Instead of a station clock, the new station and town hall of Växjö has received the sculpture Tree Time. The sculpture is an artificial tree trunk that has been peeled of its layers to reveal its inner annual rings. Visitors are invited to sit down and reflect on different time scales.
Formed as a stump, the inner annual rings of Tree Time, made up of two different types of wood, elevates up into a four-meter-high sculpture like a topographical tree. Above the visitor’s heads, several annual rings are decoupled from the trunk and rotate in each other like an armillary sphere. An armillary sphere is an astronomical instrument used to measure the positions of stars and planets in the sky. The instrument becomes an arboreal sphere where the four different annual rings will rotate within each other and provide a different formative experience of time: From the quick flight of seconds through hours and days down to the base of the yearly concentric rings.
The need for a standard time was up until the late 19th century, not a general concern. People lived relatively isolated in villages and towns and usually did not travel far, fast, or coordinated. However, local time became unsustainable with the breakthrough of the railway as a means of public transport. Timetables became complicated to write, and the train drivers had problems keeping track of the time against the clock. Many railway companies, including Statens järnvägar, introduced their own railway time, which made the timetables almost impossible to follow. The station clocks had two-minute hands, one showing the railway time and the other showing the local time. In 1879, as the first country, Sweden legislated on national standard time. Five years later, the American congress proposed the idea of Universal time, something we know today as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
While we take the Universal time for granted today as synonymous with the experience of time, it was for a long historically debatable. Still 40 years after its legislation, Nordisk Familjebok described Universal time in 1917 as equal to Bourgouise time, or legal time, emphasizing its political construction. The history of time develops closely to modern communication, the industrial revolution, and the foundation of national states.
70% of Småland’s landscape consists of forestland, which for a long was held at bay by farmers that tried to survive on the poorly stony cultivated land. These poor conditions were one of the reasons why Småland became the center of emigration to North America during the 19th century. Agriculture has successively since transformed to forestry today, as the farmers changed to forest-owner. A shift that also culminated in working hours from sun time to standard time.
But the surrounding treasure that our forests are is not only economic resource, a living biodiverse forest is a keystone in Sweden’s political aim to become CO2-neutral in 2045.
The sculpture opens for reflection on different time scales such as sun time, station time, standard time, and the recent newcomer—screen time. If only for a moment, you might be able to reflect on different speeds and the rhythm of your own life.
Tree Time, 2021 Wood, jesmonite, aluminum, steel, step motors, microcontrollers 160 x 350 x 160 cm
SKETCHES and drawings
PRODUCTION AND INSTALLATION
Photos: Studio Bigert & Bergström