchmaker and , flown in from Vallée de Joux, Switzerland, are hard at work on their craft. It looks to be a very painstaking and meticulous process. Behind them on a gleaming metal wall is an assemblage of clocks with a different city listed underneath each one. But if one peers closely, it’s actually Fear O’Clock in Baghdad.
Instead of numerals, the hands point to sundry emotional states, such as “ecstasy,” “remorse,” “fatigue,” and “nostalgia.” And, aside from actual metropolises, three of the cities are “El Dorado,” “Atlantis,” and “Kishkindha.” Chicly and subtly subversive, the clocks are part of the art installation by the art instigators at Raqs Media Collective.
The work, a reconfiguration of a 2009 piece, was commissioned by the independent Seoul- and Paris-based curator Somi Sim, and is part of “Orbital Time,” a mini-exhibition within the fair. “Basically, it’s about how we perceive time in the modern age,” Sim said. “We have highly developed technologies, but how we perceive time and how we think about our future is unstable.”
Sim developed the curatorial theme from visiting Breguet’s Swiss headquarters and workshops. “It’s not just about a linear sense of time,” she explained. “But planetary times, solar time, and astrology.”
“Perceptions about time can vary,” she added. “Even if we exist in the same space, different cultures have different conceptions of time. That’s fascinating.”
Another Raqs Media Collective piece is displayed here, a digital clock from 2009 titled It evokes mundane perfection but is actually glitchy and oddly hypnotic. “It’s about materialism,” the curator said.
Sim has been a fan of the group since first seeing their film work a decade prior. “I’ve been dreaming of the day to be able to put them in an exhibition,” she said. “They have been doing a lot of work regarding time. But they are always telling a different story, opening a different type of conversation. That really connects with me.”
Sim’s assemblage appears with a video piece by Norwegian artist Ann Lislegaard. After passing through a darkened curtain, one is greeted by a large, animated owl on an LED screen. is both comical and foreboding. The bird spouts a litany of deadpan utterances. “The artist was working on this piece for ten years,” Sim said, “constantly adding and fixing things. It’s an oracle that can tell the future. But it’s hesitating and telling everything to us. So maybe that symbolizes how we perceive our time?”
Sim will adapt her Breguet curation project for the London, Seoul, and Los Angeles iterations of Frieze. “For the next show, I’m going to speak more about the ‘endless present’ of our contemporary times. The endless presence. That’s for the next phase.” How exactly she will illustrate that with art, well, only time will tell.